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Stadium Series crew begins preparation for NY games

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- The anticipation already is building for the pair of games that will be hosted at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26 and 29 as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. But the countdown toward the doubleheader in the Bronx officially started Wednesday with the arrival of the ice truck responsible for turning the home of the New York Yankees into an outdoor hockey haven.

"[Wednesday] they're building the roadways and the staging around the stadium," said Michael Craig, NHL senior manager of facilities operations. "Starting [Thursday] we'll start laying out our piping and our ice pans, that's the refrigeration that takes place underneath. From that point we'll be filling the system with our refrigerant, building the dasher boards and hopefully making the ice by the 18th. So in the next few days we should be ready to go."

A veteran of numerous outdoor games, including multiple Winter Classics, Craig was ready to get to work when he arrived Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. But taking in his surroundings, it quickly became apparent to the ice guru that this wasn't just any other venue.

"Yankee Stadium is a bit of a fairy tale, isn't it?" Craig said. "I'm from a small town in Western Canada, so to be standing here in New York at Yankee Stadium is pretty special."

The stadium will host the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26 and then the Rangers will play the New York Islanders on Jan. 29. For players past and present it was apparent that the spectacle surrounding these games finally was coming together after months of anticipation.

"I've been in this building to watch the Yankees play but nothing like being involved in an outdoor hockey game," said former Devils forward Grant Marshall, who was on hand for the truck's arrival. "This is great. It's great for the game. You've got two great rivalries. It's going to be exciting to watch."

The eyes of the sports world again will be turned toward one of baseball's great venues for the two regular-season games. For the players slated to compete in the games it will be a unique experience, but there still will be crucial standings points up for grabs in the Bronx.

"I've never played in a game like this before," Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said. "You just kind of have to roll with the punches. I'm sure everyone is going to enjoy it. It's great to be a part of history. It's going to be cool. It's hard to describe before you're really out there. I'm sure it's going to be quite a feeling."

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