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Craig's team of ice builders allow for confidence

by Dan Rosen
PHILADELPHIA -- Dan Craig looks at his own lineup sheet for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and sees the variety he needs. There is a supervisor, two arena specialties advisors, two mechanics, five ice technicians, a specialist in piping and pumps and another guy whose area of expertise is in boards and construction.
The members of Craig's hand-picked team, his crew for the NHL's annual outdoor games, all have their own position and tasks. And, despite challenges that have ranged from wind, snow, rain, and the occasional broken down piece of integral equipment this team boasts a perfect record.

Craig's 'A Team'

Dan Craig -- The head coach and the guy with the title of NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations
Don Moffatt -- The assistant coach and the NHL's Facilities Operations Supervisor
Mike Craig -- The coach's son and an arena specialist from British Columbia
Rob Block -- A mechanic and Dan Craig's oldest friend from Jasper, Alta.
Pat Finch -- An ice technician and self-proclaimed "control freak" from Chicago who works at United Center
Jeff Fletcher -- An ice technician and friend of Mike Craig from British Columbia
Cal Waschuk -- An arena specialist who still worked with Dan Craig in Edmonton and is still at Rexall Place
Francois Martindale -- An ice technician who works at Bell Centre in Montreal
Jake Fernholz -- A small engine mechanic and the youngest member of the crew from Minnesota
Gord Young -- A specialist in boards and construction from Toronto
Todd Hauschildt -- An expert in piping and pumps from River Falls, Wisc., Dan Craig's hometown
Derek King -- An ice technician and engineer out of MTS Centre in Winnipeg
Andrew Yardy -- An ice technician out of the Olympic oval in Calgary

-- Dan Rosen
"We know each other, we know all the moves, and we know what everyone is capable of doing," said Rob Block, a mechanic who grew up with Craig in Jasper, Alberta. and has worked with him since the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago. "I know what someone is going to do even before they do it. It's a team. We each have our own little job, our own little specialty, and we work on that and rely on that."
The 13-member team is referred to as Craig's ice crew, but that's a moniker that doesn't come close to encapsulating all that this team does. For instance, Block and Jake Fernholz are mechanics. Gord Young is an expert in constructing the boards and installing Plexiglass. Todd Hauschildt is who Craig turns to for his expertise on the piping and pumps.
Craig said if he had only ice technicians on his crew, he'd find himself calling for outside help to do odd jobs that can normally be handled by mechanics and other specialists.
"I get that question at our annual (arena supervisors) meetings, and I tell the guys that for this job I don't need 15 ice technicians, I really don't," Craig told "I need technicians that can handle pumps, handle hoses, trucks, breakdowns of Zambonis, because when something breaks you can't be worrying about making a phone call to see if someone can come in here and help us. No, no; on the fly is how we have to fix things."
Of course, Craig has to have enough ice guys to ensure the Flyers and Rangers have the best quality playing surface for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park.
Pat Finch, Jeff Fletcher, Francois Martindale, Derek King and Andrew Yardy all operate their own rinks -- Finch at United Center, Martindale at Bell Centre and King at MTS Centre, home of the Winnipeg Jets.
Mike Craig, who is Dan's son, is considered an arena specialties adviser because he's following in dad's footsteps and learning the entire business in the Western Hockey League. Cal Waschuk is a long-time arena specialist from Edmonton. He even worked with Craig at Rexall Place when it was known as Northlands Coliseum.
Don Moffatt, the NHL's Facilities Operations Supervisor, is the only other full-time NHL employee on the crew aside from Craig. He's also Craig's right-hand man throughout the NHL season.
"When they walk around and isolate issues that I haven't been able to get my hands on, that's when I know everybody is here and functioning the right way, the way they should be," Craig said. "If I had 15 ice technicians here, I would have to go there and tell them, 'Guys, you need to watch for this and that and this.' These guys here, they all know I'm not here to baby sit them."
They don't need it either because the crew, which includes guys that have flown in from as far away as British Columbia, is basically filled with a bunch of muckers and grinders that are here to work as hard and as long as possible to make sure the job gets done in the best possible way.
In fact, Finch said he was itching to get to work before the refrigeration truck was even parked outside the stadium Monday morning.
He said Craig, who can easily be referred to as the coach of this team, has had to tell the crew to calm down and take things easy because they have plenty of time between now and Dec. 31, the day of the Flyers-Rangers alumni game, to get the rink ready.
"It's weird for us, though," Finch said. "We're used to go, go, go. You're fighting everything in your nature to settle down. For instance, today we're just getting familiar with the building so we know where to go when we do get busy. It's awesome, but at the same time I'm just like, 'I'm not used to this, I want to go.' "
The crew, though, is finding the downtime to be just as important because it is letting them rebuild the friendships they've created from past NHL outdoor games.
Several of the guys began working together on the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field nearly three years ago. They've since added to their team for the Winter Classics in Boston and Pittsburgh as well as the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary.

They've become a family that gets together around the holidays and stays in touch through Facebook and text messaging during the rest of the year.
"I love it. It's like a family reunion," Finch said. "I'm not homesick or anything like that. It's great to be back to get to know the guys again, swap stories, remind each other about the last Classic, who did what, all that fun stuff."
And, like any successful team, they've become a family that pulls for each other, works hard for each other, and never backs down from a challenge.
"We do enjoy the work and we enjoy working with each other and the challenges that arise," Block said. "We don't know what the challenges are until we start and get going. So, we're excited to see the challenges that come up during this one."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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