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Mother Nature's obstacles are no match for Dan Craig

by Dave Lozo /
CALGARY -- NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig was faced with just about every element imaginable during his rink build at McMahon Stadium -- intense sunlight, heavy winds, light snow and extreme cold.

But in the end, Craig's crew was able to finish the creation of the ice Thursday and will have the rink built on schedule for Sunday's 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens (6 p.m., Versus, CBC).

The only thing left to do is install the Plexiglass, which will be completed either Thursday night or early Friday morning before the Canadiens and Flames practice here Saturday.

All of the logos and lines have been placed on the ice, but Craig couldn't use paint. With the temperature sitting at freezing Thursday morning, the water-based paint was useless. So instead of using paint for the lines and logos, Craig had to use tape, which is submerged beneath about three-quarters of an inch of ice.

"Everyone's giving away my trade secrets," joked Craig.

It was -4 degrees Fahrenheit for the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton, but even then Craig didn't have to employ his tape tactic to make the rink ready for an NHL game.

"We had good days. We were above the freezing mark when we painted there," Craig said. "We had a bright, sunny day. It was a good day to paint."

This is the sixth Heritage/Winter Classic rink that Craig and his crew have built since 2003. Despite the obstacles Alberta has thrown out him, he doesn't rate this as his toughest rink-build.

"It's about the same, other than it's bitterly cold in the morning," Craig said. "We just layer up and go at it. It's the same as when you're in Pittsburgh where when it rained, you put on a poncho and go to work. There's not much more you can do."

Maybe Mother Nature is out to get Craig?

"Yeah, but on gameday, she always comes through," Craig said. "She loves the game of hockey."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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