Don Renzulli, Executive Vice President Events for the NHL, at BC Place stadium Thursday, February 6, 2014. Preparations are underway to host the Heritage Classic hockey game March 2.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
VANCOUVER - There’ll be flakes in the near future inside of BC Place Stadium. More than likely they’ll be fake.
Don Renzulli, the National Hockey League’s point man for the March 2 Heritage Classic, however, is hoping for the right combination of moisture and near freezing temperatures that might produce six-sided crystals of ice.
In a perfect scenario, the right amount of falling snow could provide a winter wonderland feel inside the retractable-roofed stadium as the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators face off on a Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Being a realist, though, Renzulli will settle for fake snow, like the stuff that blanketed fictional Bedford Falls in the classic holiday movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
“If we got the real stuff, we’d spread it around -- absolutely,” Renzulli said. “If we don’t . . . what does Hollywood do? We’d have to do something artificially to create that atmosphere. That’s what we’ve done at a lot of other stadiums. If you were to cut open a ski jacket, that white product they use in the lining is what we use. We have a snow machine, but I don’t know if it would be cold enough to use it.’
Renzulli, the NHL executive VP of events, was in Vancouver Thursday for briefings with the Canucks, operating staff, vendors and BC Place workers as preparations begin for the sixth and final outdoor game of the NHL season.
Starting with the Leafs-Red Wings game at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., on New Year’s Day, outdoor games have been played at Yankee Stadium (two), Dodger Stadium and will conclude with back-to-back games in Chicago and Vancouver at the beginning of March.
“Six games in 60 days,” Renzulli said proudly. “I don’t think any other league has tried to do something to that level. We feel great about it. The first four were successful. We know the next two will be the same (Vancouver and Chicago, the latter scheduled on March 1). We’ll finish up very strong here, in Vancouver, and then we re-evaluate, going forward.”
Vancouver has one of the tightest windows yet for set-up time, which can’t begin until the B.C. Home and Garden Show concludes its five-day run on Feb. 23. Teardown time also can take no longer than three days to complete because the Vancouver Whitecaps have an MLS game to play against the Red Bulls on March 8.
With legendary ice guru Dan Craig stretched thin with so many outdoor games in a such short timeframe, his son, Mike, will be in charge of setting up the Vancouver-Ottawa show.
He begins work on Feb. 24. The finished spectacle requires 243 aluminum panels, laid over the three layers of three-quarter inch plywood, atop a terraplas sub floor. Once that’s done, a chemical solution is pumped from a refrigeration truck and ice goes down, to a thickness of an inch and half or so.
The process takes 72 hours, with two crews working in shifts, 24/7, to install the dasher boards, the markings and logos, a sound stage for between-periods entertainment and an auxiliary minor hockey rink for kids.
Surprisingly, Renzulli is concerned about a deluge of sun, almost as much as torrents of rain. Either scenario could result in the roof being closed.
Since it’s an afternoon game, extremely fair weather could cause shafts of sunshine to be absorbed by the ice logos and result in melting conditions.
Foul weather, a monsoon-like storm, would necessitate the outdoor game being turned into an indoor one.
“We want the roof open,” Renzulli said, “but not at all costs. We’ve experienced, over the course of the years, all kinds of weather. We’ve had snow, we’ve had rain in Pittsburgh (Heinz Field) and we’ve also had sun. If we have any issues, the option of closing the roof is there. If it’s a very light drizzle (on March 2) and it freezes, we can handle it. But it comes down to Coley Campbell (NHL director of hockey operations) talking with both GMs and whether they’re good with it.”
Renzulli said “about 80 per cent” of the available tickets have been sold and “three or four” of the 50 private suites at B.C. Place remain open.
“It’s pretty consistent with where we’ve been with other games,” he said.
StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp said the ticket re-seller has more than 2,000 listings for the game on its site. The highest priced ticket (club level) sold on StubHub went for $529; the lowest (upper deck, section 411) went for $87. The average is $222.
“Since we’re still over three weeks away, I would expect these prices to go down as more people snatch up the higher level seats,” Papp said. “This game is pretty much in demand, though.”
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