CHICAGO - The mix of baseball and hockey in the Winter Classic makes for odd distances at Wrigley Field: It’s 112 feet from home plate to the center-ice faceoff dot, then another 288 feet to the center-field wall.
The penalty box is just to the second base side of the pitcher’s mound, and the goals are on the first and third base lines.
Now it’s nearly time to see a puck fly where a baseball usually whizzes by.
Workers were busy Tuesday putting the finishing touches on the transformation of the old ballpark into a hockey arena, two days before the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks meet in the NHL’s second regular-season outdoor game in the U.S.
A curtain painted with ivy and brick — two of Wrigley Field’s trademarks — was being fastened to scaffolding in front of the bleachers. The real ivy, of course, has died for the winter.
The ice was down on the rink as workers glided over the surface to get a feel and a look-see. One small problem was that the sun caused the painted blue lines to bleed a little.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will practice on the rink, the biggest test yet of a project that has lasted two weeks. It has taken 3,000 gallons of coolant to freeze it, while 20,000 gallons of water were needed to create the two-inch deep ice surface.
The game-day forecast is for temperatures in the low 30s with an overcast day.
“We are going to have one fast, tough game,” Dan Craig, the NHL’s facilities operations manager, said Tuesday after the ice was tested. “It’s going to be a fast and solid surface. The puck will slide really well. It’s almost effortless if you get a good sheet of ice.”