One day after the Nashville Predators suffered a disappointing 4-0 loss at the hands of the Coyotes in the desert outside of Phoenix, Bridgestone Arena was undergoing a transformation that could symbolize a fresh start for the Predators when they return from their current seven-game road swing.
Gone are the elephants that took up residence on the event level of Bridgestone Arena over the course of the last week while the circus was in town. Even though the scent of the pungent pachyderms still hangs in the air as one walks around the arena’s lowest level, the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth’s run is over for this year.
The multi-night circus productions required Bridgestone’s ice to be removed so as to safely anchor the supports and wires for the trapeze apparatus, as well as to provide comfort under the feet of the elephants. That meant that the ice surface created during the summer saw just two NHL games before being melted.
In the last few days, the Bridgestone staff has been hard at work on a new surface that they hope will be in use by the Predators through the completion of the Stanley Cup playoffs in June.
Tuesday began with a perfectly clean white ice surface made up of several layers of frozen water laid down over many different passes with specialized sprayers. When some select volunteers walked into Bridgestone midday, it was time to paint. By the end of the day, that once tabula rasa of ice became a hockey rink that looked fit for NHL action.
Tullahoma’s Chelsea Hulen entered a retweet contest put on by Predators president and chief operating officer Sean Henry on his semi-famous Twitter account. Hulen found out Monday that she had been selected as one of the participants at Tuesday’s ice paint day.
“Very cold,” Hulen responded when asked about her experience Tuesday. “It’s ice, so I expected it to be cold, but you don’t really know how cold until you get here.”
Hulen had the big responsibility of painting part of the blue line closest to Nashville’s bench. The paint she used was blue, but the shirt she was wearing was Predators gold with Gabriel Bourque’s name and number splayed across her back.
“It’s a unique experience,” she said. “Not too many people can say, ‘Hey, I helped paint the ice.’”
Hulen’s mother is a Predators season ticket holder, and she was quick to point out that the blue line was close to the seats she sits in and will now have a greater admiration for the artistry that went in to painting that particular line.
In addition to the blue lines, the goal creases, goal lines, trapezoids, faceoff dots and circles were also painted Tuesday. The workers put down strings to outline the proper places to paint for all lines except for the faceoff circles. Those strings were frozen into place with a thin spray of water.
The faceoff circles are made with a paint stick roller attached to a string. One worker holds the string in place at the center of the faceoff dot while another walks with the roller to make the circle that is 30 feet in diameter.
Not all of the markings on the ice are painted though. The red line, as well as the Predators logo at center ice, and the logos of the sponsors located between the blue lines are made of a fabric similar to that of a camping tent. After those are put into their correct positions, they are sprayed with water to hold them in place.
One of the major benefits of the fabric decals is the fact that they are reusable. Previous versions were printed on paper with a similar consistency to tissue paper. That paper, and the logos printed on it, would disintegrate when the ice was melted.
The Predators do not play another home game until next Thursday’s tilt with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. The ice may not look much different than it did during the team’s first two home games, but the new sheet took many man and woman hours of labor to get it looking the way it does.
For more pictures and a video of Tuesday’s ice painting day, please check Jim Diamond’s Facebook page. If you are feeling generous, please give the page a like when you stop by the page.