'Twas two days before Christmas, and not a creature was stirring at Wrigley Field.
Dan Craig, the NHL's Facilities Operations Manager, has called a halt to his crew's work preparing for the Jan. 1, 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Chicago (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio).
With temperatures hovering near zero Fahrenheit (-18C) on Sunday and Monday, Craig — well ahead of schedule — sent his workers out of town early for their holiday break. The crew had worked 10 hours in the cold Saturday to lay down ¾ of an inch of ice.
"I had to change flights and send some of my guys home on Sunday," Craig said. "We knew (Sunday) morning when we got up at 7 a.m. that the over next two days that (we couldn't get much done, and so) I said to them, unless I get you on planes, you're sitting here looking at me, so get out of here."
So what's the busiest man in hockey going to do over the next few days? Just chill.
"I'll spend Christmas Eve with my wife's family and Christmas Day just me and my wife," said Craig, who hails from Edmonton but lives in the Midwestern United States. He will drive home Wednesday, but plans to be right back on the job the day after Christmas.
"To flood the next layer of ice, we'll get the hoses out there on the 26th. The (ice crew) team will be back together by 6 p.m. the night of December 26th, and we'll work around the clock and lay down another half-inch of ice, then get ready to paint the ice white on the 27th and paint lines on the 28th."
Even with the ice process well in hand, additional work awaits before the rink is ready for New Year's Day. Workers must install the Plexiglas, build the announcing and goal-judge booths, and get two JumboTron scoreboards in working order, among other critical tasks.
But for now, all that can wait. Wrigley Field is as quiet as a mouse.