[Editor's Note: As the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins practiced outdoors for the first time, Dan Craig, NHL Facilities Operations Manager, updated the ice conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The construction of the rink began Dec. 23 following the Buffalo Bills' game.]
What is your last-minute evaluation of the ice conditions?
Because of the snow last night, it took us about an hour to clean the surface up, dress it up really well. The surface temperature is right at 23-1/2, 24 degrees and we are moving forward.
So you are within two degrees of ideal?
Yes. The weather changed from this morning, and within the hour it changed again. So now we are really learning what our machinery can do to react -- and how quickly it reacts.
What about the forecast for additional snow and possible significant winds, How does that affect your preparation for tomorrow?
The winds aren’t really going to affect us because we have taken precautions on the boards and glass. There is cable up on the tall glass, so everything is going to be held in place very securely. As to the snow, we will come back in tomorrow morning and we will do what we did today, and just stay on top of it. The machines are ready to go. Every hour is what the game plan is right now.
If there is snow, and it does accumulate, what is the procedure for removing it? Is it shoveling? Is it Zamboni-ing? How do you deal with that over the night?
Well over the night, it’s just going out there with the Zams and going back out there. With the wind, it (the snow) goes right along the wall. So it’s really easy to take one pass with the machine along the outside wall and we pick up ninety percent of it.
What happens when snow hits the ice?
Well, if we are resurfacing at the time, it will freeze back on top of what we have already done. But once it (the ice) is frozen, it (the snow) will just blow straight across, just like it blows the snow across the highway.
If it snows during the game tomorrow, how will you evaluate things?
We have eight people here on the ice crew. We will probably have four people on skates, and I will be on skates, and we will make sure everything is taken care of all around the rink.
Is it conceivable that the crews will be dispatched to clear snow even when it’s not a TV stoppage?
I will be talking to the officials constantly and keeping in eye contact with them, and the on-ice officials will make the call to myself to see if it is something that we can come out and do quickly, like in thirty seconds. I know that if there is a little issue we will be able to take care of it.