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Stadium Series

Rain not affecting Stadium Series rink preparation

Ice will be ready for alumni game, Blackhawks-Wild

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dan Craig, the NHL's senior director of facilities operations, didn't seem a bit concerned with the rain that hit the region Friday morning.

He understands how important outdoor hockey is to the locals in the "State of Hockey," and he was adamant when declaring his rink on the field at TCF Bank Stadium will be primed for game action on Sunday when the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks face off in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"The thing is, you can go to Roseau or anywhere in Minnesota and they have high school hockey games outdoors, so this is what they live for," Craig said Friday afternoon. "Putting their professional team on a rink outdoors. So let's go, let's play on.

"Even though everyone is going to ask about all the rain in the morning, we'll just do a couple more little tweaks. Right now, we could drop the puck here within the half-hour."

The forecast for Sunday calls for high temperatures of about 38 degrees. Craig said the ideal outdoor temperature for ice is usually between 28 and 34 degrees.

"The sun may peek through every once in a while [on Sunday], but right now I think for the alumni game practices on Saturday we'll be fine," Craig said. "We have an hour-and-a-half break before the alumni game warmup [on Saturday] and we'll be watching the weather on that one."

The 2016 NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game, featuring hockey legends from the Wild, Minnesota North Stars and Blackhawks will be played Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Craig considers the alumni game a good dress rehearsal for the big game the next day.

"It's a good test, but makes it a super long day getting prepped for the main game," he said. "I've been here since Feb. 8, and we've had some cold stretches and some long nights. Fortunately for us, the last couple of days have been a little better and have just given the crew more of a break; instead of working the 15-hour shifts, they are just working the 10-hour shifts.

"So they almost feel refreshed and it's a good chance to give them time here to take a breath and focus on the next few days."

The only real concern prior to the alumni game will be the sunshine.

"The sun really affects our logos, so if the sun breaks out we'll cover up our logos for as long as we can and then hand-scrape them, add a little water, if that's what it is, and then the alumni game is good to go," Craig said.

TCF Bank Stadium is home to the University of Minnesota football team and, for the past two years, the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Its capacity for football is just shy of 51,000, according to the school.

Craig also provided an update on the Stadium Series game between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field in Denver on Feb. 27. Craig's son Mike, who serves as NHL senior manager of facilities operations, is responsible for the ice at that location.

"Mike and his crew are doing a good job over there," Craig said. "They basically are using the formula that we used to set up in California when the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks played (at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014). At eight o'clock in the morning they put the tarps on and you can't take them off until 3:30 p.m. That's when you work until 4 or 5 in the morning and then put the tarps back on.

"It's a very condensed setup, and as long as we're prepared for it, everything moves along well."

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