-- After two relatively quiet days at Citizens Bank Park, the ballpark was alive again Monday with staffers returning from their holiday break to start or continue chores that will lead into New Year's weekend and the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
However, for NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig and his crew, the upcoming grind doesn't seem so daunting because they didn't take a holiday break.
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Craig and selected members of his crew stayed in town over Christmas and managed to build over a quarter of an inch of ice, which put them almost 50 percent to their target depth they have to reach before they can begin painting the surface white and putting down lines and logos. They had to work around the sun that lit up the ice for roughly four hours each day before fading by 2:30 p.m., but they did so with little to no pressure at all.
"We got a little work done in the morning, took a break and then got a little more done. We built over a quarter of an inch and we didn't really push ourselves that hard," Craig told NHL.com. "We let the guys kind of kick up their feet a little bit, but made sure we paid attention to what the truck was doing in relation to all the sun hitting the (floor). It helped us when nobody was around to really make this work."
The crew was back on the floor spraying water early Monday morning and then again just before noon. They broke for lunch and waited for the sun to move off the rink surface before getting back onto the ice to continue spraying water to build up to their targeted goal of one inch of ice.
The sun, coupled with a brisk wind that had the U.S. flag in center field feverishly flapping, slowed the freezing process after each of the morning sprays, but the puddles eventually froze solid once the sun was off the surface. By 2:30, the only visible sun on the rink was lighting up the dasher boards by the benches.
"We're going to be working until midnight. We have four guys on the crew here right now and we'll get another four here by 5 o'clock," Craig said. "The sun is off the field by 2:30, the truck really grabs a hold of the floor somewhere around 3 or 3:15, so we'll get two hoses going and we'll keep on spraying. We'll be in good shape for (Tuesday) morning."
Mother Nature, though, could play havoc with Craig's plans. Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday and is supposed to arrive around 3 p.m., exactly the time Craig was hoping to start painting the ice white.
If it does rain, Craig said the painting will have to wait until Wednesday morning, meaning he might have to paint white and put in the lines and logos on the same day. Craig said doing it all on the same day is not ideal when you're building an outdoor rink.
"We're going to be working until midnight. We have four guys on the crew here right now and we'll get another four here by 5 o'clock. The sun is off the field by 2:30, the truck really grabs a hold of the floor somewhere around 3 or 3:15, so we'll get two hoses going and we'll keep on spraying. We'll be in good shape for (Tuesday) morning." -- Dan Craig
"I don't like putting them on the same day because of what Mother Nature does, but if we do paint it all on the same day, you have to go with the white early," Craig said. "Especially when you're outdoors, you need a good separation from your white to your lines and logos because if you happen to burn through now you'll have white flowing in with everything else."
Rain also could put some pressure on the crew because their targeted goal is to have the rink ready to go by noon Friday for the annual media skate. There still has to be a half-inch of ice built after all the painting and logo placement is done in order to seal everything in, but depending on the type of rain, there is the potential for further maintenance on the surface as well.
A heavy rain could create issues that would require extra work. A misty rain could be a blessing in disguise and save the crew time on the hoses.
"You say I have a week; I have three days, because we're skating on the 30th at noon with all the media," Craig said. "That's my target. That's where the crunch time is for me.
"If we're done with everything by 6 o'clock on the night of the 29th, we're going to be in good shape."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl