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.
"[The forecast] said we were going to be mostly cloudy [Friday], and it was this morning but it isn't now," Craig said shortly after lunch. "It's almost better that the sun came out when it did or if we were going to be delayed that we were when it did, because now I wouldn't be wanting to try and seal up the white paint with the sun beating down on us because that is not a good job."
Craig's crew put down tarps along the edges of the surface during the early afternoon, and after that it will be time to wait for the sun to go back behind the clouds or set below the stadium for the day before the next step begins.
"Our guys are working all night," Craig said. "We're doing white paint at 4 p.m., or as soon as the sun gets off [the ice], then we will seal it up nicely and then put in all the markings [red line, blue lines, faceoff circles, etc.]. By the time everyone comes back [Saturday], all the markings will be in and then we will wait and see what Mother Nature gives us for the morning. [The forecast Saturday] says there will be bright sunshine so we may have to put tarps along the wall so we stop the reflective melt off the side and then put in logos when we can.
"It is just like we will start building ice all over again, except we are an inch-and-a-half up now. It's like starting everything all over."