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Signed, sealed and nearly delivered

Friday, 12.28.2007 / 4:51 PM / 2008 NHL Winter Classic

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The sun was shining. The wind was light. And the rain stayed away – at least long enough.

With Mother Nature doing her part Friday, the temporary ice surface at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the venue for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), began to look more and more like a hockey rink.

The ice, built to an inch thick by NHL Facilities Operation Manager Dan Craig and his crew, was painted white by Dave Loverock and the ice crew from the HSBC Arena Friday afternoon. Before dusk settled on the Buffalo area, the white paint was sealed and the smaller auxiliary rink adjacent to the main rink was painted light blue.

All in all, Friday was a good day for the staff here at the stadium.

“You can look out and see almost a full hockey rink happening,” Craig said during his daily media briefing. “We had an inch of ice by noon today, and this afternoon starting right at 1 o’clock we painted it white. So now you have a nice, white hockey rink out there.”

Craig said he hopes to have the ice surface completed by Sunday evening. The Sabres and Penguins are scheduled to practice on it Monday afternoon.

“The HSBC Arena crew has now taken over the construction part and they’re building this hockey sheet exactly like they would build a hockey sheet at any other NHL facility,” Craig said. “We’re sealing the white in now, and make sure we have a good seal over the top of it before we proceed with our lines and logos.”

Now that the rink construction phase is complete, the ancillary construction of penalty boxes, player benches, coaches walkways, a ramp for the Zamboni, television sets for CBC and NBC, a stage for entertainment, and video boards is in full swing.

Some of that already was completed by dusk Friday.

“The heated benches are now in place and the backwalls are going in behind the benches so we can put up the coaches walkway,” Craig said. “If you look at the other corner we have constructed an elevated Zamboni gate so we can get our machine up and over our pipes and onto the surface. We’re going to continue on the penalty box side this afternoon. The glass will not go in until the night of the 30th.”

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.

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