Ice compressor seal breaks, postpones Hurricanes-Red Wings game at PNC Arena

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – The coaches, players and fans were ready, but the ice wasn’t when it was time to drop the puck between the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings at PNC Arena on Monday.

According to Hurricanes president Don Waddell, who spoke to the media following the decision was made to postpone the game at approximately 8:45 p.m., an hour and 45 minutes past the original 7:00 p.m. start time, the compressor that maintained the refrigeration system had broken down.

He pointed out that it was the first time in the 18-year history of the building that such a problem had occurred.

“It broke a seal on the main compressor that runs the ice chiller,” Waddell said.

“So the seal broke and it just started shooting out the Freon. So once you shut the system down and have to fix the part that broke, then we have to bring gas in that mixes with the Freon.”

Waddell said that an alarm was triggered from the computer system that monitors the ice surface temperature and gas and liquid levels around 6:00 p.m.

Once the leak was repaired, and the chillers were back up and running, the ice temperature had gotten up too high and couldn’t get back down to appropriate levels in time for the game to safely have been played.

“The ice temperature got up to about 30 degrees, so once we started chillin’ it, it was droppin’, but the rate it was droppin’ would not have been until about 9:45 for it to be comfortable with the players playin’ on it, ” Waddell continued.

“The safety of the players is obviously first and foremost. It was an easy fix. It was just a matter of getting the main chiller up and running and we couldn’t do that until it was full back with gas. You bring the ice temperature down about a degree every 10 minutes. There’s two different temperatures you measure. One is the floor temperature, and one is the ice temperature above the ice. The low one has to be at 21 (degrees) and the high one should be 23 or 24 (degrees), at the worst case. Normally, you start a game off at 18 and 21 (degrees) and as people come into the building, it naturally rises. To start a game off higher that it was, would have been dangerous for the players.”

With a tight NHL schedule, particularly with this year’s World Cup of Hockey pushing back the season’s opening night, Carolina executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis indicated that rescheduling the game would be “extremely tough”.

“This season’s already pretty condensed,” Francis said.

“It’s not going to be easy. Probably not a problem that the league was hoping to have to deal with…I don’t remember any issue similar to this. It’s certainly frustrating. At the end of the day, when the ice isn’t safe for the players to be on there, you gotta make the decision that’s best for the players. And that’s the decision we came to at the end.”

In the Red Wings locker room, the situational experience was also a unique one.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said.

“But the No. 1 concern has to be the safety of the players and the referees. It was determined we could not get the ice conditions to where they needed to be in time since we’re playing tomorrow as well.”

Coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Buffalo on Saturday, the Hurricanes have earned points in their last nine games at home, so the postponement upset that rhythm.

Carolina next plays at Buffalo on Thursday, while Detroit heads to Tampa Bay for a game on Tuesday.

Added Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, “It’s just one of those things. We’ll get into Tampa a little earlier and there will be a morning skate instead of the optional. That’s the only difference (for Tuesday.)”

Thus, the game will have to be rescheduled at some point later in the season, if possible, and it’s a situation that Francis and Waddell know is not ideal for the Hurricanes or their fans.

Waddell pointed out that the team would announce an exchange policy for the fans who had tickets to this game in the near future.

“It’s disappointing for both teams because we have to reschedule it,” Francis concluded.

“It’s certainly really disappointing for our fans, especially the people in the building tonight. It’s not a situation where you can have a clear answer for them at 7:00 or 7:30 or 7:45, this is what is clearly going to happen. Behind the scenes you’re trying to get things done. We thought we had a chance, but apparently that wasn’t going to be the case.”