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Craig keeping close tabs on rain's effect on rink

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Craig keeping close tabs on rain's effect on rink
While others avoided the rain, NHL ice guru Dan Craig dodged the raindrops to listen to what the Winter Classic ice rink is telling him

PHILADELPHIA -- While everyone else around Citizens Bank Park will be attempting to get out of the rain that's supposed to soak the city from Tuesday afternoon into early Wednesday morning, NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig said his job will be running back and forth through the rain, from his refrigeration truck parked on the street behind the right field wall to his ice rink being built in the middle of the infield.

It's the only way Craig will be able to overcome the challenge that rain presents in building the perfect sheet of NHL-quality ice for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2 between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

"You have to go between the truck and the floor because of the amount of heat load that comes onto the rink with the warm rainwater," Craig told NHL.com.

"The whole thing is about balance. Everything we do has to do with balance." -- Dan Craig

It's all very technical, but basically what Craig has to do is monitor how fast the glycol coolant is running from the truck to the rink floor because he wants to work with Mother Nature and freeze the rain.

If it works, he'll save his crew time on the hoses; to make it happen, he needs to find the proper temperature balance from the truck to the floor.

"It's a stabilizing thing so we can freeze the rain constantly," Craig said. "You don't surge it. There is no quick freeze. You just go nice and steady."

Craig will be able to see the gauge that tells him how fast the truck's variable-speed pump is operating, but he said he also goes by what he hears when he stands by the rink.

"I can hear the flow through the pumps by standing there. That's what I call the floor talking," Craig said. "You can hear certain things happening on this floor at different times and then you know if you need to slow the truck down or speed the truck up. It's hard to explain unless you're standing here and you've dealt with the floor before."

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The challenge depends on the type of rain.

By 11:30 a.m. it was drizzling, and an hour and a half later the rain was light but steady, leading Craig's top assistant, NHL Facilities Operations Supervisor Don Moffatt, to say the conditions were perfect.

A light rain is equivalent to a fine spray with the hose, and Craig said that would be ideal "because then it's just a steady load on the truck."

However, the rain is supposed to pick up after 3 p.m., and a heavier rain may be harder on the truck because of the amount of water pouring onto the surface in such a short span of time.

"The whole thing is about balance," Craig said. "Everything we do has to do with balance."

The last thing Craig wants to do is drop the temperature of the floor too dramatically because that could create a slew of different problems, including cracking.

"I can take this thing down to 16 degrees, but I don't want to be there," he said. "This truck can overrun this floor in a hurry. We'll stabilize the truck and the flow back on the floor to get ourselves as close to 22 degrees, and hopefully it doesn't come down too heavy so it'll be a good sheet of ice."

Provided all goes to plan, Craig said he and four of his crew members will arrive at the ballpark by 6 a.m. Wednesday to get to work on some rink maintenance before painting the ice white around 9 a.m.

The rain should be gone, but heavy winds are predicted. Craig said that shouldn't be a problem for his crew.

"It doesn't affect the painting other than if someone is standing near us they will get covered in white," Craig said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
 
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