PHILADELPHIA -- For the second straight Christmas, Dan Craig and several members of his crew spent the holiday together, building ice for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
It hardly was a bother to them.
"You know what? It was quite relaxing," Toronto native Garrett Mills said. "During the day there are still some people around the stadium, but once the sun went down we stayed out here, got a little glare off the Phillies sign above the scoreboard, and that's when you really noticed it because all you heard was the water hitting the ice. It was a surreal experience when you figure out where you are, what you're doing and how lucky you are to have the opportunity to be doing it."
Chicago native Pat Finch, who has been on Craig's crew since the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in 2009, said the best part about staying in Philadelphia was how much work they were able to accomplish without any distractions.
"We weren't killing ourselves and we got our stuff done," Finch said. "We made the best of a bad situation."
Not everyone on the crew stayed in town, but those who did only spent a few hours at the ballpark in the morning and again in the late afternoon into the early evening. It was far different than last year in Pittsburgh, when they had two sets of six crew members rotating on 12-hour shifts.
This year they were able to go out for a Christmas dinner. Last year they had it in the ballpark during a quick shift break.
"It is peaceful and it is nice, but at 2 or 3 in the morning it's not all that great, so it was nice to take advantage of it here," said Minnesota native Jake Fernholz. "There was no pressure here. We got ourselves in a good spot where we didn't have to kill ourselves to make sure everything was ready to rock when everybody else got in."
Of course, it did come at a price.
"Essentially no pressure, and yet we had to stay through Christmas to make sure the work got done," Fernholz said. "So, there is a double-edged sword there."
Mills said he countered that by celebrating Christmas with his family a week early. Finch said he'll do Christmas with his family when he gets home.
"It's tough when you tell them you won't be able to make it home for Christmas, but this is like a second family," Finch said. "The people we were with here, if I couldn't be with my family I'd rather be with them. We laughed, had some good dinners and it was really good."