It was a special skate for all members of the media yearning to get up close and personal with Craig's ice. Craig himself went out there and took a few twirls as well.
Everyone was laughing and snapping pictures, having a grand old time. Little did anyone who laced up their skates Tuesday afternoon know, they were all playing a part in Craig's masterful operation.
Instead of using the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks as guinea pigs to test out his ice during Wednesday's practice session, Craig had a group of close to 100 media members do it for him so he could find out exactly how it would hold up.
There were some brittle spots in the corners and part of the blue line started to bleed, but overall Craig told NHL.com the ice was holding up just as he had hoped. Once the skate was over, NHL.com caught up with Craig as he was unlacing his skates for an exclusive Q&A before he was to meet the media for his daily briefing.
NHL.com: How do you think your ice is holding up and looking now?
Dan Craig: It's very good. We skated on it at 10:15 this morning with a group of us from the ice crew and productions and I think it held up really well on the first skate. It gives us a good read of what we have to do for the next 20 hours to prepare for (Wednesday's) practice."
NHL.com: What do you have to do?
DC: Trying to read an ice surface with the difference of being in shade and sun, that's the biggest one; it's trying to figure out what our temperature readings are going to be because you can't push one end of the rink any harder than the other end. You don't want one end to be brittle and the other end to be soft. You have to really monitor it on a day like (Tuesday). The toughest spot was right along the players' bench spot here because that's the side where the sun really hits the boards and you get a lot of reflection even though it's white. We had a little bit of shelling, but nothing serious and nothing I'm overly concerned with. The (ice crew) guys are out there now with the same shovels we use in any NHL rink during TV time outs and within two minutes all of that stuff is gone and they're back to playing on a really good surface again."
NHL.com: So, in terms of the brittle ice in the corners, what can be done?
DC: We had painted it white the other night, but it got really cold so our white kind of got frozen up on the boards. We had to wash it down this morning. So, we had a hot water hose out there this morning, which gave us excess water on the edge and that's why you have that brittleness there. It was more water than what we normally put down, but we go with an edger and we'll edge that out and everything will be good. We'll bring the Zambonis out, give it a good shave and we'll be ready to go.
NHL.com: The sun was bad on one end of the ice, but obviously we can't control that. Is that an issue?
DC: That's a Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman scenario. Colie is supposed to be here later today. Kris King from the Hockey Operations office in Toronto was here and we have been in constant contact. He's very much aware of everything that has happened throughout the days. They get updates regularly from me on the way the set up is going, what's happening with the sun and wind, everything.
NHL.com: Do you think you'll see some guys wearing sunglasses during the game?
DC: The way I read the weather forecast right now is (Wednesday) in practice there will be guys wearing sunglasses, but we're going to have an overcast day on the First so the issues we have today and the issues we'll see (Wednesday) according to the weather forecast won't exist on Thursday.
NHL.com: So, over the next 20 hours, give me a quick rundown on what is left to do?
DC: We still have an auxiliary rink we have to build. We only have a half an inch on it right now so we have to do a logo on it and build it. It's an NHL shield logo. The guys will wait for the sun to get down behind us and let the floor catch up. We'll bring a hot hose out here and give it one good re-surface with a hot hose, a nice spray, and then we'll be ready to bring the Zams out here probably by 6 o'clock (Tuesday). We'll be out here at 6 (Wednesday) morning with it, too. I would say we'll probably put on 6-10 loads of hot water between now and then to get this thing to sit down and do what I think will do.
NHL.com: What does it make you feel like when you see all of this going on?
DC: I don't think about anything else. I don't reflect and I have a crew that is very good that way. We are not awestruck. We know what the job is. We know what has to be accomplished and you don't take your eye off of it until you are done.
NHL.com: People like myself, we were out there skating and we were thrilled. When you are out there skating, are you working?
DC: Oh, totally. Every stride. You take in every little thing going on out there. I'm not only watching and feeling what I'm doing, I'm watching and seeing what other people are doing, what other skates are doing and all the little things happening out there. You probably saw me a couple of times come over to the bench and talk to the guys. I was basically saying, 'OK guys, note this,' and I keep on going. They are my sounding board and that's what I do.
NHL.com: The blue line near the player's bench was bleeding before. How do you fix that?
DC: That one is a tough one and we're going to work on a couple of things (Tuesday). We'll try a couple of trick plays that we won't divulge right now. We have tricks in the bag that we think we can use and the boys will clean it up really well. If you notice, once the shade comes on to it we can start working on it, dress it up and away we go.
NHL.com: Is it the sun that causes the bleeding to happen?
DC: Yeah, because it's a dark color and that's the No. 1 thing that happens. The pigment within that dark blue really attracts the sunlight and softens it up. As you can see, the red line didn't do that and that's the difference with the color. The sun was on it a little longer.
NHL.com: Does any part of you want to say, 'Wow, this is really cool.'
DC: No, not at all. We haven't accomplished anything yet. The teams haven't even skated yet.
NHL.com: When the teams skate (Wednesday), will you go into the locker rooms and ask them what they thought of the ice?
DC: Not a chance. They don't have to tell me; I know and my guys know. Every single crew member is not going to be out there to watch practice, they are intently watching what is going on with the pucks and the skates. Whatever the comments are, I will know before they ever make them.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com