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Craig eager to get refrigeration truck rolling to Fenway

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Dan Craig is never one to hide his emotion, and the NHL's iceman is bouncing with enthusiasm, excitement and optimism today.

The 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is Craig's baby, his pride and joy. The refrigeration truck, which Craig, the NHL's facilities operations manager called the "life cycle of our hockey rink," is his favorite toy.

When the truck gets rolling out of Toronto around 4 o'clock this afternoon, all the months of preliminary work Craig has done to prepare for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park go out the window.

The real stuff, the fun stuff, officially begins when those wheels start rotating.

"I had meetings the last two days in Boston and I'm pumped," Craig told NHL.com at noon Thursday. "I want to see this thing rolling out. Let's get this thing going."

You could hear the excitement in Craig's voice. It's genuine. There are no nerves, not yet at least, because all his planning, which began in June, has given him a strong sense of comfort in everything that's about to unfold over the course of the next month.

"I have a really good feel about the stadium," Craig said. "The Bruins, the Red Sox, their people are awesome to work with. The grounds crew and maintenance people, everybody is ready and raring to go.

"The personalities of the people that work there generate the personality of the stadium. This place has a really good feeling, a really unique feeling. It's fantastic."

Before the truck arrives at Fenway Park on Dec. 10, the day Craig and his staff will start working toward the New Year's Day clash between the Bruins and Flyers inside the near 100-year-old stadium, it will make stops in Philadelphia and New York this weekend.

Craig, who has meetings in Montreal Friday, will meet up with the truck in Philadelphia Saturday for a Toy Truck Parade in the Wachovia Center parking lot. He will go with it to New York on Sunday, when he'll be tasked with displaying it and explaining the contents to a national viewing audience on NBC's The Today Show.

"That's going to be the interesting one," Craig said with a laugh. "I'm supposed to do an interview with them later this afternoon so we can get everything out front, but I have to open it up and explain to these people what it is, what's inside. This thing is huge. They're going to see the equipment in it and then say, 'Explain it to me.' "

It shouldn't be a problem considering Craig knows everything there is to know about that truck and the four trailers that carry equipment alongside it. But he's admittedly mixed about all the fanfare and national attention he's about to receive.

"Because there are so many people that work on this thing," Craig said. "People are leaving their families for over a month. I'm very fortunate to be the face that everybody has out there, but there are so many other people. You can't thank enough people and the hours that they put in."

From New York, where the truck will also appear at the NHL Powered by Reebok store as well as Madison Square Garden before the Rangers' game against the Red Wings, the truck will depart for Boston.

It's not expected to stop at Fenway Park and park on Van Ness Street until 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. Following a press conference, Craig and his staff will go to work.

The first tasks include creating roadways for all of their equipment, including the Zambonis, and laying the foundation down for the rink.

They won't start making ice until Dec. 14 and the rink will be ready, complete with an inch and a half of ice, boards, panels, lines and faceoff circles and dots, for Dec. 18 when the city of Boston takes it over for public skating and games.

"It will be like a normal community outdoor rink," Craig said.

The weather throughout the northeast on Thursday was unseasonably balmy. It's not supposed to stay that way, but Craig has no concerns about what Mother Nature will bring him.

"When we're building and even when we're building ice it doesn't matter to me at all," he said. "If it's a warm day and sunny we'll wait until 6 or 7 at night before we do anything. You let Mother Nature guide you."

After a two-day Christmas break, Craig and his crew will be back at Fenway on Dec. 26 and that's when the work begins to create an NHL ice surface. Maybe then his nerves will start to rumble, his beard grow.

Not yet, though, and maybe not ever.

Jan. 1 can't come fast enough for this energized iceman.

"You know me well enough to know that I don't hide my emotions," Craig said. "This is something that I like to do. It's an event that I like to do. It's for the players, for the community and for the hockey world. It's a privilege for me to be a big part of it. I want to take as many people as I can along for this joy ride."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com