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THE REAL ICE CAPADES

Monday, 09.10.2007 / 8:55 AM / Features
By Erin Pollina  - Sabres.com
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THE REAL ICE CAPADES
Most know about the amount of work that players and coaches put in on the ice.

What some may not be aware of, however, is the amount of work it takes to make that ice.

With some paint, heavy machinery and more than 10,000 gallons of water, the rink is prepared for hockey season each year.

The process generally begins a week before training camp.

“On Monday we are going to start to cool the building and get it down to about 50 to 60 degrees [Fahrenheit],” said assistant chief engineer for HSBC Arena, Brian Drabeck.”

The floor must also be cooled to around 15 degrees Fahrenheit, before the real work begins:

STEP 1: The crew must cover the floor with a thin layer of water using a sprayer. The mist is just enough to cover the area, about one-thirtieth of an inch thick, and freezes fairly quickly.

“We do about two or three of those [layers] just to get a little bit of ice on the concrete,” said Drabeck.

STEP 2: Three coats of white paint are added on top of the ice. This not only cleans the appearance of the ice, eliminating imperfections and lines on the concrete slab beneath it, but also allows the logos, creases and faceoff circles to be more visible.

STEP 3: Once the paint has dried, “we put a little more water on top of that because the paint is a little bit gritty,” Drabeck said. “We put more water on that so it's ice and not a rough texture.”

STEP 4: Logos, face-off circles, lines and goal-creases are painted next.

“Actually for the lines we take a string, hold it in place and paint next to it,” Drabeck said. “For the circles we have a line-painting machine that has a center peg in the face-off dot. We just drag the machine around and it lays down a perfect circle of paint.”

Every marking on the ice is painted by hand. Drabeck estimated that process could take up to seven hours to complete.

However, with the new blue and gold logo in place, Drabeck said it is easier than painting the previous black and red logo.

STEP 5: Next the remaining water, about fifteen-sixteenths of an inch according to Drabeck, is slowly added on top of the paint to seal it. The crew, which includes up to eight people at a given time, walks with a spray hose for approximately 10 hours until the ice has reached one-inch thickness. Zambonis are then used to resurface any blemishes.

In all, Drabeck said it takes 10,000 gallons of water to make one inch of ice. Then temperature has to be maintained at about 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

That is easy compared with keeping the environment constant.

“Ordinarily for games we like to keep the building at 58 degrees. That temperature goes up to around 63 or 64 [degrees] just due to the game and all the people being here, all the lights being on and everything else,” Drabeck said.

There are other factors that can contribute to the quality of the rink’s surface as well.

“We are always trying to minimize humidity as much as we can,” Drabeck said. “We like to keep it around 40 percent based on the outside conditions, which are obviously out of our control.”

Problems can result because of high humidity, as the 1975 Sabres found in the Stanley Cup Finals against Philadelphia at The Auditorium.

Sudden heat rises in Buffalo during the playoffs- and subsequent humidity- caused fog to develop over the ice, impairing visibility for players and fans alike.

The “Fog Game” as it was later dubbed, lives on as one of the strangest games in Sabres history.

“I don’t think there was any air conditioning in The Aud at that time. I think they installed it some time after that [game],” Drabeck said. “The air conditioning that we have now is enough to prevent fog.”

With all that in mind, and 24 hours later, the Sabres’ home-ice is ready for the season.

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