PITTSBURGH -- One of the perks of covering this event always happens two days before the actual game when Dan Craig is kind enough to let the media jump on his ice to skate.
The hour-long media skate on Thursday was simply fantastic for every amateur out there.
There were smiles everywhere and people snapping photos of their friends and getting photos snapped of themselves. Conversations ranged from the quality of the ice, which, by the way, played to rave reviews, to someone joking that they were going to "do the Ovechkin" and jump into the glass.
We all cover this league and document everything we can about these players, but when it comes down to it, if you give a group of hockey fans the opportunity to skate on a one-of-a-kind ice surface, well, we're all going to act like kids and pretend that we, too, can imitate the greats of this game.
It's a wonderful thing that the NHL does in allowing the media access to the ice and telling them to bring their skates. Dan Craig can say no, but he knows this event is about a celebration of the game and that includes the media who cover it and bring into the public's eyes the fascinating things that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin do on a nightly basis in front of thousands of people.
Despite getting rained on in the morning the ice, at least according to this amateur, was excellent. I spoke with Craig following the skate and I asked him, "So, is it all good?" His response: "I don't know, you tell me."
"It's a rink," I said.
"It's a rink," he responded with a smile.
He's in good spirits and has been since we got here a week ago.
"Talking to Dan, he said this has been the smoothest of them all and I think that comes with having confidence in the crew that he's put together and also just doing it a bunch of times," NHL V.P. of Hockey Operations Kris King told NHL.com. "For us being in Toronto and checking in with him three, four or five times per day, when you hear Dan very calm at the end of the phone that's a good sign for us."
Is there more work to be done? Absolutely, and the ice crew is already tending to the sheet.
They've done some edging and given it a shave. Right now they're throwing a bunch of loads of hot water on the ice so they can get their temperatures just right for tomorrow's practices.
We're 48 hours away and the talk is still about weather, but for an hour this afternoon the media here stopped being journalists and started acting like kids again.
What a blast!
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl