|National Hockey League facilities manager Dan Craig sat down for a one-on-one with NHL.com's Dan Rosen.
We kept it light. We kept it fun. It was a break from the norm here as the construction continues in preparation for Tuesday’s AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) between the Penguins and Sabres.
Craig has been working virtually non-stop since last Sunday. Even when he goes back to his hotel room, his mind is on this project. It’s his baby. He is attached to it at the hip. And, we thank him for giving us some insight into his world.
NHL.com -- So, are you exhausted yet, or still running on adrenaline?
Dan Craig -- “I’m running on adrenaline. Somebody just said that it was 72 hours away, then you get to 48, and then you’re just thinking there is nothing left in the tank, but you’ve got to go. You’ve got everybody here, so you might as well just keep on going.”
NHL.com -- Has this process gone as smooth as you had hoped?
DC -- “It’s as good as what I can possibly hope for. I am very fortunate to have the HSBC Arena crew here because we’ve done playoff games together and (assistant chief engineer) Brian Drabek has worked with me in the past.”
NHL.com -- What has been the biggest challenge of the week?
DC -- “It’s general obstacles because we have not built a rink like this before. In theory it works, but we haven’t skated on it yet. That’s the big part right now. Even two months ago people were saying; ‘We’re going to take care of the rink for you, can we put our name out there that we’re on behalf of the National Hockey League?’ I said; ‘No, because we haven’t put a drop of water out there yet. We haven’t frozen anything yet. We haven’t made an ice cube.’ It’s like asking for a multi-million dollar contract before you put the puck in the net.”
NHL.com -- How long did you prepare with layouts and configurations prior to stepping foot in the Buffalo region?
DC -- “This one was very short. The first meeting that we had was in June the day between Game 1 and Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Ottawa. We had heard rumblings that we were looking at it and it could be a possibility, but that was the day of the first meeting. I didn’t step foot into this stadium until the 10th of August. In Edmonton we had 18 months.”
NHL.com -- Finish this sentence: I couldn’t do this job without…
DC -- “Friends.”
NHL.com -- Will you be able to enjoy the game, or will you still be working hard?
DC -- “I’ll enjoy the game six months from now. I never watch the game. I’m in the game. Six months from now is how it usually works. I watched the gold medal game in Salt Lake City a year after it happened. I just let it settle.”
NHL.com -- Estimate how much sleep you’ve had since arriving in Buffalo?
DC -- “I had lots last night. Yup, I got 5½ hours, but it was split into about three segments and one trip down here (to the stadium). I was here at 1:45 because it was raining. When it’s raining, you need to know what goes on down here. If I’m getting four hours a night that would be high.”
NHL.com -- When you see the ice now, with the logos, lines, circles, goal creases and all that, what runs through your mind?
DC -- “It’s here. It’s real.”
NHL.com -- What do you consider perfect weather to play an outdoor game?
DC -- “Just like today without the wind. If you get 28 degrees and overcast, these guys would want to play for eight hours. They would want to just play, play, play.”
NHL.com -- Are you having fun?
DC -- “Ha, ha, ha. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun. It’s an adrenaline rush. Let me answer this way: You can’t ask me a question like that now. You can ask me on the day of the game. It’s fun on the day of the game.”
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.