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Craig's ice draws rave reviews during media skate

by Dan Rosen
PITTSBURGH -- Dan Craig admits that, yes, it is pretty cool that on Friday he'll get to watch Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin skate on the rink he created in the middle of Heinz Field. He also wouldn't care if it was you or anybody else that laced up the blades and cut through his ice.

"You all get the same thing from me," Craig told Thursday after watching the media in town to cover the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic skate for an hour. "It doesn't matter if you're nine years old or you get paid $9 million a year, you get the best out of me."

Craig's ice played to rave reviews Thursday afternoon as everyone who laced 'em up seemed to have a grand old time skating in the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers home field and taking in the scenery it has to offer.

But Craig doesn't necessarily take what the media has to say as gospel. He cares about the looks he gets from the players, coaches and on-ice officials. He cares about how their skates cut through the ice, how well they can stop and start and move the puck.

He'll get that feedback after Friday's alumni game and set of practices for the Penguins and Capitals.

"I usually watch how the really good players move their feet and how they shuffle with the puck in their feet, so I wasn't watching too many feet out here," Craig said with a laugh. "I really take a look at skate cuts and really see once everything is said and done how everything pulls together."

Craig and his crew were definitely tested Thursday.

The day began with rain showers. By noon the sun was blasting onto the ice. And by the time the media hit the rink shortly after 1 p.m., the clouds came back and the sky opened up for an ever-so-slight misting.

Some people would complain about the constantly changing weather. Craig looked at it as an opportunity.

"It doesn't matter when you have what you have, whether it's wind, sun or whatever it is -- it gives myself and the crew a chance to feel it, to read it, to react to it and just to kind of bounce ideas off of one another as to what we need to do over the next 12 hours," Craig said.

He added the overcast skies that draped overtop the media skate coupled with the mid-30 degree temperatures were ideal conditions for the game.

"If we can play a game like with what we have right now, I would drop the puck right now," he said. "I would bring the machines out and then we would drop the puck and go."

The work continues between now and 11:30 Friday morning when the Penguins hit the ice for practice. Craig's crew immediately jumped on the ice after the media skate to start edging around the boards. They brought out the Zamboni to give it a quick shave and then the hoses again in order to give the sheet a few more hot floods.

"We have to see how she reacts now that the shade is gone," Craig said. "I have to know whether to back the truck off a few degrees or just let it sit. I need to know how to react tomorrow for practices, which tells me what I'm going to do for a game."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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