-- Christmas morning came a day early for NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig.
Craig awoke Saturday morning to a clear, cold day -- perfect for making ice.
So at 9:35 a.m., Craig and his crew dragged a hose onto the rink he's helped build over the last five days and started spraying the first drops of water that over the next 2-3 days will freeze into the first inch of ice the Philadelphia Flyers
and New York Rangers
will skate on at the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
"Last night everything went well," Craig told NHL.com. "We got the balance on the floor we want, we got the temperature we wanted. We could have started going last night, but we wanted to make sure the guys are rested because we're going to be running hard from here on out. Got up this morning, the temperature was right in the mid-30s out here, the wind is down. We're ready to put down the first spray and make sure all the slush we put in last night on all the joints is in good shape and go from there."
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It takes about 10,000 gallons of water to make an inch of ice on a hockey rink, so this won't be a quick process.
"That will be at least two days, maybe we'll be into the third day until we get a full inch," said Craig. "Now that we're here, the guys are staying here all the way through, we will just take our time and spray for a couple hours, go away, come back, spray for a couple hours, turn around and come back."
Helping aid the process is Craig's crew as well as members from the ice crew at the Wells Fargo Center next door.
"We're fortunate to have, and have in most ballparks, two outlets for water," said Craig. "We have the guys from the Wells Fargo Center are over here, we're going to put them on one end of the rink and we'll put the NHL guys that have stayed over on the other end. We're going to have three people on each hose and one will spray one half and one sprays the other."
The work has to be timed around the sun's presence on the aluminum ice trays. When the sun's out, even with the cold temperatures, it doesn't really work well with ice-making. Craig's goal is to put down some water during the day Saturday and see how things react when the sun gets on it, and how it reacts when the sun isn't directly over the rink surface.
"We'll play with it, because there's no pressure on us right now," said Craig. "We're relaxed. We'll see what the truck can do. We want to see how it (the rink surface) reacts when the sun gets on it, that's what we want to see. Because if I only work at night and I don't see how it works, how the truck is going to react, and how much water I put down -- those are things you work towards."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK