It was an hour after the Golden Knights had won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but there was still activity on the ice at T-Mobile Arena.
As NHL and arena officials talked, workers examined the playing surface. With orange tanks strapped to their backs and sprayers spewing out water, they looked like exterminators trying to rid a house of bugs.
Bouncing pucks. Players losing their edges. It made for some frustrating moments for both teams, particularly for the Washington Capitals, who lost 6-4. Several times during the game, the ice crew had to come out and do patch work around the blue Stanley Cup Final logos near the blue lines along with other areas.
George Salami, the conversion manager who oversees the ice at T-Mobile Arena, insists the surface was not an issue.
“Nothing happened. There were no problems,” he said Tuesday. “Sometimes during the course of a game the players’ skates carve some hard, deep ruts in the ice. When we see the ruts, we go out and we patch them up.
“What we do after the game is a daily maintenance of the ice. We’ll go and measure the thickness of the rink. We do a hard measure of the entire rink and see if some spots are thinner than others. It depends where the skating is the hardest. We’ll look at the crease and in the corners where there’s a lot of activity and we’ll fill in there. That’s what you saw us doing after the game.”
Salami huddled with Dan Craig, the NHL’s ice guru, to review the integrity of the playing surface. Salami said the league gave the sheet high marks.
“They had no complaints whatsoever,” Salami said of league officials. “We’ve had nothing but great reports all year. They’re very happy with the quality. Dan said, ‘Do what you’re doing, Salami.’ ”
An NHL spokesman said the league would not make Craig available for comment, saying the ice conditions at T-Mobile Arena are not an issue.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz was realistic about the quality of the ice surface.
“It’s pretty warm out,” he said. “There’s a lot of heat with the number of people here and all that. You can’t expect the ice to be fantastic at this time of year especially in the markets that we are in.”
Salami said the Capitals’ grousing about the ice was expected and that Trotz’s theory of the weather affecting the integrity of the sheet was misguided.
“They lost the game,” he said. “You think they’d complain if they won? They skated on it Sunday (for practice) and nobody said anything to me then.”
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said the ice could have been better. But he didn’t want to make excuses.
“It was worse than I expected, but it’s the same for both teams so it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
Some of the Knights weren’t thrilled about the ice, either.
“It’s been unbelievable all year, and it was a little bit sticky (Monday),” David Perron said. “It was a little bit different than the usual, to be honest with you. We’ve been fortunate to have great ice all year, even in this temperature. Not much you can complain about.”
With temperatures expected to hit 100 degrees for Game 2 on Wednesday, Salami said the building will be kept cool, around 57 degrees, and as long as the doors leading into areas such as the loading dock remain closed, the ice will be fine.
“Our numbers were exactly where the protocol for the NHL wants it,” he said of the consistency of the ice for Game 1. “I have 100 percent confidence in our building that we’ll be right on the money.”