Rink going according to plan despite SoCal heat

LOS ANGELES — Dan Craig took a few turns on the ice at Dodger Stadium and had just one word to describe the feeling.

"Amazement," the NHL’s chief icemaker said Wednesday evening. "You have to realize it’s 5:15. An hour and a half ago, it was 90 degrees right here."

Just days away from a historic first — a regular-season game between the Kings and Ducks on a rink in the middle of Dodger Stadium — the surface got its first run-through when the media were allowed to skate.

The reviews were generally good, although Craig, the league’s director of facilities operations, admitted he will never be satisfied. But he was still smiling as the stadium lights brought the ice surace to life.

"I really didn’t think the sheet was going to be quite as tight as it is right now," he said. "We’ve been here long enough that the part about being in awe is gone, but it’s still a good feeling.

"We have some work to do. Anybody that’s worked with me on these events in the past (knows) I’m never satisfied until it’s over. I can always do better."

They’ll be so excited to play in this kind of environment. It will be amazing.

Luc Robitaille Los Angeles Kings president of business operations

He has plenty of time. The Kings and Ducks don’t play until Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and between now and then, Craig and his crew will fine-tune the ice until the puck drops.

But they’re getting close.

"I was really surprised," said Luc Robitaille, the Kings president of business operations. "It was a lot smoother than I thought. I think it’s going to look pretty darn good by the time Saturday comes."

Finishing touches are still being applied around the ballpark. The sand volleyball court is up, and palm trees are being lined up from center field leading to the rink. The stage that will be used by rock performers KISS is still under construction.

But the ice surface remains the most important component to pulling off a successful game between the two Southern California teams.

"This is the first skate," Robitaille said. "The first skate is really to break it in. I think it’s going to be pretty neat."

Warm temperatures have not been an issue, although Craig said he’s watching the humidity closely.

"Right now, the humidity is a major factor of what’s going on out here, not so much the temperature of the floor," he said. "For me, it’s a big part of what I watch. You can’t control it; you just have to be able to work with it."

Among those who came out Wednesday were actress Alyssa Milano and Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays hockey twice a week in L.A. and took part in a celebrity hockey game after the media skate.

"I keep calling it magical," Milano said. "When I first got here, the sun was still out. There’s a very typical Los Angeles sunset that we see all the time at Dodgers games with the palm trees and the mountains behind the seats. Then you look down at the middle of the stadium and there’s an ice rink. It’s the most surreal thing ever."

Said Gooding, "I’m very excited. Out of 10, it’s a definite 10. I can’t wait to see the guys get out there."

That will be the real test, when players take the ice Friday for practice and the game one night later.

"Once they get out here and see the quality of the ice, they’re going to have no problems," Robitaille said. "They’ll be so excited to play in this kind of environment. It will be amazing."