Monday, December 24, 2007
NHL crew begins converting Ralph Wilson Stadium for hockey game
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Fighting heavy wind and blowing snow,
NHL work crews completed the initial phase of converting Ralph
Wilson Stadium into a hockey rink for next week's Winter Classic
"The process of building the ice has begun," NHL spokesman
Jamey Horan said Monday. Crews spent the past 24 hours surveying
and protecting the field, unloading equipment and establishing
refrigeration lines in preparation for the Buffalo Sabres' game
against the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year's Day.
The game will be the NHL's second played outdoors, and first in
the United States after the Oilers played the Montreal Canadiens at
Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 22, 2003.
The field's conversion began within hours of the final whistle
of the Buffalo Bills' home finale, a 38-21 loss to the New York
Giants on Sunday.
Crews began by removing the goal posts, and laying large tarps,
held down by wooden boards, to protect the field. The initial work
was completed despite wind gusts of over 30 mph and a steady and
sometimes blinding snowfall.
The wind posed a near-dangerous problem on Sunday night.
With workers standing nearby, a heavy gust picked up one of the
tarps -- 30 yards long and covering the width of the football field
-- and lifted it into the stands of the east end zone. Several
workers managed to duck beneath the tarp in time, and nobody was
Numerous all-terrain vehicles and golf carts, as well as one
SUV, were driven out on to the field to provide additional weight
to hold down the tarps.
Horan said the next step is leveling the field, which is
crowned, to begin erecting the temporary rink.
Organizers, who plan to work round the clock, hope to have the
rink built by Wednesday and begin making the ice a day later. The
two teams are scheduled to practice at the stadium next Monday
The game has been sold out since tickets first went on sale in
September. The 42,000 tickets made available to fans were scooped
up within half an hour. In the event of bad weather, the NHL has
the option of postponing the game to Jan. 2.