In NHL circles Dan Craig is known simply as the ‘ice guru.’ He is the one man responsible for ice conditions in the entire NHL and evidently the only man in the entire league able to grasp and retain the vital recipe of cold and water (six year program at Dartmouth).
For the third straight year, Craig is in charge of ice-making duties (I said “dootie”) for the league’s Winter Classic, being held at Boston’s beloved and historic baseball shrine, Fenway Park (they have a perfectly good TD Gardens just down the street, but I suppose that would be too easy).
On Dec. 10, Craig and his team (12 workers, three Sherpas and an old Inuit woman who knits hats) began construction of the portable outdoor rink that will play host to the Flyers and Bruins New Year’s Day on Fenway’s venerable infield. It is estimated between 38,000 and 40,000 will see the game live in person with an additional 45 billion (stats brought to you by the NHL) set to watch the broadcast on TV. To say Dan Craig’s job is important to the credibility of the NHL would be an understatement (Craig’s family is “in seclusion;” read: held hostage).
Following is a moment-by-moment account of a day-in-the-life of Dan Craig, ice chief extraordinaire and admitted cold-hearted man.
5:12 a.m. – Woke up in downtown Boston Super 8 (thanks frugal NHL); terribly uncomfortable. Heat in room sweltering. Must have been 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
5:18 – Showered. Water pressure strong, temperature warm. Complained to front desk.
5:37 – Phone interview with WBZ. Went well until interviewer asked about the potential thrill of working with Judi Dench. Confused.
5:48 – Answered email. Massachusetts Institute of Technology requests keynote speech on the magic of the modern Slushie. Viagra ad looks promising.
6:00 – Meet ice-making team in hotel lobby. Group hug. Last warmth of the day.
6:20 – Breakfast. Eggs and sausage. Toast cold. Feels like home.
6:55 – Arrival at Fenway Park. Suddenly feel like bratwurst.
7:10 – Appeared live on Today Show. Hosts had never heard of (a) the ice-making occupation; (b) Jasper, Alta.; (c) the National Hockey League.
7:42 – Discussed proper pronunciation of word “toque.” One crewmember convinced it was too-kay.
7:44 – Impromptu batting practice. Couldn’t whack anything past second base since my bat was cracked and my balls were too cold. Crew laughs.
8:12 – No water. Hoses frozen. Good sign.
8:27 – Delegate erection of end boards. Delegate erection of side boards. Crew laughs. Strange bunch.
9:18 – Commissioner Gary Bettman phones for progress report. Mentions possibility of holding Winter Classic in Phoenix next season, possibly Tampa. Apparently serious.
10:22 – Ice-making piping laid out in the shape of a dragon. Bunny was last year’s choice.
10:47 – Zamboni race. Finish 2nd.
11:14 – Nap.
11:52 – Mayor of Boston arrives for site tour and photo op. Loves the layout and mentions that he loved Casino Royale.
12:13 – Check weather conditions. Not sure why.
12:29 – Problem with vital rink base layer. Only 63,000 popsicles available in greater Boston area and only in strawberry.
12:32 – 4,500 additional popsicles being FedExed overnight from New York City (orange).
12:41 – Snowball fight.
12:47 – Blueline ice painters arrive. Red line ice painters stuck in traffic. Faceoff painters still at hotel.
1:02 – Bettman phones back. Requests slope in ice favouring Flyers.
1:34 – Team meeting and update. Mound at third base now level. Decision made to add additional six-inch base layer of sand in left field. Hear best Tiger Woods joke yet.
2:00 – Head to O’Toole’s for late lunch. Order tuna melt, although snapper looks good. Crew laughs.
2:20 – Request Scotch and soda.
2:23 – Drink arrives.
2:24 – Drink sent back. Cubes too small.
2:25 – New drink arrives.
2:25 – Drink sent back. Cubes kind of pointy.
2:27 – New drink arrives.
2:27 – Drink sent back. Too many cubes.
2:28 – New drink arrives.
2:29 – Drink sent back. Feel like coffee.
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