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Plane crash puts Winter Classic into perspective

by Dan Rosen /
PITTSBURGH -- In all of Dan Craig's meticulous planning for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, he never could have figured on a disaster delaying the arrival of one of the key members of his ice crew.

Don Moffatt, Craig's right-hand man at the NHL, lived through a surreal experience en route to Pittsburgh.

Moffatt was sitting on the plane at the Colorado Springs Airport Wednesday afternoon when the pilot's voice came over the public address system announcing there was an "unaccounted for" plane on the runway and they couldn't leave. Shortly after, Moffatt witnessed fire trucks, ambulances and police cars zip down the runway.

By the time Moffatt de-planed and got back into the terminal, he and the rest of the curiously shocked travelers figured out that a small plane had crashed only a few hundred yards away from them and both passengers inside the single-engine Mooney M20E were killed. One is suspected to be a member of the United States Air Force.

Moffatt immediately sent Craig an e-mail detailing his delay, and all Craig could write back was, "Seriously?"

"It kind of puts everything into perspective," Moffatt told Thursday. "We're all keyed up for this event, but in the big picture of life it's a sporting event."

Craig echoed that sentiment, telling that Moffatt's experience "most definitely, most definitely" puts things into perspective for him. Out of fear for weather or luggage delays, Craig arranged for all of his ice crew to be here Tuesday -- but Moffatt's path to Pittsburgh reminded him that delays are nothing compared to the more severe, more life-changing issues you can run into while traveling.

"You don't realize until something like that happens how quickly things change for you, or possibly could change for you," Craig told "We always tell people to travel safe and we mean it. Let's take care of each other, and especially at Christmas time, even though it was a small plane you're just thinking that you live your life the best you can and when the good lord says it's your time to depart it's your time to depart."

Moffatt, clearly moved by the fatal crash, said his stress level immediately went down when he learned of the crash and he started thinking about life, how fortunate he is to have his job as the NHL's Facilities Operations Supervisor and to be working at the Winter Classic. He thought of the friends and family he loves.

"When you travel as much as we do you you're going to lose your bag somewhere, you're going to be delayed, you're not going to get to a game and you're going to see weird stuff," Moffatt said. "But, at that point it really didn't matter if I got here. The stress just went instantly out of the day and it really didn't matter if I got here (Tuesday) night."

"What did cross my mind is I know I'll get there eventually and there are a lot more important things in life," he added. "That's really sad. There are families that are missing people now. You just reflect a little bit on life in general and how important people, your friends and family, are."

Moffatt eventually did make it here in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, but he took a circuitous route. Authorities closed Colorado Springs Airport, so passengers had to be bussed to Denver, a roughly 90-minute ride, so they could continue on with their travel plans.

Shockingly, Moffatt said, his luggage made it to Pittsburgh when he did.

"I walked down all the escalators at the airport here in Pittsburgh, saw our flight number and the bags were coming off and I was like, 'Wow,' " he said. "They were on a plane, off a plane, on a bus, off a bus and checked in again in Denver. It was awesome."

It's the only part of his trip that was.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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