Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell sat near goaltender Martin Jones in the team’s locker room at Staples Center on Saturday morning, chatting about Mitchell being acquainted with Jones’ father, Harvey, an executive with the Vancouver Canucks. Harvey Jones’ title is vice president of construction but his duties also have included overseeing operations of GM Place, the Canucks’ home rink.
They were joking that when Mitchell played for the Canucks he’d frequently complain to Harvey Jones about the ice conditions at GM Place, which Mitchell laughingly confirmed. That led to a question about how the ice has held up at Staples Center, where the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will play Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Saturday.
Arenas in warm-weather cities frequently have difficulty maintaining good ice during the season and especially during the playoffs. But some arenas in colder climates have the same problems. New York’s Madison Square Garden has long been notorious for having bad ice, mainly because of the large number of events that are staged in the building and the frequent changeovers required to cover and uncover the ice to accommodate all those events.
Staples Center, home to two NBA teams, an NHL team, a WNBA team and many concerts, also has frequent changeovers. The Kings haven’t played at home since May 14, when they won Game 6 of their second-round series against the Ducks, but Mitchell said the last time he skated on home ice it was
“As long as the humidity’s not up, it’s good,” said Mitchell, who added that one of the reasons he participated in the Kings’ optional skate Saturday morning was to get a feel for the ice.
“I think this time of year the ice in all the buildings isn’t optimal. That’s what happens as it starts to warm up, but it’s been good.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said both the Kings and the Ducks had complaints about their respective ice surfaces during the second round. He also said Dan Craig, the NHL’s ice-making guru, has been “a frequent visitor” in an effort to keep the ice in the best possible condition.
“Hopefully it will be a little bit better again tonight,” Sutter said. “With basketball being gone, hopefully they’ve had some opportunity to do some work with it.”
Lee Zeidman, senior vice president and general manager of Staples Center, said via email that the end of the Lakers' and Clippers' respective seasons gives arena workers more time to focus on the ice and maintain the proper temperatures and humidity.
"We shoot for 57-58 degrees when we open doors and with a full house we try to keep it at 62," he said. "We shoot for 45% humidity in the building."
The proof will be when the Kings and Blackhawks take to the ice, with puck drop scheduled for 5:20 p.m. PDT.