WINNIPEG - The refrigeration trucks have rolled into town, and preparations for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic are underway.
"We've started putting the armour deck down on the field, and started building the stage which the ice pans and the rink will actually be supported on," said Mike Craig, the NHL's Senior Manager of Facilities Operations. "We're getting ready to run our pipes off the refrigeration truck, and basically we're right on schedule right where we should be."
Craig and his team have that schedule down to a science. After the staging is done, the dasher boards will start to go up as early as Oct. 13.
"It'll start to look like a rink out there for sure by that point," said Craig. "Hopefully by the evening or afternoon of the 14th we'll be spraying water and making ice out there."
The outdoor games put on by the NHL - the Heritage Classic, the Winter Classic, and the Stadium Series - have seen all forms of weather over the years.
The first game took place in 2003 in Edmonton between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, Craig says he's seen all kinds of weather.
"Since 2003 we've definitely learned some things along the way with how to deal with different elements," he said. "Whether it's doing a game in California or snow, or rain, or all the different elements we could see. We've learned how to deal with those over the last bunch of years, so in that way, it's helped us in our process."
Video: HERITAGE CLASSIC | Mike Craig
All the forecasts Craig has looked at make him confident that he and his crew will be able to handle anything that comes their way over the October 21-23 weekend.
While showing off the progress at the stadium on an overcast day with temperatures hovering around five degrees Celsius, Craig said a carbon copy of that day would be ideal on game day.
"I think that's why we chose this date. We knew we were going to have some nice fall weather here in Winnipeg," he said. "It'll be great not only for the set up and making the ice, but also for the fan experience as well."
No matter what the weather throws at him, Craig says the ice quality is always at the forefront of his mind.
"The big thing with us is we're putting on an NHL game. We have our expectations, and with our crew is to make sure it's NHL calibre ready out there," he said. "That's always our goal. That's what we strive toward. We make sure it's good, safe, and ready to go."