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Science of keeping frozen diamond on ice

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

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CLEVELAND — After five months of anticipation, the installation of 26 miles of tubing under the playing surface and 900 tons of coolant, the Frozen Diamond Faceoff, played between Ohio State and Michigan at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, finally arrived Sunday.

Once the teams took to the rink, which sat atop the home field of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, it was business as usual as far as the CCHA conference rivals were concerned, though the No. 15-ranked Wolverines skated to a 4-1 win against the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes.

But preparation for the game, which included constructing the outdoor rink, should hardly be considered business as usual.

Ice Rink Events, a company that builds and maintains both permanent and seasonal skating surfaces all over the world, constructed the playing surface for what might have been the most historic event in the history of OSU men’s ice hockey. Kevin Gifts, operations manager for the rink built at Progressive Field, said the process of building a rink begins when his installation specialists and technicians install a system of tubes in a flat, base layer of sand.

“There’s about 26 miles of tubing,” Gifts said. “Then, we run glycol through the tubes.”

Glycol, known more commonly as automotive antifreeze, is pumped through the tubes at subzero temperatures, Gifts said. Once the glycol is coursing through the piping system, a process of flooding and painting the surface begins. Nine-hundred tons of chiller were used to maintain the ice surface.

“We bring (the water) up above the tubes, and then we paint it white,” Gifts said. “Then, we bring the water up about another inch and we paint all the logos in.”

The ice surface featured OSU and Michigan’s logos, as well as an Indians’ “C” and the Frozen Diamond Faceoff logo at center ice.

From beginning to end, the process of constructing the rink, originally constructed in November, takes about five days. The ice also received frequent treatment from Zambonis, which drive on the ice and apply a thin, fresh layer of water to repair small inconsistencies and divots left from ice skates.

Having built outdoor ice rinks in Mexico City, Mexico, Kosovo, India, South America and at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Ice Rink Events has the process of building outdoor rinks down to science, albeit an imperfect science.

Despite Gifts’ constant monitoring of the ice-surface temperature, the start of the third period was delayed due to a localized problem with the ice near the blue line. Referees used a water bottle from the penalty box and snow that had collected along the sideboards to fill a hole. Referees then pounded the slushy mix into the hole with a game puck.

The problem was temporary, though, and the third period of play commenced minutes later.

Before Sunday’s game began, Dale Gallapoo, an ice rink installer for Ice Rink Events, said that special attention to the ice, boards, dashers and glass would continue throughout the game.

“We’re allowed to sit around the outskirts and watch incase glass breaks during the game or something,” Gallapoo said.

Gallapoo said that after weeks of special attention to the Progressive Field rink, it was rewarding to finally see competitive action take place at the rink he helped create.

“This is new to see a collegiate hockey game like this on our rink,” he said. “We do a lot of rinks where people just skate around and have fun. Something serious like this on our rink — it’s cool.”

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