Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 11:36 AM

By Staff -  / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Practices, alumni games take center stage

Hockey arrives at center stage at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Tuesday.

Both the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are in town and the rink at the University of Michigan Stadium will get its first real workout as both teams hold practice sessions and family skates here Tuesday afternoon. To add to the hockey mix, legions of alumni from both teams will take to the ice at Comerica Park for a pair of alumni games on Tuesday afternoon.

The weather appears to be perfect for hockey Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-teens throughout the afternoon and snow could fall throughout the day adding to the light snowfall that blanketed this part of Michigan during the overnight hours.

The Red Wings, who flew in early Tuesday morning after a Monday night loss at the Nashville Predators, will take the ice first, scheduled to skate at noon. After what is expected to be a quick but intense practice, the Red Wings players will gather up family and friends for a family skate on the rink, always a highlight to the day-before festivities. The Maple Leafs, who last played Sunday night in Carolina, are scheduled to take the ice at 3 p.m. and follow the same practice/family skate schedule.

Posted On Monday, 12.30.2013 / 5:46 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Paul Maurice eager to get back behind the bench

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Paul Maurice is excited to cover his first Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic game as an NHL Network analyst, but the former coach of the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs could think of a better way to experience the League's marquee regular-season event.

"What would be even better is if I got paid to coach in one of these games," Maurice told

The 46-year-old Maurice is interested in potentially getting that chance next season. He is working as a part-time television analyst mostly for TSN this season, but his desire is to get back into coaching after taking a year away following his one season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

Maurice has coached 1,084 NHL games and has 460 wins. In his first stint in Carolina, he led the Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. He brought them to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final during his second stint.

Posted On Monday, 12.30.2013 / 5:20 PM

By Russell Levine -, V.P. Digital Production / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Media game makes cherished memories for some

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Not all days are created equal. Some days are a little more special than others.

If you're a University of Michigan graduate, a Wolverines die-hard, or a hockey nut, it really can't get much better than stepping onto the ice at Michigan Stadium. I am all three, and having the chance to skate on the rink that has been created for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in the middle of the Big House was more than a dream come true. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will cherish for a lifetime.

The schedule of events Monday afternoon included both a free skate and a pickup game for the media. Approximately 25 members of the media took part in the game, which was played in the middle of the afternoon, right after the free skate.

I would not be exaggerating to say that I have looked forward to this day since Michigan Stadium was first announced as the host of this game nearly two years earlier.

Posted On Monday, 12.30.2013 / 4:52 PM

By Jon Lane - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Location, location, location: Classic finds latest home

One of the many great features of the Winter Classic is the location. The first one in 2008 was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, and through the years the NHL has played the game in parks venerable (Wrigley Field, Fenway Park) and modernized (Heinz Field, Citizens Bank Park).

Michigan Stadium, used mainly for football but also the venue for the "Big Chill at the Big House" college hockey game in 2012 between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, will host the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Each year presents different planning agendas for schemes that work best in football and baseball stadiums in terms of getting the rink to fit dimensions and go with the shape of each facility.

The League will get plenty of practice as the regular season progresses. Following the 2014 Winter Classic are Coors Light Stadium Series games at Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles), Yankee Stadium (New York) and Soldier Field (Chicago), and the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver.

Posted On Monday, 12.30.2013 / 12:35 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Early reports positive on Winter Classic rink

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The cold weather and overcast skies here Monday are working in Dan Craig's favor as the NHL's Senior Director of Facilities Operations prepares the ice surface at Michigan Stadium for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Craig said a group of workers were the first to skate on the ice late Sunday night and the reports were good. Craig was not at The Big House to watch the skate or participate because he was helping out at Comerica Park for the Ontario Hockey League doubleheader that was played there Sunday.

"It was solid," Craig said of the reports he received. "Nothing that we haven't dealt with before. It doesn't matter what sheet of ice you have, you want to skate it in. We want two or three days of skating, that's why we would have loved to have the day before as well as [Sunday] night, but we'll work with what we've got."

The sun that covered the rink for most of the afternoon hours Friday and Saturday didn't allow for the ice to be ready for a skate Saturday night, but that's why the NHL built extra days into the schedule to allow for some leeway.

Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 6:28 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Winterizing Michigan Stadium a challenge for Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Winterizing Michigan Stadium to host what could be more than 110,000 people for a major event in frigid conditions is one major obstacle the NHL and University of Michigan officials had to clear to pave the way for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Michigan Stadium is typically shut down for the winter after the Wolverines' final home football game. The water is drained from all the stadium facilities and the plumbing and electricity are turned off for fear that the cold weather would force a pipe to burst.

Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 1:25 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Weather issues at a minimum for Winter Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The NHL is still expecting a frigid day with a chance of light snow for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

NHL Executive Vice President of Events Don Renzulli receives updated forecasts twice a day and the one he got Sunday morning reflected no changes from the forecast he received Saturday afternoon.

Renzulli said the forecast for Wednesday is currently calling for mostly cloudy skies with a temperature between 8-15 degrees Fahrenheit, a 30 percent chance of light snow and northerly winds ranging between 5-10 miles per hour.

Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 10:12 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Ice crew overcomes weather to get lines, logos down

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The sun began its ascent in the blue Michigan sky Saturday morning, but NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his team were ready.

Half of Craig's crew, led by his son Mike, put all of the lines and logos on the ice Friday night into Saturday morning at Michigan Stadium for the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic. The other half relieved them and went to work just after 4 a.m. at making more ice on top.

The objective was simple: Build as much ice on top as possible before the sun's rays reached the rink, and then cover the surface with tarps to preserve it.

"Everything was painted and sealed and ready to go," Craig said. "We split the crew and made sure everyone got food and got warm before their overnight shift. They were ready to put the markings in around 8 [p.m.] and I think the first lines started going down at about 8:30. I texted Mike at 1:20 [a.m.] just wanting to know the status and he said they were in good shape. The last logo went in at about 2:30 a.m.

"We're in good shape there. We just have to make sure we have enough [tarps] for the auxiliary rink as well as the big one. The sun is going to come down on the penalty box side first and then in the afternoon it will the other side. We'll make sure that side gets tarps first along the boards. We reversed the flow on the pipes on the floor last night to make sure that side is the colder side when the sun came out this morning."

Posted On Friday, 12.27.2013 / 3:11 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Unexpected sun causes brief delay in painting ice

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his crew of rink builders were all set to paint the ice white at Michigan Stadium on Friday morning. Then the elements got in the way.

Specifically, the sun came out from behind the clouds and what was expected to be a balmy, gray day on the University of Michigan campus became a pleasant, sunny winter one instead. While that might have great for the residents of this college town, it delayed Craig's crew by a few hours.

"We cleaned the ice, burned it a couple of times, put in our stabilizing fabric that we do in front of the machine and the goal creases, and then the sun popped out," Craig said. "We'd be painted by now if the sun hadn't come out, but I'm not going to fight Mother Nature. We're just going to wait for it to go down and then be ready to paint when that happens."

After the cleaning the ice Friday morning, Craig's crew used hot water to "burn" off the leftover frost and humidity build-up that wasn't scraped off with the shovels. A huge part of Craig's job is calling audibles based on the elements, and Friday morning was a good example of that.

Posted On Thursday, 12.26.2013 / 9:08 PM - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

NHL Live: Andy Murray talks outdoor hockey at Comerica Park

Western Michigan University coach Andy Murray joined Bill Pidto and E.J. Hradek on NHL Live on Thursday evening to discuss the 49th annual Great Lakes Invitational, which gets underway at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday.

“We’re excited, obviously. It’s the first time Western Michigan’s ever played in an outdoor game,” Murray said, “and playing in Comerica Park here, about two hours from Kalamazoo, where Western Michigan is located. We’re playing three in-state rivals.”

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