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Ice Cold: How Capitals Rink Is Made At Capital One Arena



Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin

As the Washington Capitals prepare to return for the 2022-23 NHL season, workers at Capital One Arena are getting the rink set up for the 82-plus game stretch starting in September and lasting until at least April.

But how does the rink get made?

It all starts with a concrete slab surrounded by the boards. That concrete makes up the main floor of the arena. Underneath that are pipes, which contain brinewater. Brinewater freezes at a lower temperature. The regulation NHL rink measures 200 feet long and 85 feet wide.

Water is then sprayed onto the ice by a machine that makes its way around the rink. As the water is sprayed onto the surface, the brinewater in the pipes helps it freeze faster, turning it into ice. The ice is made in layers, and the layers can be between 1/30 and 1/6 of an inch thick. Multiple layers are added until the ice is about an inch thick. About 12,000 to 15,000 gallons of water make up the ice at Capital One Arena, per Washingtonian.

After that, the regulation face-off circles and lines are stencilled and handpainted, with intricate measurements set to ensure accuracy. The sponsors and main center ice logo are then put in place. In a 2017 timelapse video, the Capitals wordmark was pieced together in parts.

The ice then has to remain cool for the duration of the season. If there’s too much heat or humidity, the puck won’t move right, fog could form and players could get injured with the ice not in pristine condition.

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That’s where refrigeration and the pipes come in underneath. The ice surface is 24 degrees, Boland Trane sales manager Jerry Taylor said in 2018. To keep it cool and avoid the humidity, there’s ammonia refrigeration. And during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in Washington, there were portable units outside the arena that would pump in chilled air to keep the rink cool in the summer.

In addition to the Capitals’ 82-plus game slate, the team shares Capital One with the Washington Wizards and Georgetown Hoyas, as well as visiting artists who are there for concerts and more. However, despite the other non-ice-related events, the ice remains there all season. It just remains under the floor. Per Washingtonian, 550 panels of 1-inch thick insulated sub-floor are laid down on top of the ice in order to cover it for other events in the venue.

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