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Craig at peace with Mother Nature's whims

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

"You know that Mother Nature, either she is going to welcome you or she's going to put your on your knees."
-- Dan Craig

BOSTON -- Dan Craig doesn't put too much stock into long-range weather forecasts. He has been jilted one too many times to get wrapped up in what is supposed to happen three weeks or so down the road.
"Whatever Mother Nature gives you, you roll with it," Craig told NHL.com Thursday afternoon as he began three weeks of rink-building work at Fenway Park that will culminate with the playing of the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic here on New Year's Day (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
Craig's livelihood as an architect of outdoor rinks -- he is on his fourth outdoor surface to be used by NHL teams -- completely is dependant on the whims of the weather, yet he has found peace with Mother Nature's capricious ways.
His epiphany came before Craig even became the NHL's outdoor ice guru. In fact, it came a few years back while he was building a rink in his own backyard for the Christmas Eve skate that was a family tradition at the time.
"I remember the one year -- and it wasn't that long ago -- I made what I thought was an absolutely fabulous little rink, and everybody comes to our place on Christmas Eve and everybody skates and has a good time. I worked on that rink for three weeks and it was pristine. It's an outdoor rink, so Mother Nature made it. All of a sudden, the day of, it's 34 or 35 degrees out and all we could do is sit by the fire and look at the rink because we couldn't skate on it. It was too soft. The kids could go out there and skate but we, as adults, couldn't go out there and skate."
So Craig knows things could turn sketchy at any time as he prepares to turn Fenway Park into a "crown jewel of hockey." All he has to do is think about the weather back home in Wisconsin, which was being ravaged by a blizzard that blanketed the Midwest in obscene amounts of snow.
Or he can look at the ice storm that crippled this city last year between Christmas and New Year's. Or, he can reflect on the brutal weather that plagued the build-out of the first Winter Classic in Buffalo three years ago.
"I flew out of Minneapolis yesterday and I thought I was flying out of the Arctic," Craig told NHL.com. "You know that some day we're going to be over in the Minnesota area (for a Winter Classic), and in my mind, I remember that. When there was a chance we were coming to Boston, (I thought) well, what happened last year here in this region? There was a major ice storm and people were without power for 12 days. That sits heavily in my mind. You know that Mother Nature, either she is going to welcome you or she's going to put your on your knees."
Right now, according to the weather models available to Craig and his group, it appears Mother Nature has no plans to bring Craig to his knees.
"Right now, it looks favorable," said Richard Wilson, director of energy services for DTN/Meteorlogix, a weather-service provider employed by the Boston Red Sox and several other Major League Baseball teams.
The NHL has secured DTN's services to help identify weather patterns that could affect a rink build that will run until hours before the puck is dropped on New Year's Day.
So far, Wilson says there is nothing on the horizon that should have a major impact on Craig's to-do list.
"Over the next three weeks, it's trending to a below-normal pattern where temperatures will struggle to get up into the high 20s," Wilson told NHL.com.
The average temperature for Boston during these first few weeks of winter is right around 40 degrees, according to Wilson.
There is the chance of a storm or two before the puck drops Jan. 1, but a Nor'easter, the brutal storms that plague this area in the winter, does not appear to be in the cards.
Wilson said there could be a snow/rain event overnight Tuesday heading into Wednesday morning -- right at the same time Craig plans to begin the actual ice-freezing process.
There also is a storm that could build in the Gulf of Mexico and impact New England the following week, according to computer simulations, says Wilson. But neither of those events appears to be the cruel twist of fate that could leave Craig on his knees, fighting the elements to make the impossible possible like he did in Buffalo.
Weather certainly will be a story line in the build-up to the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but Craig will ignore that plot line as much as possible.
After all, he didn't get too worked up when he landed in Boston on Wednesday and found rain pelting the city after a morning of snow. That's because Thursday dawned perfect for his purposes -- a strong wind drying things out and temperatures in the low 30s with brilliant sunshine.
"You just try to figure out where you're going and look at the weather and say you got your days and you go with it," Craig said philosophically before heading back to work Thursday afternoon. "That's the bottom line. Mother Nature can beat you into the ground or you can get a glorious day like this and get two days' worth of work into it."