PHILADELPHIA — The 53-foot NHL mobile ice-making plant arrived at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday to start the rink build for the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, SN1, TVAS2).
Derek King, NHL senior manager of facilities operations, is overseeing the rink build at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s his second experience preparing an outdoor game in Philadelphia. He was also on the crew for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic played next door at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“That was my second outdoor game,” King said. “It’s nice to be back in Philly. I have a few more games under my belt now. It’s nice to come back and look at it from a different point.”
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King said the ice-making truck was parked on the stadium grounds early Monday and he and his crew, along with members of the Eagles grounds crew and local steamfitters, began running pipes from the ice truck to the field. Inside the stadium workers were removing snow from the playing field and installing decking that will allow for a level hockey surface.
“We’ll see a lot more activity on the field tomorrow,” King said. “Wednesday we’ll start filling the system with glycol, getting everything circulating. Thursday afternoon the dasher boards will go up and that’s when it’ll start looking like a hockey rink.”
Each venue that hosts NHL outdoor games has distinctive elements, but King said so far Lincoln Financial Field has been an easy place to work.
“From what I’ve seen the setup is going really good,” he said. “This is probably one of our shorter pipe runs that we’ve had out to the field. I don’t really see too many unique situations with this setup yet.”
Once the dasher boards are installed, that’s when the playing surface will be flooded.
“As long as things go on schedule, Thursday evening we look to start making ice,” King said. “That’ll take us about seven days to get our sheet done and it’ll be ready for practice day on Friday (Feb. 22).”
The ice for the Stadium Series will be two inches thick, rather than the 1 1/4 inches in an NHL arena.
“A thicker sheet just helps us if we do come into any type of weather,” King said. “A little thicker sheet helps on game day.”
Having as close to a perfect setup is what King is aiming for because he understands how important the game will be for both teams.
“We want to provide them the same sheet of ice they’d have inside,” he said. “Obviously it’s a little harder for us to control that week, we can’t control the environment. So we’ll monitor the weather the best we can and make changes as the weather comes in.”