Good Morning
Good Morning

How they transformed Yankee Stadium for hockey

The Rangers practice on the rink at Yankee

The Rangers practice on the rink at Yankee Stadium for tomorrow's game with the Devils in the Stadium Series. (Jan. 25, 2014) Credit: Ray Stubblebine

There is a 53-foot, 300-ton truck hidden beyond Yankee Stadium's centerfield tunnel that is providing the refrigeration system for Sunday's outdoor Rangers-Devils hockey game.

Not because the air hasn't been cold enough, but workers target an ideal ice temperature of 22 degrees.

Mostly out of sight, too, are hoses strewn in the snow around the pre-fab rink. And a series of pipes branching off the one feeder pipe from that cooling machine, constantly recirculating 3,000 gallons of coolant.

Wires and cables and fencing are everywhere around the regulation NHL rink. There is so much extra stuff atop the nation's most celebrated baseball terrain that it seems silly to recall how a single exposed drain pipe in the original Yankee Stadium's outfield in 1951 caused Mickey Mantle to tear up a knee.

But 21st-century technology and money -- just the system rink system, not counting the transportation costs and construction, runs into seven figures -- allow a magnitude and moxie to the NHL's movable outdoor feasts.

When the Rangers and Devils tested the portable rink Saturday for the first time, the maestro of these outdoor rinks -- NHL facilities director Dan Craig -- and his top deputies were in Los Angeles, rigging up their other man-made pond at Dodger Stadium for Saturday night's Ducks-Kings duel.

They were scheduled to take the red-eye flight into New York Sunday morning to oversee the Yankee Stadium project. Meanwhile, a crew of scores of assistants, along with help from the regular Yankee Stadium grounds crew, handled preparations in pinstripe territory.

Operations began two weeks ago when the huge refrigeration truck, which essentially contains all the equipment of a stationary indoor arena, arrived. Along with that truck came a convoy of vehicles ferrying all the panels, lumber, pipes and other equipment needed.

Construction began with wood blocks laid over the Yankees' field. The rink's footprint extends from the third-base line to the first-base side, and from just inside second base into the outfield.

Then came decking risers, plywood, 80 aluminum trays to be filled with coolant and pipes to circulate the coolant from the refrigerator truck. Then the rink's sideboards went up and 20,000 gallons of water were sprayed for two days in a fine mist to ensure an even, smooth surface.

White paint was sprayed, then another layer of mist to freeze. Face-off circles and lines were painted and logos -- laid in something like decals -- went down before the final layer of frozen water.

Last Tuesday's big snowfall necessitated a full day of shoveling by crew members, stalling the whole operation. And the weight of the rink, on the platform roughly two feet above field level, led to the use of smaller Zamboni machines, similar to the units on the Rockefeller Center skating rink.

But nothing stops progress. Little about the 2014 outdoor undertakings resemble the first of the NHL "Winter Classics" in Buffalo in 2008, and this year, for the first time, the NHL has two portable rinks.

New York Sports