Ok, so I promised you all the full story about putting in the ice sheet. Here we go! It’s a pretty long and detailed story and took me hours to put together while reviewing my notes, photos and emails – I hope you enjoy it – let me know what you think! I captured a timeline during the process via emailing myself with my mobile phone and will list that below the story. I have also uploaded a new set of photos to the Jacket Backers Flickr account. The set is titled “Installing the Main Ice at Nationwide 2009” – check it out soon for a snapshot sequential history of our efforts. You can either click the links in this sentence to view the photos as a slideshow or click to view the photo set of snapshots. I took the majority of the photos early on, but when it got later and I was spending a lot of time on painting details, my husband Brian took most of the photos at that point. I didn’t upload every photo, as I took loads of them. I would be willing to share additional photos or short video clips with anyone who might be curious to see the full set.
I am sharing this story from my personal experience and impressions, and I am sure I will inevitably get some of the details incorrect. I also unfortunately was not so good at keeping track of everyone’s names that I worked with that evening into morning. If you have any further questions or corrections on this story, please contact me at email@example.com. I would be happy to pass your questions along to the ice technicians, and I would also be happy to correct any mistakes that I’ve made in this narrative.
The ice is installed at Nationwide by hand. It begins with the refrigeration tubes being turned on beneath the bare concrete floor. I have no idea how long they were actually turned on for before Brian and I come into the picture. I do know the process was delayed as the breakdown and cleanup of the Creed concert the night before took longer than anticipated. We arrived at noon originally and were asked to come back at 5 pm. Once we arrived, we needed to wait a bit longer for the temperature of the concrete to reach the proper temperature (23 degrees?) before we could begin spraying on the ice surface. I wandered around and took a number of pictures of the tools we would be using to create and paint the ice. I found it mildly amusing that the paint containers were labeled with color names such as “ Redline Batch #114” and “Goalcrease Batch #116”. Not surprisingly, the paint was made in Canada by a company called Jet Ice, whose trademarked tagline is “We bring ice to life.” While we were waiting for the floor to get cold enough, the crew worked on mixing white paint (“Super White 3000”) in a big tank, which was filled with hot water from the building’s boilers. They put 8 boxes of powdered colorant in per tank, and each 44-lb. box per the instructions printed on the side made 30 gallons. They stirred the paint with an old hockey stick.
While we were waiting for the floor to reach the proper temperature, Brian and I and a few others were handed sport water bottles filled with hot water and asked to fill in divots, bolt hole areas, and any irregular or low spots on the concrete. This was to allow a bit of extra time and water in those areas to make the ice sheet a bit more level in those spots. Both the patching of holes, the first clear coat of ice, and the first coat of paint are done with warm/hot water. This melts the frost on the concrete and helps the ice adhere better.
The concrete surface finally reached proper temperature and we began to install the first layer of clear ice. This is done with a big fire hose and a bunch of people helping to carry the hose over their shoulders or neck, guiding it by hand and walking around on the ice in set patterns at the crew’s direction, while one person (in this instance Head Ice Technician Ian Huffman) managed a large sprayer head that sprayed jets of water evenly onto the cold concrete. The hose was quite heavy and a bit cumbersome to manage at times. The early coats of ice being done with hot water, the hose got a bit uncomfortably warm at times, and it was important to have a sweatshirt with long sleeves or something to deflect the heat away from your shoulder and neck. Later in the evening, the size of the crew helping decreased, and the hose became more difficult to manage with fewer people. I felt a bit like there was a boa constrictor on my back. I have had the occasion quite awhile ago to actually hold a large pet python or something like that which was a friend’s pet, and that evening brought back the memory of that sensation.
After the first clear coat with hot water, we did a coat with cold. At this point, the techs walked around and put down small ¼ inch nuts where the faceoff dots and circles will be. There are measured spots on the concrete marked with black X’s. As soon as the white paint goes down, those marks will no longer be noticeable. If the nuts get moved, then each spot would need to be very carefully measured. So therefore, we were advised to watch where we walked very carefully, and to let someone know if we thought we had dislodged the nut so that they could get it back to its proper place. I was very nervous I would be the one to bump the spot and cause grief for everyone. Thankfully, this did not occur. We all walked very carefully.
While waiting for the second coat to freeze, several techs walked around with a backpack-mounted sprayer (think like a fumigation bug sprayer) and sprayed water into any divots and low or uneven spots on the ice. These sprayers showed up quite a number of times in the evening for spraying water for various tasks.
Patiently waiting for the start of the white paint. Finally, the moment arrived! It was pretty cool to see the concrete floor gradually disappear. I was surprised to see just how very white and bright the floor became, and how the reflection off of the plain white paint-covered floor made the arena all of a sudden feel as bright as daylight.
After the first layer of white, a second layer of white was painted, cleanup of some of the white paint tools and flushing the lines to be clean and clear, and then four clear coats to seal in the paint. At certain points in the process, Ian was able to rest the sprayer head on the ice surface and glide it along, and at other points he held it up above the ice surface, depending on what he was spraying and which layer, and whether or not he was worried the trailing would leave a permanent mark. We were also advised to be very careful not to let the hose touch the ice, as the heat could melt it in, and the dirty hose could also discolor the ice. We laid down the first layer of clear after white very carefully, and then the subsequent layers quickly, one after the other, not walking off of the ice surface between layers.
Had to be very careful when walking on the white paint and clear after the white was down, as we didn’t want to get footprints on the final ice product. We walked along the dasher boards area as far as possible until turning on main ice surface for the area to be worked on. We also wiped our shoes off with towels before and after walking off of the ice when taking breaks or grabbing extra paint, brushes or towels.
Now it started to get even more interesting. The crew prepared to start putting down the lines. They used blue yarn for the bluelines and white yarn for the red and goal lines. They measured carefully and set the yarn down in the exact spots needed. The yarn was then sprayed with the water sprayer to freeze the yarn down onto the ice. The yarn will actually be left frozen into the ice, and used as the edges for the lines to be painted. After the first blueline yarn markers were down, the crew moved on to set additional lines, after giving a few people the tasks of painting the bluelines. Brian was one of those people who painted the bluelines.
There are red marks on the dasher where the goal line is marked; these were carefully lined up with the white yarn being set for those areas.
The redline in Nationwide Arena, like on all NHL ice, is a broken red line rather than a solid line, which dates back to the days of black-and-white television viewing and helping the viewers determine which is the center line rather than the solid blue lines. Unlike many redlines, it has asymmetrical white stars in it rather than white dashes. There are 114 stars in the center line on the main ice at Nationwide. There is only one stencil template, and the outlines of the stars are drawn on by hand. Ice tech Shay (sorry if I spelled your name wrong) was in charge of drawing each star outline and painting the redline. She had also drawn and painted the redline at the Ice Haus the day before. The stars are oriented a particular way so that the stars face a certain direction when viewing at the edge of center ice. On the ice sheet in the Ice Haus, the stars are drawn at a rate of every other star, so that the center line is easier to paint and is more solid red and fewer stars.
I volunteered to assist Shay with painting the redline. I worked on the redline for almost 6 hours and painted nearly half of it. A few of the regular crew jumped in and painted the final bits of the line, which seemed to be a bit of an honor. Ian painted the center blue dot at the very center of the redline, which was, I believe, a special honor given him as well. I honestly had never really noticed that bright blue dot in the middle of the Jackets logo before. Check it out!
While I worked on the tedious task of painting the white stars in relief with the red, there were several other things going on around me that I missed a bunch of. Especially because my head was down towards the ice surface, I missed a number of major things going on simultaneously. There were also several shift changes of crew and temporary extra help along the way, with a small core group of people there for the duration of my experience. A few brief breaks were taken along the way, but for the most part, there was constant action working to put the ice masterpiece together.
The little nuts that were frozen into the surface of the ice were used as markers to paint the faceoff circles and dots. There were bolts placed into the nuts and the nuts were used as pivot points with a string and a brush marker to spin around and paint the outer edges of the circles and larger circles. I did not see this happen at all, but did see Brian fill in the center four faceoff dots.
The outlines of on-ice advertisements were stenciled onto the ice with a method I will describe later, as I helped with the center ice stencil after the redline was done. The advertisements were then painted by hand. After the painting was done and any drops cleaned up or scraped away, the paint was set into place by the techs spraying light coats of water on them using the backpack sprayers.
While I was painting, it was odd to watch the paint “dry”. The paint was quite liquid, not quite the consistency of water, but not far off. It was a bit like painting with Magic Shell, the chocolate crunchy coating on the outside of a dipped soft-serve ice cream cone. Once the brush with paint touched the ice surface, it froze nearly instantly. Occasionally I dripped a few spots of paint outside the lines and they were carefully cleaned up by being scraped off with a light touch with a paint scraper. Scrape too deep, and there would be gouges in the ice surface.
Because your hands and body are warm and would melt the ice if touched, this led to painting in odd positions. You could not kneel, sit on, or rest your hand on the ice surface to steady it. The crew made foam pads to rest your body on when needing to support yourself. One crew member not to be named had his car keys in his pocket, which slipped out, touched the ice surface and conducted his body heat, resulting in part of his keys freezing into the ice. He was not pleased about this occurring and had to carefully chip the keys out and patch the area.
Once the lines and crease and ads were painted and clearcoated with water spray, it was time to lay out the center logo. The logos were laid out on several sheets of brown plastic coated paper, which was perforated. Once the spots on the ice were measured and carefully located, the logos were carried into place like a bunch of us each holding the edges of a blanket, and gently lowered into position. Crushed blue chalk the color of pool cue chalk was placed in a paint tray and dusted over the surface of the stencil with a Swiffer pad on a long handle, allowing the dust to permeate the stencil and make little blue dotted outlines on the ice. Once the entire logo was dusted, the excess chalk was carefully removed and then the templates gingerly lifted up and carried away from the area, being careful not to step on the outline. The chalk outlines were then affixed before painting by a light misting of water from the backpack sprayers.
Some logos are preprinted onto a type of mesh which is then frozen into the ice. The opening week and playoff logos were prepared in this way. I did not see this happen.
Putting the center ice logo stencils down took a little over half an hour. While the stencils were being watered in to the ice, I took a bit of a break. Bending over in odd positions and wrestling around that fire hose was starting to take a toll on my body, especially my back. Occasionally my toes would start to go numb too, for after all, it was an ice surface we were leaning over as we painted. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The cold and the odd positions were starting to cause my muscles to stiffen, so I pulled on a few extra t-shirt layers for the next round of painting.
My next task was to paint some of the letters in the Nationwide Arena name lettering around the center of the logo. I was enjoying painting the curvy letters and lines after so many straight lines around the redline stars. I painted the lower case a, i, o, and I on the section 120 side of Nationwide Arena. I also painted more of the Nationwide Arena name lettering on the far side of the circle.
Finishing with the Nationwide lettering, I painted a bit of the center logo blue and silver to fill in some of the final areas that the other technicians had not yet finished. The center logo was reserved for the key technicians to paint for the most part, again, as it was a great honor to do so.
Eventually – center ice logo was finished! At this point, there was still a fair amount of cleanup to do. There were a few spots where additional white paint needed to be sprayed on with one of the backpack sprayers to cover some of our footprint marks before finally sealing in the painting. We walked upstairs in search of a better vantage point to admire our work. The view was quite crisp and impressive with the sunlight streaming in from the windows up above. I still cannot believe how precise everything looked from above.
When we left on Friday morning after taking some overhead photos, there was still much work to be done. The paint would be lightly sprayed over with water to set, and then several layers of hand sprayed clear coats until deep enough for the Zamboni to add additional layers on top. Ian told Brian that he would be skating on the ice on Sunday.
Upon reflection over a late breakfast before turning in for a bit of rest, it was kind of fun being there all night and seeing the same people that worked with you the night before and went home on a normal shift newly clean, shaved, showered, and behaving perfectly normal after some of the others of us were not sleeping and working through the night, and being a bit out of it from lack of sleep.
During the season, the ice is not removed in between games. It is carefully covered and flooring laid over padding for other events, which is then removed and the ice resurfaced prior to practice or games. The dasher boards and glass, nets, and protective netting are likewise removed and replaced as needed. For example, if it is the rodeo or Monster Truck events, truckloads after truckloads of dirt are placed over those pads and flooring. For basketball, a court surface is installed. For concerts, a basic flooring and then stage setups. I have forgotten the name for the crew that performs all of these magic changes and installations in the arena setups – but they work hard and perform miracles, at all and varied hours of the day or night. If there is an ice event such as Disney on Ice that needs a clean sheet of white ice, the techs add additional clear water layers, then paint extra white layers, then add clear over top of all and the ice displays as white during the show. Once the show is done and over with, the extra layers of clear and white ice are shaved off until the hockey ice shows through again, and is resurfaced to get ready for play.
The quality of the ice surface is monitored by the ice technicians on an ongoing basis via a control panel computer display that logs and monitors temperatures and other factors that affect the ice. There is a lot of ongoing work that goes in to continuing to maintain our Jackets’ ice surface, and I am deeply honored to have had just a very small part in the work that they continue to do to provide a top quality playing surface for the Jackets and their opponents.
TIMELINE OF INSTALLATION:
Thursday, September 3, 2009 – Friday, September 4, 2009
12 noon: Arrive. Not ready to start yet due to delays with last night’s Creed concert teardown and ice temperature warming in Ice Haus when compressor first turned on for main ice. Needed to wait for Ice Haus ice temperature to stabilize. Asked to leave and return at 5 pm.
5:20 pm: Use plastic refillable sport water bottles filled with hot water to fill in divots in concrete and bolt holes in ice.
5:50 pm: Still waiting for 7 degree temperature drop to start painting.
5:55 pm: 3 degrees to go.
6 pm: Started mixing white paint. Big boxes of it. 8 boxes per tank. Each box per instructions makes 30 gallons.
6:24 pm: Brian just said: Just imagine how much beer you could cool on that rink!
6:39 pm: Painting white?! – Oops, too early.
6:42 pm: Both patching and first coat of paint are with warm/hot water.
6:57 pm: Just finished first clear coat.
7:07 pm: Will do coat of clear with cold water next. Pop and floor scrubber solution cause holes to form, and the bubbles fill up better with hot, also help ice surface adhere better. Hopes after hot coat and cold coat will be thick enough to paint. Eventually when the ice is completely done, the ice will be around 1” thick.
7:10 pm: Ice surface now 15-16 degrees. Ian checks temperature with handheld infrared sensor. Bubbles hopefully will fill in with next coat. Had trouble getting it to start freezing but now that we’ve started to recoat is starting to really work. I’m not sure when they turned the freezer on first.
7:24 pm: More details; first coat hot to melt frost and adheres better, emptying out boiler then will go with cold. Then 2 coats white, then four coats sealer (clear water for ice), then paint. Probably turned on freezer in afternoon. Turned on late as systems are connected and they were still trying to finish the Ice Haus ice. Freon was causing ice over there to get to 20 degrees and they couldn’t risk ice, so turned back off and waited till back to proper freezing temperature there. Then ready to begin.
7:32 pm: Just started first cold coat 5 minutes ago.
7:44 pm: 16 people on ice: 15 guiding hose plus Ian spraying.
7:46 pm: Bubbles make ice look line orange peel consistency.
7:58 pm: Cold coat done.
8:10 pm: Putting down small nuts where faceoffs dots will be; don’t walk on when lay down white paint. Will walk around and paint over them.
8:13 pm: Waiting for second coat to dry. Getting ready for white paint!
8:22 pm: Guys going around with water tanks filling in divots and low or uneven spots in ice. Watching ice freeze. Next up: watching paint dry (freeze).
8:37 pm: Working on getting gum and confetti off of floor. Still falling from ceiling from last night’s Creed show. I earlier picked up purple, black, chartreuse, red, silver. They just had pink fall in front of them. Confetti looked like size of Post It note tape flags.
8:48 pm: Not going as well as yesterday’s Ice Haus installation. Ian thinks it’s because of the foam cannon that was shooting up to 12 rows in the seats from the Jonas Brothers concert recently and a bit of the residue still being present on the floor. Filling in bubbles with sprayer manually. Didn’t want to lay down a whole new layer as would warm up the whole sheet and take longer again.
8:54 pm: White!
9:10 pm: Done with first white! Mixing more paint. Four clear coats to seal later. Wipe off feet before and after walking on ice. Walk around dashers to straightaway so can clean up footprints. String frozen into ice for lines, will paint along them.
9:23 pm: White coat two!
9:33 pm: 14 on hose; down 2 people.
9:40 pm: White done, waiting for cleanup and clear.
9:43 pm: Someone left to use the restroom; joking about hey there’s not supposed to be a yellow line…
10:01 pm: Clear again, from a different direction.
10:28 pm: Down to 12 then 11 people; progressively difficult to wrangle hose. Just finished last clear layer. Looking for yarn for lines.
10:38 pm: Starting to set lines.
10:48 pm: Freeze yarn into ice then paint between.
10:54 pm: Blue lines then attack twice goal line. White yarn for goal line, in front of red mark on dasher.
11:00 pm: Angle lines next behind goal, then other end.
11:14 pm: Actually, did center line before defend twice end. Blue lines being painted.
11;27 pm: 114 stars at center ice; on Ice Haus ice they drew and painted every other star, having more red in the line than on the main ice sheet. Hand outlined; have only one template.
5:19 am: Done with stars!!!
6:05 am: Working on stencil for center ice logo. Chalk over holes in template, spread with Swiffer pad. Also some cleanup of roof debris from time to time with Swiffer. After paint done and scraped paint blobs, the paint is set with a fine misting of water. The chalk is also set with water mist. “Pi**bucket” a slang term for the sprayers. Wiped feet on towels so no dirty footprints. Going down in staffing from 16 people to 12 then 11 is a b**ch with hose. My back and neck ache.
6:37 am: Finished chalking outline. Ready for more paint. Took some Advil and putting on an extra t-shirt for the sore stiffening muscles.
7:47 am: Painted a, i, o, i on 120 side in Nationwide Arena! More black to go!
8:59 am: Finished Nationwide Arena lettering!
9:27 am: Ian painting shoeprints white before sealing in painting.
10:09 am: Brian and I just leaving Nationwide to grab breakfast at the Rise and Dine across the street. Wow, that sun is bright! Crew still has 3 to 4 coats of water to go, then eventually enough to seal in the yarn well by using the Zam on top.