PITTSBURGH -- The weather has cleared up here and the ice crew just finished spraying some hot water on the ice to clear off the top layer that was covered in snow.
The ice looks like glass. You can almost see yourself in it.
I just passed Dan Craig, who was walking down one of the corridors holding a big box, and smiling widely.
The snow that hit Pittsburgh earlier today did set Craig and his boys back about three hours, but all that did was put them back on schedule. As long as the weather stays the way it is right now they'll be able to get back ahead of schedule over night.
PITTSBURGH -- This is how well things are going here at Heinz Field:
Dan Craig sent his overnight crew back to the hotel at 2 o'clock this morning because they were so far ahead of schedule that he figured he could give them a normal night of sleep and have them back here by lunch.
Craig told me he's got about a half an inch of ice built already, so he's a third of the way to his mark before he brings out the white paint. He's planning on building an inch between now and Monday afternoon before painting white and getting in some lines and logos when that paint dries.
Craig will be doing an on-camera report for us later this afternoon, so make sure to look for that.
PITTSBURGH -- They're making ice here at Heinz Field.
Just after 7 o'clock Saturday night Dan Craig grabbed the front end of one of the two long hoses, walked to the far end of his rink and started spraying water. Craig looked like the happiest guy in hockey.
"This right here is one of the best feelings in hockey next to scoring a goal," Craig told NHL.com as he sprayed.
PITTSBURGH -- It was a white Christmas morning in Pittsburgh, but all that meant for the guys here was added labor.
Snow fell overnight and there was about an inch covering the ice pans, so the shovels and brooms had to be used to clear that off so the boys could get back to work. Fortunately it was so light and so little that it didn't require much effort.
They're still running some brooms across the rink just to be sure, but pretty much all of the snow and slush is cleared off now and the boys are hard at work putting up dasher boards and filling in all the cracks between the ice pans.
PITTSBURGH -- After spending a few hours at the hotel I am back at Heinz Field. No rest for the weary, right?
Don't feel for me. My job here is nothing compared to the guys from the ice crew and all the union workers that are laboring overnight to keep the rink build for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic alive.
It's Christmas Eve (Christmas morning now), but they're working just like it's any other night because, in reality, that's what it is for the good men who have signed up to be a part of this event.
PITTSBURGH -- It's almost Christmas Eve, but the NHL ice crew doesn't care about that. It's almost their time to start plugging away here at Heinz Field, where the snow flurries have been falling all day.
It really would be a perfect day for hockey. The snow is not sticking because the ground is too warm for that, but the temperature and daylight is just right. The flurries would add the ideal dimension to NBC's broadcast.
But, hey, work still has to get done before we can get a game going here. Hopefully Mother Nature again proves she's a hockey fan and brings Pittsburgh a good cold front when the calendars flip to 2011.
PITTSBURGH -- Heinz Field is slowly turning into a hockey facility.
I walked in here this morning around 10:30 to find floor decking down on the field and part of the stage built. It's fairly quiet on the field right now as you can tell by the webcam, but underneath the stands in the bowels of this first-class venue there are people hard at work unloading all kinds of equipment and office supplies.
You have to remember that because this is such a big event the NHL basically sets up a satellite office inside the facility until the Winter Classic is over. I am typing this blog from a table inside the Events office, which is actually the visiting college coaches locker room.
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger took a knee for the final play of the football game here tonight. Soon after the Steelers' players were finished tossing their gloves into the crowd and barreling down the steps into the tunnel leading into their cavernous locker room the transition from NFL football stadium to NHL hockey rink began.
As I look out the clear glass windows in the press box right now I can see the goal posts being torn down and a few people surveying the field. They're using a tape measure to outline the dimensions necessary for the stage, which will be constructed overtop the grass field to compensate for the crown.
PITTSBURGH -- Dan Craig held a meeting with his ice crew at the staff hotel Thursday. They casually discussed everything from scheduling to potential pitfalls and finally, what they were going to do Thursday night because going to Heinz Field was not an option.
Originally Craig's crew was hoping to attend the Steelers game, but since they technically don't have to be at the stadium until their walk-through Friday morning the guys decided to scratch that and head out for an early dinner so they could get back to the hotel in time to watch the Penguins-Capitals game as well as some of the Steelers game.
They'll meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. Friday before heading over to the stadium together. Even Craig didn't bother coming to the stadium Thursday night because there is literally nothing for him to do until the union workers put down all the decking and build the stage that will house the rink.
PITTSBURGH -- This blog entry, the first of many from the ground here in Pittsburgh, is coming to you live from Seat No. 153 in the Heinz Field press box. As I look out the crystal clear glass in front of me I see a tarp spread out overtop the gridiron and the lights shining brightly on the yellow seats.
Steelers vs. Carolina in a matter of hours. Penguins vs. Capitals in a matter of days.
A football field tonight. The makings of a hockey rink tomorrow.
NHL.com has arrived on the scene for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, and the buzz it's obvious no matter where you go in this town. Pittsburgh has Winter Classic fever, and today's weather certainly helped.
It was kind of touching. I didn't know really what to expect. I'm very appreciative and thankful for the people that supported me in my time here ... as I said, we'll move back to the area at some point in our life.
— Toronto coach Randy Carlyle on the video tribute and ovation he received in his first game back in Anaheim, a 3-1 win for the Maple Leafs