Ridder staff begins preparation for Frozen Four

The University of Minnesota last hosted the event in the 2013 season.

Grant Donald

In a little more than a week, the four best teams in women’s college hockey will come to the University of Minnesota to compete for the national championship.

While those teams compete this weekend in an attempt to get to the Minneapolis event, the Ridder Arena staff — led by director Craig Flor — has been putting in weeks of preparation to make the championship at the facility a possibility.

Ridder hosted the event two other times in the past — 2010 and 2013 — with the Gophers competing in each and taking the title in 2013.

“We love bringing the women’s [Frozen Four] to the state of hockey,” Flor said. “In 2013, we sold it out. In 2015, we are sold out right now, and when [Ridder Arena] is packed, the atmosphere is fantastic.”

Considering their familiarity with hosting the event, Flor and his staff members are confident they’ll successfully prepare the facility for this year’s Frozen Four.

Some of the tasks, like putting the Frozen Four logo on the ice, have to wait until just days before the competition. The staff will take care of other tasks, like the covering of local advertisements, this week.

“You try and take the arena from being very Minnesotan and [then] rebrand it a little bit for a national championship,” Flor said. “Even if a company is a sponsor or has a partnership with the NCAA, they still cannot advertise in the arena. Everything inside will be the team names, NCAA logos or Frozen Four logos.”

While Flor and his student-heavy staff do most of the preparations themselves, the NCAA calls in third-party workers to help complete some tasks.

One of those parties is Big Ink Display Graphics, which creates the board signage with the competing team’s names on it.

“Once the bracket is announced, we go ahead and make signs for all eight teams,” senior national account manager Greg Monahan said. “That way we can ensure that they get to Ridder on time and eliminate any unforeseen problems.”

While Monahan has ample time to prepare the boards, Flor doesn’t have the same luxury when it comes to implementing the Frozen Four logo on the ice.

The process will take place on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Gophers play in the national quarterfinal game against RIT at the arena, and requires the inch of ice currently on the rink to be thinned down to almost nothing.

“It’s not a tricky procedure, but it is time consuming,” Flor said. “We aren’t painting. We just put a mesh logo down — long gone are the days of painting logos.”

But not all of the changes apply to the rink itself.

Media attention on women’s hockey this time of year changes, increasing significantly, Flor said.

And because of that, Flor said he and his staff will clear Ridder Arena’s weight room, transforming it into a makeshift press conference room for postgame interviews that normally take place outside of the Gophers’ locker room.

Though some of these transformations may go unnoticed by the public, the Ridder Arena’s staff efforts will be recognized when 3,400 people fill the facility to capacity later this month.

“I think [the Frozen Four] brings a whole lot of excitement to the program, knowing that we are the ones hosting [it],” head coach Brad Frost said. “It also brings some pressure because obviouslyyou want to be there and playing, but right now we are focused on [the quarterfinal against] RIT.”