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Behind the scenes at Webster Bank Arena

The cold truth: How we make the ice

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When the circus moved out two weeks ago, if left behind a lot of good memories and a few parting gifts from the elephants. It also left behind a bare arena floor with just a few days before Sound Tiger hockey practices and a stretch of home games had to start.

That’s when a job normally cloaked in mystery to the average fan got underway: making the ice. First, let’s dispel some assumptions. No, the ice is not always there, under the floor. No, all the logos are not always there, painted on the concrete.

At arenas the world over, making the ice is a hallowed event, an almost mythical convergence of artistic talent and laser-like concentration. You hear the chatter in the hallways when it starts. “Hey, they’re making the ice. Let’s check it out.”

Cliff Lydisken, the Arena’s assistant director of operations, is the ice maestro. The Caravaggio of cold. The Flaubert of frozen water. He’s put down ice at NHL arenas, including ice used for four Stanley Cup series, in Detroit and Carolina.

It’s not a quick process – four days from start to finish. We’re talking old-school technology. The beginning of the process is when the ice has to be removed to make way for a big event like the circus. Super-cold coils embedded in the arena floor are turned off,  the ice melts and is swept away. As for the logos, I’ll get to that in a moment. Then, after the circus moves out, the coils go back on and 1/16th of an inch of water is spread on the floor and begins to freeze.

 More than a day later, the first layer of ice is frozen and it’s time to put down the logos and the hockey red lines, blue lines, goalie creases, hash marks and face off circles. How? Some kind of high-tech installation process, right? No. Every logo and line is hand painted, one of the most painstaking jobs in the entire Arena.

Remember the old logos? They were scraped up and tossed out. Cliff and his crew get out gallons of a special paint that sticks to ice. They put down cloth templates of each logo – Bud Light, Norwalk Hospital, etc. – and spray the outlines each logo. Now the artistic part starts. Cliff’s crew arms themselved with paint brushes and begins the long process of filling in the outlines. Stay within the lines, boys!

The logos and lines are done and the paint dries and another 1/16th of an inch of water is spread on the floor and freezes. Water from a hose is used to even out any spots and a few Zamboni runs later, the ice is ready for the Sound Tigers, Sacred Heart, youth hockey, Disney ice shows and men’s league games.

The video above, shot by ace cameraman Jamie Palatini, probably does of a better job explaining it all. So the next time you’re here for a hockey game, you’ll know it’s no mystery – just a crew of hard-working Picassos using the biggest canvas you’ve ever seen.

Categories: General

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