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Winter Classic truck begins journey to Gillette Stadium

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The truck for the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic arrived at the Montreal Canadiens suburban training facility Wednesday, the first stop on its journey from Toronto.

Next stop: Gillette Stadium.

The rink build will begin in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday, a day after the NFL's New England Patriots play the Tennessee Titans and surrender their home to the NHL for the New Year's Day game between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.

Francois Martindale has been in charge of the ice for Canadiens home games the past 25 years since their days at the Forum, and he has also been to every Winter Classic since the first one in Buffalo in 2009 to help Dan Craig, the NHL's senior director of facilities operations, with the rink build process.

Martindale was also at the NHL's first outdoor game, the Heritage Classic in 2003 between the Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, and has seen just about every weather condition imaginable for these events.

With an unusually warm winter in the U.S. Northeast, Martindale is not the least bit concerned when it comes to the temperature on New Year's Day. His only concern, as is always the case, is the sun.

"I would say the air temperature or the weather in general, aside from the sun, is not really a big factor," Martindale said. "We've had a game in Los Angeles, we've played a game at minus-45 [Celsius] and we've played at plus-9. As long as there's no sun, we'll be fine. The sun can be problem."

The Winter Classic truck will arrive in Foxborough on Sunday, and the process of using 10,000 gallons of water to build a two-inch thick sheet of ice for the game will begin Monday.

When Martindale first handled an outdoor game in 2003, the process was far more complicated than it is today.

"In 2003 we had to prepare for three weeks," he said. "Now in four days we can basically play a hockey game."

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