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Ice surface at Levi's Stadium ready for big test

by Dan Rosen

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Dan Craig's ice is ready for its test day.

"It's good that it's time to skate," said Craig, the NHL's Senior Director of Facilities Operations and the person in charge of the rink build for the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game Saturday at Levi's Stadium between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

Craig gave his ice a small test Thursday when he was the first person to skate on it around 6 p.m. PT. The media in attendance chipped in for an hour after that when the NHL opened the ice for a media skate. But the real test comes Friday, when the Sharks and Kings each practice.

San Jose is scheduled to practice at 3:30 p.m. PT, and Los Angeles will skate at 6:30 p.m.

"We'll be good," Craig said.

Humidity has been the biggest challenge Craig and his crew have faced since arriving at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 9. It was still a problem Thursday night, and that's why Craig said they had to make an adjustment on the temperature of the coolant that comes out of the truck and spreads through the ice pans below the rink surface.

"Because of the humidity rolling in here, we moved the truck up a degree," Craig said.

Craig said the outside temperature is about the same as he dealt with for the Coors Light Stadium Series game last season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. It had dropped to 56 degrees by 8 p.m. PT Thursday after being in the low 60s during the media skate.

The humidity, though, is a new element for Craig. It was causing the glass to fog up around the rink during the media skate.

"What [humidity] does is it coats the ice and it makes it really tough to work with," Craig said. "It puts a real heavy load on the truck, so the truck has been working a lot harder on this one than it has on any of the other ones that we've done, but that's the main purpose of us building [mobile ice plants] that we did. When we need to push, we push. If it rains, it rains. Humidity is a laden heat load that we need to deal with throughout the game."

They will be making the proper adjustments to the temperature from the ice truck parked outside the stadium. That's another reason why the practice day is so important to Craig. It's his dress rehearsal.

"[Friday] is a test day for me, even more so than the game itself, to tell me how to prepare for 7 o'clock at night," Craig said.

But even Craig will take a moment Friday to do what he loves to do at every outdoor game: watch the players' reactions as they skate onto the ice for the first time.

"When the players step out on the ice, their eyes just light up," Craig said. "It's like the first time they were out skating growing up when they were out in their backyard. A lot of them grew up further north and they had ponds in their backyard and rinks in the community that they skated on. When they come out that's what it feels like. You look at them and it's just a really satisfied feeling."


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