The ice is down and the boards are up. The steps to the primary entertainment stage will resemble the Art Museum, where Jason Kelce made his famous Super Bowl parade speech. The bells will chime and the whistles will sing.
About the only one thing that could disrupt what should be quite a show on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field is the fickle finger of Mother Nature. The weather forecast calls for rain.
The NHL has hosted 25 outdoor games since 2008, so the level of anxiety was tempered on Tuesday.
“All of this is things we’ve experienced before,” said Steve Mayer, NHL events coordinator. “We’re used to it. Because of that, we’re very, very prepared for weather delays.”
In fact, they already had planned on losing a preparation day on Wednesday because of snow.
If it’s raining heavily Saturday, they’ll have to adjust. Can’t play hockey in heavy rain. The ice gets ruined, visors get steamed. But light precipitation is another matter.
“We can’t play in a torrential downpour, but right now if you look at the weather forecast – and it does change hour by hour – there’s no call for severe or heavy rain,” Mayer said. “So we’re really confident based on what we’re reading right now that the game will go as planned.”
Delaying the 8 p.m. start of the game would be one option. Moving it to Sunday is another. But if it’s moved to Sunday, the NHL would likely begin the Flyers-Penguins game closer to 6 p.m. to help with traffic. There’s a Michael Buble’ concert at 8 pm. that night at the Wells Fargo Center.
OK, putting aside the weather for a minute, Mayer said about a thousand tickets were available on Ticketmaster as of Tuesday morning. The Linc is seating 69,000 for hockey, so seats also will be available on secondary markets.
A fan festival in Lot G of the Wells Fargo Center will start at 11:30 a.m., and it does not require a game ticket. Gates to the Linc will open at 6 p.m. Country music superstar Keith Urban will appear on the stage adjacent to the ice. The advice here for fans who enjoy the pageantry to get to their seats by 7:45 p.m.
“As you know from watching these games, the players’ entrance, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ the fireworks – all of that – will be included,” he said. “So before we even drop the puck, it will be pretty spectacular.”
This will be the second outdoor game in three years in which the Flyers and Penguins are meeting. When the Penguins beat the Flyers at Heinz Field in 2017, Travis Konecny had to sit out because of a lower-body injury.
“I had to watch it on TV,” said Konecny, who said he last played an outdoor game on a pond as a 10-year-old. “I’m really looking forward to it. [But] my mom is probably the most excited. She loves watching this on TV and she loves big atmospheres like this. She’ll be chanting, doing all the cheers, stuff like that.”
*They use a 53-foot-long refrigeration unit, which has 300 tons capacity to maintain the ice. The ideal temperature of the ice is 22 degrees.
*The ice can be up to two inches thick for outdoor rinks, about twice as much as indoor arenas. NHL standards call for approximately 10,000 gallons of water per inch.
*It takes 350 gallons of water-soluble paint for the ice white.
*Workers use approximately 25,000 feet of electrical cable and 18,000 feet of plywood.
*Home teams have lost 12 of the last 14 outdoor games.
The NHL is billing this as the “Battle of Pennsylvania.” The “Battle for the Eighth Playoff Spot” is more accurate. The Flyers have played their way into the postseason conversation with a 12-2-1 run. They are eight points behind Pittsburgh and six behind Columbus, which holds the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is playing in the sixth stadium game in his 10-year career. He was 0-2 in his first stint with the Flyers and went 2-1 while with Toronto.
JVR will be the guy in the locker room whom young teammates such as Konecny, Ivan Provorov, and Carter Hart will turn to for advice on the simple things. Should I wear eye black? (Yes.) What’s the biggest challenge? (Back-checking against the wind.) What do I need to know?
“First and foremost, you want to enjoy it," said van Riemsdyk, who has one goal and one assist in five outdoor games. “They’re a lot of fun and you don’t know how many chances you’ll get to play in these games. Obviously, you’ll have a better memory of it if you win the game. And we need points. We need the win.”