ANN ARBOR, Mich. - With the temperatures Michigan has been experiencing lately, you would think it would be easy to make an ice rink, right?
But the Winter Classic is not just any event, and the rink at the Big House is not just any rink.
On Thursday, a brand new state-of-the-art refrigeration truck arrived in Ann Arbor from Toronto, which means the process to create a hockey rink in a hockey stadium can begin.
"We have 250-horse variable speed pumps that we use to push over 1400 gallons of glycol from the top of the floor down the ramp and back," Dan Craig, NHL Senior Director of facilities and operations, said.
Craig is the guy behind the ice surfaces for five Winter Classic games. He said each time they do it, it gets better and better.
"We evolve every single time we do it," Craig said. "Every time we try to bring in new people from around the nation to make it better."
So, fans can expect one of the best Winter Classics to date, a great matchup between two Original Six teams, and a few extras that haven't been done before.
"The NHL is setting up a tailgating station outside," said Don Renzulli, NHL Exective VP of events. "We are also going to install 100,000+ seat cushions that represent the game; they've never done that at [Michigan Stadium] before. When you see that, it will change the way it looks inside the bowl and create a new experience."
The players are obviously pumped to play. They've been talking about it for weeks. Tomas Holmstrom knows the feeling. He played at Wrigley Field with the Red Wings in 2009.
"It was pretty cool to play the game and have the fighters going over Wrigley and put eye black on my face," Holmstrom said. "It was a good two-three days of fun."
The next step for Craig and company: put the cooling plates in, put the boards up, and then begin to flood the ice. Craig said it takes about five days to create a great sheet of NHL-quality ice, and they are right on track for the main event on Jan. 1.
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