Call it the calm before the storm.
Yost Ice Arena is pretty quiet this week in preparation for the NCAA Ice Hockey Midwest Regional this weekend. The rink usually used 20 hours a day for everything from public skating to intramural broomball is standing still.
Instead, five crewmen and 20 students, led by Yost rink manager Craig Wotta, are working around the clock in preparation for the big event.
When fans pile into the building Saturday, they will notice that the advertising has been taken off the boards, the ‘M’ logo has been painted over on center ice, numerous banners have been put up and NCAA merchandise has been placed all around. What they won’t notice is that the players lounge has been cleared, and television sets have been added to the press box. But all of this is being completed while Michigan is working to try and make the Frozen Four for the third straight year.
“The difference is at Joe Louis Arena if they had a regional, they would do it when the Red Wings are out of town or something like that,” Wotta said. “We’re doing it when the team is preparing for its biggest week of the year.”
Wotta and his crew started at 6 a.m. Monday covering the ‘M’ logo at center ice with two NCAA Ice Hockey logos. The crew shaved off a half-inch of ice – half of the one-inch surface – and put white paint all over the block ‘M.’ Then, after putting water over the paint, stencils were put down and painted on. After that, the crew battled against the 70-degree weather outside to create another half-inch of ice. The temperature proved to be too much, though, as some of the Wolverines skated around on Monday with giant orange cones around the face-off circle.
The crew spent eight hours taking off all the advertising boards with lexion protection. Yesterday, the crew started to replace the advertising with NCAA stickers. The lexion boards take ever longer to put on than to take off, so they will not be put back on until the summer.
But there is one thing that the crew does not need to clean: the Michigan lockerroom. Unlike last year, when Michigan hosted the West Regional, the NCAA has not asked the Wolverines to move into a visiting lockerroom.
“We went through a lot of aggravation and controversy over the lockerroom situation,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “This year it’s not an issue. If you’re going to the trouble of hosting the whole event, it’s wise to let the home team use their own lockerroom.”
This year’s preparation is also easier because there are just four teams instead of six. On the first day of last year’s regional, Minnesota and Denver put their equipment in the lobby because there weren’t enough lockerrooms.
“(Having four teams) really makes it a lot easier,” Wotta said. “This year, nobody is going to be switching lockerrooms. This building’s much more equipped to handle four than six.”
Wotta hopes all of this preparation will lead to an outstanding environment for a showcase of college hockey.
“Presenting Yost and the athletic department of the University as clean as possible is our goal,” Wotta said.