Tag: ice conditions

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals - Game Three

Hot weather presents challenge for Caps’ ice crew


Few arena crews faced a challenge like the Staples Center gang did last night, as they were forced to prepare playoff-caliber ice for the Los Angeles Kings shortly after an overtime NBA game for the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet even with a more manageable gap between Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals contests, Stephen Whyno reports that the heat in DC had the Verizon Center crew on their toes.

“The guys who drive the Zamboni and maintain the ice, they’re looking for it whether it’s January and it’s 30 degrees out or it’s april and it’s 90 degrees out,” arena senior vice president and general manager Dave Touhey said in a phone interview. “But when it’s April and it’s 90 degrees out, that’s an abnormality. When it’s 90 degrees out, you pay more attention to it.”

That means several layers of protection, including turning the temperature down from the usual mid-to-upper-50s down to the lower 50s. While that seems like a small change, it can make a big difference.

“We normally have processes that we go through to maintain the NHL standards. Now we’re taking readings every hour to make sure where we are as opposed to just monitoring it,” Touhey said. “We’re just monitoring it more closely to make sure that we’re down where we want to be.”

The Capitals and Boston Bruins combined for a measly four goals through the first two games of the series – which included an overtime and double overtime contest – so it’s not like the teams could blame choppy ice for shoddy offense. Still, as much as an ice crew can do, don’t be surprised if we’re in for another low-scoring affair.

(Did I just jinx the two goalies?)

Unlike last year, ice conditions don’t have teams worried

John Tortorella

While the 2012 Winter Classic will start a couple hours later at 3 p.m. ET to give the game better conditions to play, there aren’t any concerns over the ice.

Coach John Tortorella made sure that if anyone does complain about the ice, it won’t be traced back to him.

“It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad. It’s not going to be  perfect. They have worked very hard at it, and so both teams are going to skate on the  ice.  Both teams did the same thing today with their families. Both teams have gone through the same thing the past month. So let’s just play.”

Yes, sir, let’s do this.

Rangers forward Artem Anisimov also gave the ice a big thumbs up.

“Ice? It’s good ice. It’s hard ice. I like it. It’s going to be a fun game tomorrow.”

Philly’s Maxime Talbot also was feeling good about the ice and considering he played in last year’s Winter Classic, he knows how tough it can get.

“The ice condition has been like pretty good and fun.  It’s a special event and I think everything that surrounds the event is great and we feel privileged to be part of this game.”

Comparing how the ice in Pittsburgh was last year, which was hampered by rain and warm temperatures, this year’s game is shaping up to be just fine.

Despite Tuesday’s struggles, Baltimore hopes to attract an NHL regular season game in future

Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals

After the NHL’s first game back in Baltimore since 1997, Alex Ovechkin’s statement probably summarized the mood: “Thank God nobody got hurt.” The Washington Capitals star wasn’t talking about playing against rugged Nashville Predators such as Shea Weber, though. Instead, both teams seemed genuinely concerned about the downright scary ice conditions at the 49-year old 1st Mariner Arena.

Players and coaches noted muggy conditions in the locker room and felt that the staff just couldn’t get the arena cold enough for a quality hockey game. Which, again, is pretty reasonable since the building has been around since 1962.

While there certainly were attempts to smooth the cracked ice over with a Zamboni’s worth of good intentions, the exhibition was a missed opportunity at best and a near-disaster at worst.

With that in mind, it’s a bit surprising that 1st Mariner Arena’s general manager Frank Remesch hopes to not just score another preseason game for 2012, but perhaps even bring an NHL regular season game to the Baltimore arena in the future, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Remesch said Baltimore held up its end of the bargain by packing 1st Mariner Arena on Tuesday night, but he admitted that the arena “dropped the ball” when it came to delivering quality ice.

“The good news is that it can absolutely be fixed,” he said.


“Hockey is a tough sell in Baltimore,” he said. “The thing about this is that the Capitals have branded themselves. They have arguably the player in hockey [in Alex Ovechkin]. It’s kind of like bringing Bruce Springsteen here. It’s one time. I can’t see this not being a success for the future. After we prove we can do this three, four, five times, I’m going to push for a regular-season game. … It’s a very, very, very, very long shot. But if you’re a fan, don’t give up hope.”

The issues with the quality of ice aside, arena officials would have to convince the NHL to overlook the fact that the rink at 1st Mariner Arena is four feet shorter than the regulation length of 200 feet.

“That could be a hindrance,” Remesch said.

It’s safe to say that having shoddy ice conditions and a non-regulation ice surface go beyond a mere “hindrance” to being a probable deal-breaker (at least for a regular season game). That being said, the Capitals have plenty to gain from expanding the scope of their franchise’s influence, so it would make sense for them to at least be open-minded to return for another preseason game or two.

The 1st Mariner Arena staff might want to take care of their ice conditions before dreaming too big, though.

Capitals, Predators avoid injuries on shoddy Baltimore ice

Craig Smith, Chris Bourque

Aside from the occasional 15-year reunion with the NHL, Alex Ovechkin’s statement might be the most common takeaway from typical exhibition games that go the right way: “Thank God nobody got hurt.” That was especially true after the Nashville Predators earned a 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals in the Baltimore Hockey Classic, an exhibition game in which the shoddy ice conditions overshadowed the contest itself.

It’s a real shame, too, because this was the first professional hockey game in Baltimore since 1997 and the Capitals’ most recent visit since 1992, according to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post.

While a Caps spokesman told The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno that the scary-looking cracks (see the bottom of this post) were below the surface of the ice and wouldn’t affect play, the game was marred by poor conditions – cracks or not. Carrera reports that smooth-skating defenseman Mike Green “tumbled twice for no apparent reason” while goalies found themselves “skidding” when they went into the butterfly position. The 1st Mariner Arena opened in 1962 and judging by the feedback of coaches and players, the building definitely showed its age.

From the start of the game, which Nashville won, 2-0, puddles formed all over the ice surface in the noticeably warm 49-year-old arena, sending pucks slip-sliding at unexpected moments and prompting players to hold themselves back at times in order to avoid injury.

“It was hard because the ice was not that good. It was first our game and we didn’t play exhibition,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Of course you try to think about more when you go to the boards and the corners — especially in the corners, ice is not that good. I don’t know how many times today [equipment manager] Brock [Myles] check our skates because of holes.

“The ice was soft but it’s over,” Ovechkin added. “So thank God nobody got hurt everybody feel healthy.”

Along with being a lost opportunity (in some ways) to increase the popularity of the NHL – and particularly the Capitals – in a solid market like Baltimore, some might believe that the substandard conditions also defeated a common purpose of preseason games: evaluating players. Even a blue-collar team like the Predators scaled things back a bit, as head coach Barry Trotz reminded his players to not “be too creative out there.” That being said, Capitals bench boss Bruce Boudreau learned something from the game.

“It’s hard to judge skill,” Boudreau said of assessing talent in the mushy ice, “but it’s always easy to judge effort. Whether you’re in a blinding snow storm or a rain storm, as the Winter Classic was, you can tell.”

Boudreau makes a point, but it’s still disappointing that the game was largely a waste.On Frozen Blog’s John Keeley probably captured the sentiment the best in his Tweet following the game.

Baltimore was a gracious host for NHL hockey Tuesday night. But NHL hockey must have NHL conditions — player safety is non-negotiable.

In case you’re wondering, Chris Mueller and Kyle Wilson scored the Predators’ two goals, while Niclas Bergfors assisted on each tally and Shea Weber also earned a helper. Pekka Rinne ended up with the shutout while Michal Neuvirth was the losing goaltender.

In case you’re still not relieved – and surprised – that the game was reportedly injury-free, take a look at this photo of that cracked ice from Sky Kerstein:


Ice conditions for Capitals-Predators game in Baltimore look awfully dangerous

Baltimore ice

The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators are due to square off tonight in Baltimore, Maryland at the 1st Mariner Arena to give fans there a taste of NHL action. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber all scheduled to play tonight to give the hockey fans in Baltimore a look at what goes on down the road in D.C. and elsewhere around the NHL, the event is a big deal for the Capitals to spread the game further out around the mid-Atlantic region.

As will happen when you’re playing outside the confines of your home arena, sometimes there will be problems. In the case of 1st Mariner Arena, their problems appear to be major ones that could bring the safety of the players into question. Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times tells us about how cracks in the ice visible as far away as the press box are causing concern for tonight’s scheduled game.

But quietly, players were less than complimentary of the rink, calling it “a little rough” or worse. From a few rows up in the stands, it looked sloppy.

But Boudreau pointed out that players understand the situation.

“They’re aware. They skate on it. They know it better than me. But what can you do? Both teams are there; it’s an ice surface,” he said. “They’ve played on, in their lives, some ice surfaces that weren’t really up to snuff – and I’m not saying this won’t be, but they’re going to be working on it today.”

Update: As of 4 p.m., there were big cracks in the ice visible as high up as the press box.

The NHL likes to do preseason games outside of the home arenas to help expand the visibility of the game and for the Capitals, going into Baltimore for a game more than makes sense. Asking the players to deal with ice that at least looks as bad as this does puts everyone on the ice in jeopardy. Soft ice is one thing, but ice that appears to be damaged with cracks in it comes about as close to possible as being unplayable.

Let’s hope that either the ice is repaired enough to be playable (poorly so, but still) or that they’ll make the right move and postpone the game if the conditions are indeed that terrible.

Update (5:01 p.m.): According to Whyno, a Caps spokesman insists that the cracks that are visible are below the surface of the ice and will not affect play on the ice.

(Photo courtesy of Sky Kerstein on Twitter)