By Tim Newcomb
If you like a little beach volleyball with your ice hockey, you’ll feel right at home in Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
For the second of the NHL’s six outdoor games this season, and the first in league’s new Stadium Series, a rink has been set up in L.A.’s 51-year-old major league ballpark for the game between the Kings and the Ducks. The game will be California’s first-ever NHL outdoor game, as well as the league’s first al fresco regular season tilt played west of the Mississippi River. Chavez Ravine is also the southern-most location for such an event.
But this venue’s arrangement will look a lot different than the Jan. 1 cold weather Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
The game’s 6:30 p.m. PT start (9:30 ET, on NBCSN, CBC, and RDS2) will allow plenty of time for celebrities — the NHL expects Will Ferrell, Hillary Duff, Jon Hamm, Jason Bateman, Matthew Perry, Jerry Bruckheimer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alyssa Milano, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Smith and more — to watch four main spectacles on the field, not the least of which will be the hockey game. Crews have had to make the ice at night in order to negate the effects of warm temperatures, and have used thermal blankets to keep the surface cool during the day.
Along with the regulation rink that stretches from first base to third in a stadium that has hosted eight World Series, the NHL has added a small “street hockey” court near home plate. In left field there is a beach volleyball court, which will be used before the game and during both intermissions. In right field there is a stage designed by L.A. artist Mister Cartoon, which will host performances by KISS, Jordin Sparks. and John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting).
Oh, and there’s also a sand sculpture of the Kings’ logo in the beach volleyball court. A Ducks crest can be found at the bottom of a small pond in right-center field.
As is the new custom with NHL outdoor games, an entertainment festival with live music — including the USC marching band — will greet fans outside the stadium.
The NHL’s third and fourth outdoor games of the season will be held at New York’s Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 26, as the Rangers take on the Devils, and on Wednesday Jan. 29 when New York plays the Islanders. Just don’t expect a beach volleyball court or a sand sculpture at either of those games. Snowmen are more likely to be on tap.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.