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Everything's on schedule for Heritage Classic

by Dave Lozo /
CALGARY, Alta. -- NHL Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli and NHL Facilities and Operations Manager Dan Craig on Tuesday gave an update on the construction taking place at McMahon Stadium in preparation for Sunday's 2011 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames.

Whether it's the ice, the rink or the area that will hold the spectator plaza for fans to congregate during the weekend, they said everything is going according to plan.

"Based on all the great weather we've had the last few days, we've got a lot accomplished," Renzulli said. "Most of our building will be done by the end of today. We're in pretty good shape construction-wise, so once we get through today, the last thing we'll do is start tidying up, getting all the décor elements into place and you'll start seeing it taking shape."

The entire west side of McMahon Stadium has been outfitted with seat cushions, with the auxiliary seats at the north end of the stadium getting the same treatment Tuesday. The stadium will be completely outfitted with the cushions in time for Saturday's alumni game. Broadcast booths also been built and draped in the logos of the networks covering the game.

Craig offered his latest update on the making of the ice, which is now at 1 1/4 inches, just shy of the desired 2 inches for the game.

"Over the last two days, the rink-build went really well," Craig said. "The heated benches are going into place right now and we're going to temper out the ice tonight, put the whitewash on it, build another half-inch and be ready for the ice markings and the logos. We'll be right on schedule."

The weather has been cooperating with Craig all week and will continue to do so in the coming days. The highs for the next three days are expected to be 20, 11 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit (That's minus-7, minus-12, and minus-11 Celsius).

"We've got pretty Calgary weather. We'll all enjoy it," Craig said.
The forecast for Sunday calls for snow, but Craig it's nothing to worry about.
"You see the radar just like we see the radar, and we see the cold snap is coming. If you read it, it's just flurries," Craig said. "I think that's what we want. Some light snow I think would be nice. During game time, it's just a matter of Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman being together and seeing how many times we have to go out there to clean the snow off."

While Craig's crew was building the ice inside the stadium, others were doing everything they could to remove it outside the stadium. Family Day is a holiday in Alberta that falls on Feb. 21 this year, so a large number of fans are expected to take part in all the festivities around the stadium all weekend.

"While he was making ice, we were in the parking lot chopping ice all weekend for spectator plaza," Renzulli said. "You'll start to see that take shape. There's a lot of tents up already. It's 88,000 square feet of entertainment area, and our sponsors will start coming in on Thursday."

With the Heritage Classic taking place at 4 p.m. local time, the gates to McMahon will open at 2 p.m. The League is encouraging fans to leave early to avoid traffic and backup at the gates. Also, fans should note the gate on their tickets and make sure to enter the stadium through the correct gate.

The parking lots around the stadium are completely sold out, so fans are encouraged to either use the north lots on the University of Calgary or take mass transit.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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