With the Stanley Cup Final in hot Florida and Vegas, extra care is taken to keep the ice in shape

An ice resurfacer is used Monday between periods during Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals between the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

SUNRISE, Fla. — Throwing on a tank top and shorts to keep cool during the sizzling summer months tends to make a lot of sense in Las Vegas and South Florida.

Keeping an 85-by-200-foot sheet of ice intact in sweltering conditions during the Stanley Cup Final is a bit more complicated.


Ice maintenance is generally the same across the league, from Edmonton (the northernmost NHL city) to Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers and the NHL’s southernmost outpost. Technicians work hard to make sure the ice — it is only 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick at most rinks — is the right temperature and consistency so that the puck slides smoothly and the players can safely do what they do at high speed.

With the final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Panthers taking place in two of the hottest markets in the country, making sure outside conditions don’t compromise the ice is an all-day process.

Complaints about “bad ice” is the last thing anyone wants.

Player opinions on ice quality vary widely and many have become more outspoken about the importance of a good surface. Eight years ago, a survey by the NHL Players Assocation listed Florida with the worst ice, according to the players, and Arizona has also carried that reputation. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was ranked fifth among players’ choices for the best ice in the league, according to the most recent NHLPA player survey.

The Panthers will host the Golden Knights at FLA Live Arena on Thursday for Game 3 of the series, which Vegas leads 2-0.

An ice crew will arrive at 5 a.m. on game days to clean and smooth the ice using the Zamboni machines hourly until puck drop. Until then, they will also try to keep the 872,000-square-foot facility sealed like an airtight bag.

“We have different layers of closure from the external elements, all the way from our roll-up doors externally to the roll-up doors that are internal that go directly to the bowl,” said Rob Stevenson, the Panthers’ executive vice president of people and facilities. “And we really try to control for any sort of deliveries that are coming on a game day that require even opening up those roll-up doors at all.”

Temperatures in Las Vegas can reach the triple digits even before the official start of summer, while it will be in the mid-80s in the Miami area this week. But the biggest challenge to maintaining quality ice in Florida isn’t the heat; it’s the humidity.

“Being in Florida, as soon as you start introducing outside air, you’re introducing humidity in the building, which makes it incredibly difficult to maintain quality ice,” Stevenson said. “Which then, you know, leads to direct impact on the field of play and the players.”

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