Tonight, the Detroit Red Wings kickoff the regular season at Little Caesars Arena against the Minnesota Wild at 7:30 p.m. (ET). In addition to other concerns regarding the Wings sharing the multi-use arena with the Pistons, many fans are worried how the ice will fare. A top concern: Humidity control.
We want to make sure ice conditions are good for a competitive game and most importantly we want to make sure they’re safe for the players.
Poor ice conditions have continued to be an issue for NHL players, with issues ranging from choppy to slushy ice. In fact, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman even discussed the quality of ice conditions in a press conference during the All-Star break last season.
Last December, the Wings had a game postponed against the Carolina Hurricanes due to a cooling issue at PNC Arena.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 20, 2016
Joe Louis Arena was a regular in conversations regarding the best ice in the NHL. Since the facility was primarily used for hockey, conditions were great thanks to building operations manager Al Sobotka and his staff.
LCA has the capacity to hold 20,000 people for a hockey game, which could put the facility at risk for poor ice conditions. Unseasonably high temperatures aren’t the only cause for humid air in arenas, spectators bring a lot of moisture into the facilities with them.
Additionally, buildings like LCA that host hockey and NBA games face challenges with temperature maintenance. For instance, the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland is home to the NBA’s Cavaliers and the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. While the building’s temperature sits between 64-66 degrees for the hockey games, it jumps up to 68 when the Cavs play. And that doesn’t take into account the added three to four degrees the crowd brings in with them.
LCA will be faced with the same challenge of monitoring temperature and humidity in the building during changeover from Pistons to Wings Games. But Sobotka isn’t concerned.
When asked by the Detroit News if he was worried LCA’s ice wouldn’t be as good as the Joe’s, Sobotka said he expects it to be better.
“It goes back to the way the new arena was designed, and built, the way it’s underground — we’re seeing the effects already,” Sobotka said.
After some initial bumps in the ice, Red Wings players and coach Jeff Blashill are happy with the quality of their new rink. Blashill said it’s “way better than it was earlier (since the Red Wings returned from training camp). He’s [Sobotka] made some adjustments. He’s one of the best in the business, and he’s put us in position to have good ice.”