In As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players.” And, while this begins a description of a human’s role in the ever-unfolding drama of life, it fails to answer a very important question: Who sets the stage?
For the Nashville Predators, the answer is Nigel Schnarr, the Senior Ice Manager at Bridgestone Arena. (Nigel was on the ice crew for the Winter Classic. If you recall, they had quite a disaster to deal with, but we may have that story for you later.) This weekend, Nigel, along with his crew and a band of repurposed Predators staff members, took painstaking care to ensure that the stage was set perfectly. While the glories and tragedies this frozen sheet will host this season are yet to be determined, the stage is ready and only awaits its players.
Building the perfect sheet of ice is a slow process, but the reward is worth the effort. The arena floor (which sits over a refrigeration and cooling system) is covered with a thin layer of water, which soon freezes over. Once this thin layer goes down, it is covered with a layer of white paint. Of course, this isn’t just any paint, but a highly specialized type of paint, made specifically to adhere to ice and dry quickly.
Then, Schnarr’s team begins the intricate process of measuring and stenciling. The stencils are filled in, hand-painted by the ice crew.
If you’ve ever wondered how the circles are painted so perfectly, it’s simple Geometry class stuff: pic.twitter.com/DODkz10CWk— Shaun C. Smith (@SCSOTF) November 21, 2020
Once the paint dries, which happens almost instantly, it gets several coats of a fine mist of water from a pump sprayer until it’s sealed in. Once it’s sealed, it gets a solid spray of water.
The logos and sponsors come next. These aren’t painted, but made of a thin fabric. These are placed on the ice, then misted into place.
After that, layers of ice are added using a special water delivery system until there’s a solid 3/4” of ice. That’s when the water truck comes out and ramps up ice production until there’s an inch and a half of ice.
From start to finish, the process takes around 48 hours of around-the-clock work. Of course an overnight crew covers most of the ice layering once the initial work is finished, with Nigel and company coming back to monitor progress and finish adding the rest of the ice.
And, while we don’t know when hockey will resume, the stage is set and merely awaits its players.