-- When you're away from your special someone on Valentine's Day, you better have a good reason.
Dan Craig does. The NHL's Facilities Operations Manager has been hard at work for two weeks, getting McMahon Stadium prepared for the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens
and Calgary Flames
. His crew is on site from sunrise to well beyond sunset building the rink, so it's understandable when Craig loses track of the days.
"It's Valentine's Day today? Oh, man. I forgot. I'm in trouble," Craig said with a laugh on Monday afternoon. Of course, he was just kidding. "No, I have talked to my wife today. First thing, as a matter of fact."
Smart man. But being away from his family on a holiday, be it a religious one during the buildup to the Winter Classic or one created by greeting card companies, is nothing new for Craig.
"It's just like Christmas," Craig said. "That's what we're here for. We picked the job and this is what it is."
Don't think for a second Craig was complaining, because the creation of ice is essentially his second love.
After spraying the first layer of water from about 4 p.m. till midnight on Sunday, Craig and the crew were right back at it at 5 a.m. on Monday. They continued the process until the early afternoon before taking a break because of the pesky sun once again creeping out from behind the clouds.
But outside of a little sunshine, the spraying of water has been going swimmingly.
"It's been not bad," Craig said. "We started out nice and early this morning. Got going on our spray before everybody got here. The sun stayed under cover there for a while. It broke out around noon so we had to back off a little bit. Now that we got our cloud cover back, we'll be ready to go again."
The spraying will continue until midnight again and up until the ice is ready for skates Thursday. The ice will be painted and the glass will be installed during that time as well. It's just a matter of keeping the sun from wreaking havoc on the ice-making process.
"We knew it was coming," Craig said of the sun. "That's why we watch the weather so closely. It all has to do with timing and everybody paying attention. We just go as far as we can and we don't push the elements. You're not going to win with Mother Nature. You just let her work with you. And that's what we do."
So is there any chance Craig will be sending Mother Nature a Valentine's Day card this year?
"No," Craig said. "There's not a chance of that happening."
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