The boards are up and the rink is taking shape for the 2024 NHL Winter Classic between the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on New Year’s Day.
According to Andrew Higgins, one of the NHL’s full-time “ice men”, there are still certain NHL buildings that have their ice painted by hand, as in the bluelines, red lines, and even the logos, but the league’s crew in Seattle will do what most do these days, use pre-cut cloth artwork and cover it with ice.
Before that more intricate procedure can unfold on Thursday, the rink base needed to be white-washed. That effort took place on Wednesday with a crew of a half dozen technicians moving and hoisting the paint hoses and applying a total of four coats.
Workers circle around the rink and apply white paint to form a base. “Higgy” narrates the procedure as the group reaches the end boards.
According to Higgins, most indoor rinks do three passes with white paint, but for the Winter Classic, it’s four. It’s not physically demanding, but it is time consuming. The man with the sprayer does his best to keep the paint off the yellow kick plate and boards.
Workers get creative with their paint application as they make their final pass. The Seattle Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights at the outdoor rink on Monday.
On Thursday “Higgy’s” crew will begin laying down the lines and the artwork. He showed us samples of the cloth that will be utilized, right down to the more intricate-than-usual bluelines. A crew of approximately twenty people will manage the effort and continue to monitor the ice quality right up through the duration of the game on Monday.
There are workers from various rinks all around the NHL and at other levels. All of the “ice people” have experience in multiple “barns”. Mike Craig, the son of long-time NHL ice guru Dan Craig, and Derek King are the two other main “ice men”.
Andrew Higgins shows us the blueline that will be carefully laid down below the ice surface for the NHL Winter Classic on Monday.
The Kraken will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night and then have two days to prep for the Winter Classic. Both the Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights are scheduled to practice on the outdoor rink on Sunday morning. The media will have had a chance to test the ice quality with a group skate on Saturday.
The NHL Winter Classic is scheduled for noon on Monday, plenty of time to wrap up hours ahead of the national semi-final college football game featuring the Washington Huskies.
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— Composite youtube video of the painting procedures with enhanced audio …