This storied venue has seen frigid weather and jarring weather over the course of nearly 50 years, but not until Saturday does it truly become the “frozen tundra.”
Lambeau Field, one of the most venerable sites in sports, plays host to its first hockey game ever when the Badger men’s hockey team meets Ohio State Saturday.
“Playing outside has a uniqueness about it that is hard to relay to people that have never played outside,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said earlier this week. “The sound that the skate makes when it cuts the ice, the sound that the puck makes on your stick when you catch a pass and you slap a pass. It’s a very unique game of its own.”
The Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, an idea conceived mid-last year, has been a complicated undertaking for Green Bay officials.
The commission to build the ice surface for the game was given to Ice Rink Events, a company based in Texas that specializes in building temporary rinks with Ice Mat, a procedure that has been used for 30 years. Over the past week, crews have worked to install two layers of ice that total four inches above a level deck.
A refrigerating mechanism, featuring more than 30 miles of tubing with 2,200 gallons of antifreeze solution, maintains a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing applied water to become ice.
“It’s somewhat complex,” said Mike Clayton, the head of Ice Rink Events. “We’re dealing with a very pristine environment there inside the stadium, and we’re dealing with their underground heating system. We want to be careful with all that.”
Bleachers have been set up at the north end of the stadium, where the rink was constructed. Lambeau’s scoreboard and monitors will be in operation for the 3 p.m. matchup.
For Clayton’s crew, the weather was certainly a concern. Working outside, the group had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, the weather has been kind, making it easier for Clayton’s group to perfect the ice.
“We’re not doing any game, we’re doing a real NCAA hockey game that will count,” Clayton said. “We want to be just about as perfect a condition as possible give that it’s outside in the stadium.”
A crowd upward of 35,000 is expected for Saturday, when temperatures are not expected to exceed the mid 20s. Coach Eaves said the Badgers will practice outside tomorrow in preparation, even though he does not expect weather to play a significant factor.
Clayton’s ice has been used by the Olympics, by the NHL, off the Pacific Ocean in cities like Las Vegas, Nev., and in rainy cities like Seattle, Wa. But nothing compares to the excitement that has been working in Lambeau Field, for what Clayton calls a “terrific organization.”
“We look up and see all the names in the stadium,” Clayton said. “You really have to take a big gulp and forget the goosebumps and proceed with the work.”