LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dan Craig and his crew have been at Dodger Stadium from dusk to dawn every night for the past week, patiently building a sheet of NHL-quality ice in the middle of the iconic baseball field.
They're just about ready to drop the puck in sunny Southern California.
The ice is solid, the fans have bought nearly every ticket, and the two local teams are eager for their historic showdown under the lights and stars. Only a few tweaks remain before the Los Angeles Kings face the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday in the NHL's first official outdoor game in a warm-weather climate.
"It's hard not to get excited about it now that it's almost here," Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "It seems like everybody is talking about it."
While the NHL raised plenty of eyebrows with the announcement of outdoor hockey in one of the nation's hottest places, Craig has always been confident that this unorthodox game wouldn't turn into a swim meet.
The NHL's ice specialist is working a vicious schedule this winter with preparations for six outdoor games, but he's most excited about the chance to do the improbable in Chavez Ravine.
"This is the challenge that everybody who works with me wanted to try," Craig said. "The crew that's in New York (for two upcoming games at Yankee Stadium) doesn't want to be in New York. They want to be here."
Even with daytime temperatures in the 80s and abnormal humidity in Los Angeles over the past week, Craig is quietly confident about the ice sheet created by his meticulous crew and the huge refrigeration unit in the 53-foot truck beyond center field.
They work at night, building and grooming more than 10,000 gallons of water into a 1¾-inch sheet that stays cool under a heat-reflecting blanket during the day. The ice is out of the sun's reach by roughly 4 p.m. each day, and that's when Craig's crew goes to work.
"We are very patient with what we do," Craig said. "Our guys aren't getting a whole lot of sleep. I know I won't be getting a whole lot of sleep."