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Stanley Cup Final

Dan Craig's ice crew winning battle with elements

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOSTON -- Dan Craig's voice is raspy, nearly gone. Strands of his hair are going every which way. His full beard could use a trim.
Each and every member of Craig's ice crew for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is sporting a similar look.
Mother Nature has been a cruel mistress to the courageous and driven men working on the ice here at Fenway Park. They've pulled two all-nighters and nearly everyday since before Christmas have been arriving at the ballpark at around 4 a.m. for a 20-hour day.
Craig, though, said he arrived at Fenway at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
"I slept in," he cracked to NHL.com just before he broke for lunch.
All the hours and physical exhaustion are paying off. The crew is not only still standing and fighting, they are, as of Tuesday afternoon, winning the battle against the elements.
"You can't get a game that is better than the game we had in Chicago (last season), so that's my benchmark," Craig said. "That's my bottom line. We set the standard high and put the crew what we have to put the crew through and we make it work. That's why they are here. That's why they are on the team."
Craig's crew returned Sunday from a two-day Christmas break to a deluge of heavy rain. That was their post-holiday challenge No. 1.
"We were looking on the 27th to get everybody back on the ground and get some ice maintenance done, and we ended up with a crew of 10 sitting here looking at rain," Craig said. "Fortunately for us with a little tricking back and forth on the truck, the rain stopped by 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon and we were rock solid by 6. We froze it right up. We didn't even load up the truck. It was probably just running at about 60 percent capacity on the truck."
Monday brought their second post-holiday challenge as the weather warmed up, but the rain continued intermittently. Craig said patience was the key to working through that blow from Mother Nature.
"We know we could have overrun the floor off the truck, but one of the biggest things that I remind my people of it all the time and they have to remind me is to be patient," Craig said.  "We have a gameplan so be patient."
Craig harped on being patient, saying it was the most important virtue he could have Monday.
"All you can do is have time, patience," he said. "The engineer comes up to me and says, 'Do you want to load it up,' and I just said, 'You just stay steady and let Mother Nature take it as we're forced to and everything will be fine.'"
There was some more warm rain Monday before the temperatures plummeted overnight, bringing sun for Tuesday, but also frigid temperatures with gusty winds.
Usually, Craig said, all the rain would be a welcome sign because it means the crew doesn't have to spend as much time on the hoses flooding the ice with a fine mist. However, too much rain means the thickness of the ice grows beyond what they want.
Craig wanted ice that was two inches thick at this point, but now it's at two and a half. He said it doesn't make sense for them to shave it back down to two inches because it takes too much time and man hours, so after some extra hose downs so they can properly seal in the logos and lines, the ice will be closer to three inches thick on Jan. 1.
The added thickness will not affect the way the game is played, but it does add an extra headache for the ice crew. They will have to closely monitor the transfer of fluid from the truck to the ice panels because they will likely need more with the added thickness.
"What it affects is the reaction time; my reaction time on the engineer and the engineer's reaction time on the panels from the truck," Craig said. "That's also going to be determined by sunshine, clouds, all that kind of stuff. It just takes you longer to get your thermal transfer through that much ice. We have to do recalculation on the floor and on the truck."
It's just another challenge for the ice crew so they can do everything in their power to create the perfect hockey game on Jan. 1. It may take a toll on their bodies, but they will not buckle in the face of Mother Nature.
"It affects us, but Mother Nature gives you what Mother Nature gives you and you deal with it," Craig said. "She needs a good hug."
Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com