ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The Minnesota Wild faces off against the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday night, but while fans are worrying about the guys on the ice, there’s a guy at the Xcel Energy Center who worries about the ice itself.
The guy in charge of the ice the million-dollar athletes skate on watches the games a little different than traditional fans do. Travis Larson is the Wild’s original ice guy – he’s doing it for sixteen years now.
Larson says managing some of the top-rated ice in the NHL has three components: chemistry, meteorology, and psychology.
“I tell my staff, everything's got to be perfect,” Larson says. “It’s never is going to be perfect, but we try the best we can.”
It starts with chemistry. The Minnesota Wild skates on 10,000 gallons of Mississippi River tap water 1 1/4 inches thick.
“It's actually great ice making water,” Larson says. “We don't have to treat it.”
Larson monitors the temperature of the ice and slab underneath it, which has 10 miles of cooling pipes with glycol running through them.
“These pumps are moving the glycol from the floor back to the refrigeration room,” Larson says.
But there are some things harder to control, and that's where meteorology comes in.
“[The] biggest nightmare generally is a warm, rainy day in the late spring,” Larson says.
Travis hates humidity because humidity makes the ice slushy. It's why he likes all doors at the Xcel closed.
“The little doors outside is when we'll get most of our humidity in the building, the mass rush to get in,” Larson says.
Humidity is also where psychology comes in – where fans, aka a screaming blast furnace comes in.
“Every person is a heat generator, so if they're more excited, they're giving off more heat, so we do see it in the building,” Larson says.
One of the biggest challenges for Larson has not been the playoffs, but the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, which were held at the Xcel in February.
It was sandwiched between two Wild games and since figure skating ice is slightly different, Larson had to build different layers of ice.