Monday morning in Chicago dawned cold and stayed that way, but all is well with the NHL. Although the Windy City’s arctic temperatures, with a high of just 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15C) and lows ranging to 15 below (-26C) have essentially shut down Dan Craig and the NHL Ice Crew until after the holidays, preparations remain well ahead of schedule for New Year’s Day's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio) at Wrigley Field.
Shutting down for several days is not as serious as it sounds. The crew experienced good work weather for most of the last week and were efficient enough to get well ahead of schedule. On Saturday and Sunday, the crew laid down ¾ of an inch of fresh ice on the game rink and the auxiliary rink.
Since Monday and Tuesday are scheduled to be too cold to lay down more ice, Craig and his workers will flood the rink and Zamboni down the next 1¼ inch worth following their return to Chicago after their Christmas break.
Other critical rink-making details proceed apace. The crew has fastened the poles that will connect the Plexiglas board extensions to the boards, and the scorekeeper’s bench and penalty boxes have been installed atop an aluminum riser. The NBC and CBC outdoor booths have been built, and work continues on the advertising scaffolding which will ring the ancient ballpark’s outfield. The game announcers’ rinkside booth also is being built behind the team benches.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley took the briefest of walk-throughs around the drafty park Monday afternoon, followed by chilled still photographers and video camera operators trying to keep their hands warm. The only saving grace for the assembled multitudes was a steady stream of golden sunrays beaming down on a frozen city.