by Rob Boylan
Ordinarily the Tampa Bay Lightning sustaining a 4-3 preseason loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues wouldn't be much of a story around these parts. But the game, in a step to broaden the fan base of the young, exciting Bolts franchise, was played right here in Orlando, at the Amway Center.
"For the most part it was packed," said Orlando resident Matt Huertas, who attended the game and had, as you can tell from the photo, really awful nosebleed seats.
Over 11,000 fans packed into the arena to see the Steven Stamkos-led Lightning as it hosted its first hockey game since opening, the first the team have played in Orlando in over a decade.
Not unexpectedly, the ice was a problem. "It just seemed like the ice wasn’t thick enough anywhere and multiple small holes appeared all around the rink," Huertas said. "Directly in front of my seats a giant hole about as big as your hand opened up halfway through the first [period]."
Ice is always a concern for these types of multi-use, neutral arena exhibition games that don't have a standing ice surface. Humidity in the atmosphere, as well 11,000 people breathing and powerful arena lights are not the best conditions for an ice surface which is only about an inch thick.
The ice in a hockey rink is cooled from below with a freezing cold brine solution that is constantly being pumped through miles of coiled tubing below the ice surface. It's an imperfect solution that can really only do so much, especially as temperatures were in the 90s in Orlando recently. But it was no different in Albany, NY, a mere 200 miles from Montreal, where the New Jersey Devils hosted the New York Rangers at their AHL affiliate's slushy rink.
Overall, Huertas called the night "a really good experience," but hopes they can get the ice problems sorted out. "If the players don’t have faith in the ice, they end up playing a slower paced game that isn’t as exciting."
UCF's Knight News has a full game story, if you're interested.