The 18th fairway of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., is temporarily home to an ice rink and the NHL spotlight for this weekend’s “NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe” two-game series. Photos courtesy of Brad Wunderlich
The collective eyes of the hockey world are about to be trained ... on a golf course.
The “NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe” is a series of two outdoor regular-season NHL games to be held this weekend at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nev. The Colorado Avalanche will meet the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, Feb. 20. The Boston Bruins will face off against the Philadelphia Flyers the following day.
That it’s to be held outdoors is not unique; the NHL regularly holds games outside. Almost annually since 2008 — the lone exception was in 2013 — the league has held at least one regular-season game outside. Most of those, however, were in converted stadiums or baseball fields, and all were in — or just outside — major population centers.
Unlike previous NHL Winter Classics and Stadium Series, this weekend’s games will be played in a more remote setting. Without fans. On a golf course.
“It’s great for our property,” says Brad Wunderlich, director of grounds and agronomy at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “It’s a great showcase for our property. Hopefully it will help bring some more tourists to the area as well. With Lake Tahoe ... it’s the perfect backdrop for this. The mountain setting, the lake in the background, the snow-capped peaks ... it’s just perfect.”
It doesn’t hurt that Wunderlich, a GCSAA Class A superintendent and 18-year association member, self-describes as a “really big hockey fan.”
“It was really hard to envision at first,” he says, “but it has really turned out nice. If you climb up in the skybox and take it all in, it’s pretty impressive.”
The Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course ice rink in various stages of completion.
The rink is just part of the footprint.
In addition to the rink itself, there’s surrounding decking, temporary locker rooms, office trailers — “It’s a lot of square footage,” says Wunderlich, who estimates around 150,000 square feet have been affected.
It’s all nestled on the 18th fairway of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
When he was first approached about the possibility, Wunderlich didn’t hesitate.
“I’m a big hockey fan, so I was excited about it, but I was concerned about how much damage we might have,” he says. “I wasn’t even sure if it would happen or not.”
The turfgrass beneath the rink — mostly a bluegrass/ryegrass mix — is well into its winter dormancy. Organizers and staff have laid down stage decking on the turf to protect it from the weight of the rink and all the action on and around it.
“They’ve been pretty good with the decking,” Wunderlich says, “but I’m definitely concerned about what the grass looks like underneath it. It’s going to be three, four weeks total. Everything is dormant since it’s the middle of winter, but we’ll see how it fares. We’ve had some warm temperatures, so the ground’s not as frozen as I’d like it to be. My biggest concern is just the suffocation. It’s a lot of square footage.”
Wunderlich had been more concerned with cubic footage before the hockey show rolled into town. A storm dumped between 3 and 4 feet of snow on the area just prior to the decking construction, so Wunderlich’s crew sprang into action before they became totally immersed in the work of turning part of an acclaimed, picturesque lakeside golf course into a world-class outdoor hockey rink.
“We had to snow-blow the area where all the infrastructure is,” he says. “We had quite a few long days just clearing everything out.”
One day of work on the rink, in 27 seconds:
Wunderlich says the whole project was thrown together in less than two months. Originally, the hope was that fans could attend, but coronavirus restrictions will prevent that. It’s made-for-TV only.
“Typically, they plan these things a year in advance,” Wunderlich says. “This thing came together pretty quick. It’s a lot more than what we expected. But I think we’re pretty much ready to go. They had practice out there this morning (Friday). They’re putting the final touches on the rinks, setting up the cameras ... it’s pretty impressive.”
Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.