Cross Checks: New York Yankees

NEW YORK -- A sea of red and blue has taken over Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium was near capacity as Sunday's Stadium Series game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils finally faced off at Yankee Stadium. Despite a one hour, eight minute delay due to the sun's glare, fans of the rivals were pumped for the first hockey game at Yankee Stadium.

"Me and my friend, when we first walked out here, seeing a sea of white at Yankee Stadium, we both said we felt like little kids again," said 33-year-old Bronx native Pete Juncaj, wearing a Rick Nash jersey. "We've had Yankees season tickets for many years, and it's just really cool to see this whole atmosphere and this scene."

The crowd seemed to be a 60-40 split for the Devils, who are the home team for the first of the two Stadium Series games. The Rangers and the New York Islanders meet Wednesday. The Devils are wearing their red-and-green throwback jerseys for the first time this season.

"It's fantastic. It's great there's actually snow on the field. It's a great experience," said 54-year-old Staten Island native Mike Kampos. "Definitely a good crowd. You can tell everyone is excited."

The sun delay occurred because glare affects the playing conditions and the safety of the players. The sky was overcast when the game finally began at 1:38 p.m., and the temperature was 24.9 degrees.

Despite the frigid conditions, the fans who braved the weather did not seem to mind the delay.

"If I was cold it would bother me, but I got some hand warmers, gloves and boots and I bundled up. I have no hat on right now. I'm sweating right now actually," Juncaj said. "[The weather] isn't a factor right now. We'll see in another hour."

Stadium Series Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsRangers Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello joined ex-Islander Jean Potvin and ex-Devil Grant Marshall to take in the sights in the Bronx.
NEW YORK -- The transformation of Yankee Stadium into a hockey arena is underway.

The NHL has started the initial phases of converting Yankee Stadium for the two Stadium Series games to be held there later this month. The New York Rangers will face the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26, and the New York Islanders on Jan. 29.

As of Wednesday afternoon, only the initial stages of construction had begun, with the roadways and staging for the rink being built. The NHL ice truck that will help create the rink also arrived Wednesday.

"Today is probably the day when I'm really thinking about how much fun it's going to be and how excited I am," Rangers forward Carl Hagelin said, sporting a Stadium Series jersey.

Starting Thursday, the crew will lay out the piping and ice pans, with the goal to start making ice Saturday, according to NHL senior manager of facility operations Mike Craig.

The truck that arrived Wednesday has a 300-ton capacity and serves as a mobile refrigeration unit and rink system. It pumps up to 3,000 gallons of glycol into aluminum trays on the field that help keep the ice near the ideal temperature of 22 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a release.

Water is then added, with the outdoor rinks needing up to two inches of thickness compared with the normal 1-1.25 inches. Each inch requires approximately 10,000 gallons of water. The surface will be whitened before the lines and logos are placed on the ice.

Yankees Stadium (hockey) Matt Ehalt/ESPNNewYork.comConstruction has begun in earnest -- though there's still a lot of work to be done before faceoff.
Building a rink inside Yankee Stadium doesn't present any new problems for the crew.

"I think for the most part, our rink build is pretty similar no matter what stadium or park we go to," Craig said. "Refrigeration truck setup, piping setup is a little bit different here. A little bit longer run."

While all the talk surrounding the weather later this month is fixated on how it will affect the Super Bowl, weather is also going to be the biggest challenge for the NHL. The weather will dictate how the NHL preps the ice and maintains it for the games.

"We do a lot of research on the challenges that are going to be put to us. We have meteorologists that work very closely with the National Hockey League," NHL senior director of facility operations Dan Craig (Mike Craig's father) said. "We're very much in tune and what mother nature is going to give to us. When we wake up in the morning it is what is and the crews are ready to welcome that challenge."

In the first outdoor game this season in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 1, it was a snowy and frigid day for the Detroit-Toronto game. Mike Craig said they were able to get through that game well despite the snow.

He does have an ideal weather forecast for the games at Yankee Stadium.

"[I] always like to see cooler temperatures and cloud[s]. No wind," Mike Craig said. "If we could order that up that would be great."

Mike Craig, a native of Canada, called it "a bit of a fairy tale" to be turning Yankee Stadium into a hockey arena, and can't wait for the games. His excitement was shared by Hagelin.

"It's a great venue with a lot of history," said Hagelin, who was joined at Yankee Stadium by teammate Mats Zuccarello, former Islander Jean Potvin and former Devil Grant Marshall. "It's going to be incredible."