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'Ice Guru' Craig is ready to make ice at Fenway

by Dan Rosen
BOSTON -- NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig will arrive at Fenway Park at around 7 o'clock Thursday morning, signaling the beginning of a three-week challenge to transform Fenway Park from baseball shrine to hockey haven.

The 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic won't take place until Jan. 1, when the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins skate for two points. Until then the 97-year-old ballpark will become a construction site as the League creates the magical scene you will see on New Year's Day.

"Oh, I'm excited," Craig, the League's ice guru, told in the lobby of the Westin Copley Place Wednesday night. "It frustrates me that the truck is sitting an hour away at some truck stop overnight. It should be here. I want to hook pipes up. I want to do this and that. I want to get going."

The NHL's giant refrigeration truck that has been rolling up and down the East coast for the last week on its 800-mile journey to Boston, will reach its final destination on Van Ness Street, right outside of Fenway Park, at around 1:30 in the afternoon.

The truck houses all the equipment necessary to make the ice for the Winter Classic, but it won't be put to use until Tuesday when Craig and his staff actually start making ice.  His ice crew won't even arrive until this weekend.

"Our biggest thing was I didn't want the truck to be some place six hours from here and all of a sudden we get a storm like and we can't get the truck in on time," Craig said. "We said, 'No, the truck has to be here by the 10th.'

"The truck will arrive at the stadium and we'll do all of our pageantry -- and then we'll go park it in what we call the triangle lot at the end of the building. On Sunday it will come out and where we deliver it (Thursday), that's exactly where it will go and it will stay there for nearly a month."

After the 53-foot truck arrives, a news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. with Craig and Don Renzulli, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Events and Entertainment.

Well before then, though, Craig and his staff will be hard at work laying the foundation for the rink that will sit between the baselines. In fact, some members of the BaAM Productions crew, which is tasked with building everything around the ice, were at Fenway on Wednesday marking out the footprint of the rink and conducting surveys.

"So, when they arrive (Thursday) morning to offload stuff, everybody already knows where they are going and what they are doing," Craig said.  "(Wednesday) was a prep day."

As always, the conditions are of first concern on everybody's mind, but the wintry mix that blew through Boston overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, leaving puddles of rain and pockets of snow in its wake, shouldn't have any affect on Craig's crew.

The ground, even if it is wet and muddy, will be workable.

"What will happen first is we lay down what we call a DuraDeck and you can drive cranes on them," Craig said. "We lay that down as roadways, and we insulate that and then put our panels down. Our biggest thing is protecting the infield, so the whole infield is tarped off. We'll be in good shape."

It'll be cold here in Boston on Thursday as temperatures drop into the mid-30s, but it is supposed to be dry. It will be windy, but Craig isn't worried.

"That won't affect us," Craig said. "That's minor."

The truck has been on a celebratory tour since leaving Toronto last week. It drove down to Philadelphia for events on Saturday and was featured on NBC's "Today Show" in New York on Sunday as Craig gave a national viewing audience and unique look inside.

The truck was in Springfield, Mass., for an event Tuesday and at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday before parking at a truck stop roughly a half-hour outside of Boston for an overnight stay.

While truck driver Jimmy Fraser will likely sleep soundly inside the NHL's refrigeration machine on wheels, Craig probably won't despite his comfortable hotel bed.

His mind will be focused on Fenway. Morning can't come fast enough.

"I'll put my work clothes on and we'll go all night, right now," he said. "I need that ice down on that field, but the biggest thing is to make sure everybody is rested because the same people you're using for the setup are the people you're using on event day and it's like going for the Stanley Cup, you have to peak at the right time. You have to make sure all your guys are healthy and on board come the 29th, 30th, 31st and, of course, the first."

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