Puffy coats, coffee, swearing: how NHL head coaches stay warm on a freezing ice rink (even in summer)
St. Louis banker Craig Berube wore a gray warm-up jacket for his team’s exhibition game and a bright blue blue during Sunday night’s match-up.
Head coach of Blue Jackets John Tortorella – he of the sweatshirt and hoodie fame – wore a navy blue quarter-zip mock-col for his team’s tune-up and opening qualifying round.
Rick Tocchet wore a padded black jacket during his Coyotes ‘Game 1 win over the Predators and said,’ It’s cold, there are no fans … I’m a bad coach when I’m cold so I wanted to be warm . ‘
Yes, as lyricist and rap legend Vanilla Ice famously said, “Ice, ice baby, too cold, too cold,” and if you have a sheet that spans 200 by 85 feet, it can get downright chilly.
For the first time in NHL history, the league hits the ice during the hot, humid summer days. Normally, an ice rink is held at around 23 to 24 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s when the temperature drops outside in the 40s, 30s, or lower.
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In August, temperatures can range from the 1970s to triple digits, with the always pleasant (no, not really) added element of humidity. To combat the external heat – despite fans not coming in and out and absorbing their body heat in the air – the temperature of the ice will drop a few digits, down to about 19 degrees, making it a tad colder than the usual 50-ish temperature on the sofa.
But while some coaches went for warmer duds during the NHL restart, most retained the status quo – which should come as no surprise.
“You know, I suck it up,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told Sporting News during the regular season of the NHL 2019-20. “I have four ice rinks, I guess, I would say by heart that I know it will be a T-shirt underneath, because I don’t always wear one. Philadelphia is by far the coldest ice rink in the league.
“I drink a lot of coffee, so it keeps me warm, of course.”
The NHL started again last weekend in the 2020 post season and, thankfully for the Boston bank chief and most coaches SN spoke to, the cold spaces of the Wells Fargo Center – or Carolina’s PNC Arena and wind tunnel – aren’t inhabited for the postseason. Instead, it’s Rogers Place in Edmonton and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
In December, newly minted Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that the Ontario NHL rink “from my experience there with the Marlies coaching, [it] was one of the colder arenas even on the AHL circuit. ”
However, for the former NHLer who played 125 games for the Lightning in sultry Tampa Bay, it doesn’t seem like his days on the Junior ‘A’ circuit.
“I have a lot of experience in cold arenas from my time as a coach in the lower ranks,” he said. ‘It used to be full coats and some coaches wore gloves on the couch and stuff.
“I refused to wear the gloves; I drew the line at the gloves, but hand warmers I often thought of. But at the time, I was wearing long underpants and long shirts and sometimes a full sweatsuit under my suit. Fortunately I don’t have to do that anymore. ‘
Wait a minute, Sheldon. You said it was cold in Scotiabank and Jon Cooper of the Lightning noted that it was “extremely cold” during his team’s exhibition game.
“As I got older – this is really what you’re talking about – some of these buildings are now freezing,” said Paul Maurice, a longtime Jets boss, adding that if he got a three piece suit , it is his telling that it is a cold building.
But how else does he really deal with the cold?
“I usually curse enough to keep warm.” (And chances are he certainly did a lot of that on Saturday.)
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Fellow 50-year-old head man Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders approaches it more directly.
“The trick is that I wear a good, heavy jacket. I don’t go for the thin coats. I go for a well-made jacket and I’m always buttoned,” he told Sporting News during the season, saying that he is also a fan of the three-piece suit in the colder ice rinks.
“For me, it just keeps my feet on the bench moving, and my trick, the thing I learned, was wearing leather soled shoes, a little slippery when you had to go over the ice. But [now] I wear rubber soled shoes because it keeps your feet warm. ‘
No toe warmers here for Trotz or his contemporaries, despite feeling the all-too-familiar feeling of cold in the air at certain points of their busy day.
“I’m standing still during the warm-up,” said Mike Babcock, Keefe’s pastor in Toronto, before getting the ax. “Frankly, when the game starts, I’m never cold. I don’t know the answer to that. That’s probably adrenaline or excitement in the game or whatever so I don’t get cold. However, I am cold during the warm-up. It is unbelievable. You go to the hot climates, and then you go there to the ice rink and you feel like you are dying, to say the least. But when the game starts … no effect. ‘
As for Keefe, he also thinks that when the game action happens, it’s not that bad; there is another story for that.
“One thing I think is that the coldest times in the games are the folk songs because you just got on the couch,” said Keefe. “You are not really in the game yet and the players are not in the game. Once the players move and their body temperatures rise, I notice that it gets a lot more comfortable because of the heat on the couch. The players are warm and they are sweating and you have all these men in the tight, cramped quarters, it gets warmer during the matches, so that helps. “
The Oilers’ Dave Tippett (referring to adrenaline), ex-Devils and now Nashville’s John Hynes (who wore a John Tortorella-style jersey and a winter jacket in European ice rinks during his AHL days) and former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant (who said he once wore an undershirt in Buffalo, but “may not have been feeling well”) all agreed that the cold never bothered them at NHL level anyway, outside of a few select rinks.
“I like the cold,” Senator head coach DJ Smith told Sporting News during the NHL’s 2019-20 season. “So it doesn’t bother me. I’d go golf shirt if I could. “
It’s safe to say that not many people currently agree with Smith. Even some reporters, including Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson, noted that it is “freezing cold” in the cheap seats the media has been sent to.
Regardless of how the temperature is on the bench as the postseason continues to roll, one thing is for sure: The coaches will be activated as the action on the ice will be red-hot with hockey set to crown the 2020 Stanley Cup champion .