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Craig encouraged by rink's progress

by Dave Lozo /
CALGARY -- There's still more than a week until the 2011 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, but Dan Craig likes how things are shaping up.

The NHL's Facilities Operations Manager was on site at McMahon Stadium on Saturday afternoon, putting in another long day to make sure his rink is progressing the way he wants. Temperatures were in the high 40s in Calgary, but that didn't matter since Craig's crew won't start making ice until Sunday evening.

"Weather hasn’t affected us at all today," said Craig, whose ice will be ready for skates on Thursday. "But the wind just picked up outside, so those are the things I pay attention to for three or four days down the road to see how this stadium reacts where we can shield it from the wind or where the sun comes in and hits the ice.

"The floor is completely done. The boards are up. We're going to start putting up the stanchions for the glass. We're doing all those stanchions this afternoon. Everything should be ready this afternoon for making ice tomorrow."

Craig and ice have become synonymous over the years, but there's more to his job than just spraying water evenly to create a frozen sheet. By spending nearly two weeks at McMahon Stadium in the lead-up to the Heritage Classic, Craig gets to learn the nuances of the stadium and has to take into consideration how the elements and setup can affect things besides the rink.

"There's always surprises," Craig said. "You get curveballs, but that's why you put the crew together that I do. Each day you look at one other and say we got to deal with what we got to deal with and you just do it.

"We're just a small part of a big picture and I want to make sure our guys pay attention to those small details because those small details affect where we put a broadcast booth, where we do the path for the walkway for the players. So we're very much involved in that, especially when we do the setup."

With those problems solved, Craig can turn his attention to the ice. But with another warm day expected for Calgary tomorrow, the first drop of water to hit the floor at McMahon won't happen until late in the afternoon.

"We're right where we want to be," Craig said. "We'll have everything up and running tonight. It's supposed to be a really warm day tomorrow so we won't do anything during the day. We'll probably be back here about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we'll start spraying and making ice for the first time."

But this Albertan heat wave in the dead of winter will pass, and in the days leading up the Heritage Classic, Craig will get the weather he craves.

"We'll be just below the freezing mark," Craig said of the long-term forecast. "We're going to be warm for the next couple of days on the ice-building time and then when we do our painting of the lines, it's supposed to be right around that freezing mark, which is going to be good for us. Then we'll probably go down to the 22-, 23-degree mark, which is right where I want to be."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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