The forecast for Saturday calls for skepticism and a chance of fear. These are unusual conditions for Los Angeles, but so are hockey games in open-air stadiums.
Seriously, a 22-degree sheet of ice covering the Dodger Stadium infield?
“It’s a hard concept for anyone not in the field to understand,” said Dan Craig.
Craig’s official title is Senior Director of Facilities Operations. He’s more commonly, and more accurately, referred to as the league’s “ice guru,” tasked with constructing and cooling ice rinks at every outdoor NHL game since 2003.
The great outdoor experiment began in November of that year with a game between the Canadiens and Oilers in Edmonton, Alberta. Craig said he spent 17 hours outdoors in his skates that day as the temperature dipped to minus-22 degrees Farenheit. He developed frostbite on both of his big toes.
In Los Angeles, frostbite is practically a foreign word. According to WeatherUnderground.com, which has historical data dating to the 19th century, the average downtown temperature on Jan. 25 is 58 degrees Farenheit. The average high is 68, the record is 86 in 1986, and the average low is 48.
For Craig, those numbers are hardly an obstacle. The complex engineering process needed to keep ice at 22 degrees is the same in Edmonton and Elysian Park. Craig rolled into Dodger Stadium on Monday with his ice-making truck and a healthy dose of confidence.
“We’ll be right at the 22-degree mark,” he said. “That’s our focus, that’s what we want to be, that’s where we’ve always been. The efficiency of the floor — I can tell you that it’s going to be 22, and the truck will be pushing at 20. Everybody says ‘well it’s 80 degrees outside.’ That’s how efficient that truck is.”
Craig isn’t blindly optimistic. His crew has already built outdoor rinks for eight regular-season games. Not only does the NHL keep letting him do it, they’re giving him more games every year. Typically an annual event since 2008, there are five outdoor games this year.
All that means is that Craig is more glued to his iPhone than ever these days.
“The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is find out what the weather’s going to be for the day,” he said.
“Every single morning and every single evening we have meteorologists who send us the data for the last 10 days,” Craig continued. “We have exactly what you get at home. What you can pull up, we get in more detail. We know what it’s going to be from 8 a.m. until noon, from noon until 3, from 3 until 8. That’s how they break it down every day for us. That’s how we know what’s going on.”