DENVER -- As Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg skated at Coors Field during Friday's practice, he glanced over at a slim, bearded man standing next to the glass and smiled.
That man was Dave Jones, one of the operations managers at Joe Louis Arena, who is in Denver as part of the crew that installed the ice rink on top of the Colorado Rockies' baseball field.
"I started with Dan and Mike Craig at the Big House when we had the Winter Classic," Jones said. "They invited me on there and kind of got in the loop with the guys that do the NHL ice and the outdoor system. Been with them on this one, I've been invited to a few but the schedule didn't allow me to go. But that's how I got into it."
Dan Craig is the NHL's senior director of facilities operations and is the man charged with putting ice where there normally is none for outdoor hockey games.
"We obviously worked real closely with Dan Craig and the ice crew with the league and Dan asked Dave to come out here and be part of it because he has a high respect for Dave and what we do," said Tim Padgett, vice president and general manager of Olympia Entertainment. "It's a great opportunity for Dave to come out here and do something special and be part of something special.
"He's been here for this whole week. He's working 14-hour days every day and sometimes he's getting out of here at 4 in the morning. They've had a lot of challenges with the weather being too good. But he's had a lot of fun. We were just talking to him. He's really proud to be out here representing the Red Wings and being a part of this."
Jones wasn't a huge hockey fan growing up but he now loves the sport and enjoys being able to participate in some of the NHL's biggest events behind the scenes.
"It's great to be part of these big events, because I'm fortunate enough to be able to do it," Jones said. "It's one of those things that I didn't ever expect to be doing. It makes me proud that I'm doing something right, I guess."
Jones arrived in Denver last Thursday and hasn't stopped since.
"The rink itself was set up but we were building ice," Jones said. "We had a college game last Saturday between the University of Denver and Colorado College. Then the rest of the week we set up the NHL sheet, built over the current college sheet. The way we've gone, we've been battling the sun that we have today. With the tarps and everything during the day, we can keep the ice chilled and work on it at night or early morning."
When Jones gets back to Detroit March 1, he won't really have any time to rest and recover.
"We've got the home game against Chicago on March 2," Jones said. "So I'll pretty much be back at the Joe early morning March 2 and we'll be ready to go for another hockey game. But hopefully I get a little bit of time to enjoy. (Friday) will be a little bit of a later night because we're going to have to get the ice ready for the big game (Saturday). This is our biggest priority so we don't leave until this is correct."
Since Jones has worked with many of the crew members before, he was thrilled to be able to be part of the team again.
But having the Wings be involved in the game makes it that much better.
"It's a good thing, I really enjoy it," Jones said. "Plus I like the camaraderie with the guys that I've worked with before. Everybody here, we all get along really well. A lot of us work throughout the league. I think there's eight different guys that work for different franchises here so we all know what we're doing, we work alongside one another and get along real well. But to be out here with our team, it's definitely more special."
Friday's afternoon practice was short and sweet as the sun was not helpful to the ice conditions.
But the ice should be just fine when 6 p.m. Saturday rolls around.
"Once the sun goes down in any place, as long as you keep the direct sun out, the refrigeration truck can catch up and do its job," Jones said.
Jones got his start as an intern at Joe Louis Arena after graduating from Central Michigan with a degree in facility operations management and commercial recreation.
"Al brought me in and pretty much been under Al's tutelage for the past, almost 10 years now," Jones said. "Really got into the heavy ice stuff probably in the last six. I think this is my fourth season driving the Zamboni. On the side, I've taken classes with STAR (Serving The American Rinks), which is the NHL's certified ice tech program that's recognized by them for certifications. Between the stuff I've learned through that and Al at Joe Louis, it's kind of molded my craft."
Jones is still working through the STAR certification and is also getting certified in facilities operations and maintenance analysis (FOMA).
"It basically teaches you driving machine, maintaining the ice sheet, painting the ice sheet and then how the chillers and the refrigeration units work," Jones said.
Through his work with Sobotka, Jones came to appreciate the challenge of building and maintaining great ice.
"A lot of people think you just turn on a hose and make a floor cold and nowadays, especially on the NHL level, it's a lot different than that," Jones said. "A lot goes into it. It took us quite a few days to build this ice sheet properly with everything you need to do. There's things that are science-based that make ice better."
Jones is now living a dream that wasn't originally part of his plans.
"When I came into Joe Louis as an intern, I was kind of not really versed in hockey," Jones said. "I grew up on the west side of the state and I knew hockey, I watched a little bit of hockey, but I played a lot of baseball. Baseball was my thing. So when I got to hockey, it was kind of a whole new world.
"I love it now. I couldn't think of anything better to be doing than working in the NHL, quite honestly."