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A stage for the holidays

by Dan Rosen /
PITTSBURGH -- It's almost Christmas Eve, but the NHL ice crew doesn't care about that. It's almost their time to start plugging away here at Heinz Field, where the snow flurries have been falling all day.

It really would be a perfect day for hockey. The snow is not sticking because the ground is too warm for that, but the temperature and daylight is just right. The flurries would add the ideal dimension to NBC's broadcast.

But, hey, work still has to get done before we can get a game going here. Hopefully Mother Nature again proves she's a hockey fan and brings Pittsburgh a good cold front when the calendars flip to 2011.

For now, though, the ice crew can't worry about that. They had breakfast together this morning before coming over to the stadium for a walk through. All but three of the guys went back to the hotel for much needed R&R because they're due back here at 5 to start a 12-hour shift.

As I type union workers, who are being supervised by BaaM Productions, are continuing to build the stage that will house the rink. They are also laying down large pieces of plywood on top of the stage. Dan Craig's boys won't get to work until half the stage is covered in plywood, and that's expected to be by 5 o'clock.

Their first order of business is to supervise the unloading of the ice pans that will get placed together like puzzle pieces on top of the stage. This is a time consuming project because each pan has to be connected to the next one before it gets put in place. You can't lay one down next to the other and then try to connect them. It won't work.

While the crew starts connecting the rink's sub floor on one end of the stage the union workers will be laying plywood down on the other side. So, they'll be working in unison.

The sub floor isn't expected to be completely put together until around 8 o'clock on Christmas morning. Soon after that the boards will start going up.

By the mid-to-late afternoon Saturday the ice crew hopes to be able to turn on the hoses and start building ice.

But, we're still a long way off from that as work continues here at Heinz Field.

We'll check back later, but now it's time to head over to the rink outside of the stadium because it's about to get open for business. Santa Claus is skating at 4.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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