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New York Islanders: Paint the Ice

After painting a strip club's logo onto a 16' pro wrestling ring a few years ago (what an opening!), I've had confidence in my technical abilities to reproduce art at any size. So when a few coworkers at the New York Islanders asked to recreate the team's 50th anniversary logo just above the main logo at center ice, I was certain it could be done, despite its complexity.

TANGENT: The strip club/wrestling ring story is for another day.

Image credit: New York Islanders

It was for a Wednesday event, but I knew I couldn't do it that morning. So I volunteered my Tuesday, aware that a daytime event would prevent me from beginning until the early evening. No problem, I thought. I frequently keep crazy bizarre all-night hours. I packed a bag of supplies I might need, and felt prepared.

Little did I know how unforgiving the ice would be to my tools and body.


Process & Pivots

Early in the day, I measured the space between sponsor logos and the edge of the center ice logo and came up with an 11x8-foot window to work within. Then I set up an in-spec Illustrator document and planned to tape off the ice and measure the anchor points of the AI file from the tape edges, essentially transferring them from the computer to the ice. Simple, right?

Well, the tape wasn't sticking. Duct tape. Painters tape. Gaffers tape. That last one worked best, but only because its heavy. It didn't stick to the ice so much as sat atop it, and so long as I didn't disturb the placement, it'd remain in place. (SPOILER: I disturbed it plenty.)

My writing utensils – permanent markers, pens, pencil – were similarly useless. Chalk worked best, but that's a relative term. I scratched and clawed into the ice to get the faintest of lines.

I eventually had enough of the general shapes in place to get a sense of spatial awareness, and simply freehanded the rest of the way with Jet Ice paint, specifically made for this application, and the official ice paint of the NHL. It worked great. Easy to apply and edit, and quick to freeze. Admittedly, my finished logo isn't pixel perfect, particularly the "ISLANDERS" wordmark, but in context of the time constraints and physical challenges, I call this a clear victory, wrapping up at 5:00 AM Wednesday morning. With more time, I would have finessed the logo a bit more with my new best friend, a straight edge razor.

TANGENT: I began working before the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh dropped the puck on the opening game of their first round Stanley Cup Playoffs battle. The game went to triple overtime. I finished my work and left the arena after the second period. OF THE REPLAY. That's eight periods of hockey, six intermission reports, and a post-game analysis later.


But why?

Soon after I'd left the arena, Islanders season ticket holders entered for the end-of-season Paint the Ice event. My work greeted them on the ice, and they added to it. The cumulative result looks awesome, like an 80s subway or my 5th grade notebook margins.

I've now painted logos onto a professional wrestling ring and an NHL rink. I will continue to collect sports boundaries to paint until one day, when I'm old, a young man will walk onto the field and tell me, "That's great. But who are the Chefs?" and I will say, "Great googly moogly." Then I'll have a Snickers.

But if I'm ever asked to ice paint again, I've got to request a stencil, or at least a full size print that I could cut out myself. Ideally, this is also a three-man job. There were more than a few times during the night I cursed myself for not having an extra body to paint while I measured, or to hold the tape or chalk line. But sometimes you gotta be able to take a hit and keep moving, and that's what I did, because... I don't know. There's really no alternative. I'm not gonna pack up and quit.

Speaking of moving, that's something that I'm doing a little more slowly today. I mentioned to a colleague that my knees hurt from kneeling for all those hours.

"Why don't you put some ice on it?" That's how I got into this mess in the first place.

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