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|Date of Release: Dec 29, 2008|
|Type of Release: Public Relations|
|Category: Conference Call Transcript|
Conference Call Transcript - Dan Craig 12.29.08
An interview with:
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Schuyler Baehman of the NHL's communication's department. Hope everybody is well. With us today is Dan Craig. He's the NHL's facility operations manager, more commonly known as the league's ice guru. We're here at Wrigley Field today for the final stages of preparation for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings New Year's Day 1:00 eastern time on NBC. With that, I'd like to open it up for Q&A for Dan.
Q. A couple of people have asked me, how did you become an ice maker and where you're from?
DAN CRAIG: You're writing my biography (laughter)?
DAN CRAIG: I started off in Jasper, Alberta, coming out of high school. I was in high school when I first started driving the Zamboni. From there, I went just into British Columbia for a little bit, into northern Alberta, for seven and a half years. I did the ice there. In fact, we had two arenas. Swimming pool, parks department, all together. I had a gentleman at one point tell me, Dan, you might as well pick one. Hockey was mine. From there we ended up in Edmonton.
Q. What could you have done if it wasn't hockey?
DAN CRAIG: Probably still be in aquatics somewhere, the unfrozen water.
Then, into Edmonton in '87. Then to the National Hockey League in '97.
Q. Do you study to be an ice maker? How does that work? Is it trial and error when you start out?
DAN CRAIG: When I started out, it was definitely trial and error. But now there are classes all over the country, both in the U.S. and in Canada, especially the hockey states and hockey provinces, really big classes in different colleges and universities.
Q. We're going to do a story on the contingency plans at Wrigley. First of all, your thoughts, if it's too hot, what is the cutoff and where do you go from there with the ice?
DAN CRAIG: That's a question that I'm on the phone every day with Colin Campbell, and he's talking to Gary Bettman. They're always analyzing the weather as well as I'm analyzing the weather. They do it on a different level than what I do. You know, I tell them where my comfort level is as to how the equipment can function. That's why we have the equipment that we have today with, you know, 300 tons of refrigeration hooked up with six?inch mains onto an aluminum panel floor which reacts very quickly. Those are the things that as we go forward we analyze on a day?to?day basis.
Q. So is there like a cutoff temperature?
DAN CRAIG: No. As of right now there isn't a cutoff temperature. That's the thing, it's the same as where, you know, I think when we did the Heritage Classic, there was a cutoff temperature that we had kind of a line in the sand type of thing that we couldn't go any colder. There we were, we were below what our target was. Everybody was good with it, so we just kept on going.
Q. Is there one thing you fear more, like a blizzard versus a heat wave, a scenario that's worse than the other?
DAN CRAIG: Well, I've been here for 12 days and I've had everything: minus five, minus six degrees Fahrenheit, and 58 yesterday, and the day before was pouring rain. So I felt like I was in a typhoon. We had six inches of snow on the ice about eight days before that. So we've run the gamut on this one.
So I think Mother Nature has tested us as good as she can test us. The team that we put together is still standing and smiling and ready to go.
Q. How do you assess the ice quality right now as we speak? What can you do different in building this than you did in Buffalo?
DAN CRAIG: What we did different in this one, it's really the equipment that's different in this one here. What we had in Buffalo was a mat system. We had a very limited timeframe to work. We had a big crown in the field in Buffalo. So there was a whole different set of parameters that we had to work with.
The NHL went out and purchased the equipment and purchased this aluminum floor for the very reason that it is a quick?reacting floor that can, you know, endure the elements.
Right now the guys will be finished painting the floor by 4:00 this afternoon. Everything will be sealed up. Then they'll continue sealing during the night and we'll be ready to skate tomorrow.
Q. How does the ice look in terms of its quality?
DAN CRAIG: I feel good. We had a good base before we went away for Christmas. We had a little bit of a challenge when we came back because there was snow in it. We had to kind of fight our way through. We got through that. It took us about 10 to 12 hours to kind of get through that little portion. Then right now we've got our cart out here that we spray with. We're not going to put the Zams out there until tomorrow morning. So we'll be building another half to three?quarters of an inch.
Q. Buffalo last year there were two patches near the benches that gave you a problem. Will this aluminum floor solve that?
DAN CRAIG: Not only will it solve that, what we did there, there were two issues we did with the aluminum floor. We spread the stress out a lot further. Within the panel itself, we did an extra bracing strip because where those patches were is where the Zamboni goes along the boards. It has to go in that exact same spot every single trip. That's where we really had our problems because of the way the machine is breaking things down.
Q. This is a slightly maybe off?the?wall question, but given the advances in refrigeration equipment and everything, the technology, would it be possible to do something like this in California?
DAN CRAIG: Are you trying to challenge me (laughter)?
Q. Take it however you want.
DAN CRAIG: That's the thing, once we get this equipment up and running and dialed in exactly what we need to do. I can say, yes, we can do it. I'm sure you've seen on the news down there, down in Burbank, they have an ice sheet down on the beach.
The biggest thing is that we could do it, but we would have to put a canopy over the top of it. Even on the news clip, you could see there was standing water on the top surface. Even though they call it ice, it definitely would not be to our quality. So we have to get the direct sunlight off of it, which really causes us a problem, especially in the warmer climates.
Q. But theoretically it could be done if ever anybody got mobilized and really pushed for it?
DAN CRAIG: I will never say never because when I started with the National Hockey League 10 years ago, nobody told me that I'd be doing a hockey rink in Wrigley Field.
Q. If it's a bright, sunny day like it is today, will it have any effect on how the game is played? Will one team be looking into the sun? Will there be shading on the ice, anything like that?
DAN CRAIG: You know, it's the same as the weather situation: that's a Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman question. They'll be in direct communication with the Players Association just to see how and when they would handle that.
Q. In terms of?
DAN CRAIG: You know, that's the thing. My job is to make sure that the ice is the best as it can be for the players. I leave it up to the powers to be to make decisions on when and how the guys skate.
Q. There's a general perception out there that cold is equated with good ice, so one goes hand?in?hand with the other. Is that perception well?founded or is it a myth?
DAN CRAIG: Definitely well?founded. Really the challenges are going to be where the air interfaces with the ice surface itself. The cooler it is, the better efficiency we're going to get out of our system. The warmer it is right at that surface, the tougher that system has to work.
That's why if you go into some of our buildings around the National Hockey League, when you open the doors, because they're in a warmer climate, they will push at 56, 57 degrees because they know they're going to be 62, 63 by the time we drop the puck. They cool the building off as much as they possibly can so the interface on the ice surface is a lot better.
Q. So humidity is a big factor here?
DAN CRAIG: Obviously, yeah. We've known that. That's been definitely in the forefront of everything that we do. That's why we take a look, down in Florida and places like that, they go out and spend four, five million dollars on dehumidification up in the corner rafters that you never see.
Q. I'd like to ask you if it's your fault that we all freeze our rear?ends off when we go to hockey games.
DAN CRAIG: I'll say yes (laughter). I'll take ownership of that.
Q. What is the first rink you ever made?
DAN CRAIG: Outdoors?
DAN CRAIG: First rink I ever made outdoors was in Bonnyville, Alberta, in my little backyard for one son that's with me and one that unfortunately has family obligations that couldn't be here with us on this trip. But for both of the boys out in my backyard out in Bonnyville.
Q. Have you ever had a disaster? What's the worst thing that can happen when a guy is trying to make the outdoor ice? Has it ever happened to you?
DAN CRAIG: Outdoors?
DAN CRAIG: No. But I've had a disaster indoors.
Q. What happened?
DAN CRAIG: With a similar situation, with a similar mat system we used last year. In 1997, my very first gig with the National Hockey League.
'97, if you take a look back, we were in Japan. We had about three and a half minutes to go. And that was a very, very tough challenge for us to have ice in the old Yoyogi Arena, which was a rink over the top of a swimming pool. In fact, it was Mark Messier, and I don't know who was with him, who was checking him, they went along the boards, and a big chunk of ice came out. Their skates hit the line, and I had a nice glycol spray up on top of the glass. We still had three and a half minutes to play. We finished the game.
Q. I assume you can deal with temperature change. You did in Edmonton. You did what you could do with the snow last year. If it rains during the game, is there anything you can do to mitigate the damage that falling water would do to your surface?
DAN CRAIG: Falling water isn't going to do damage to the surface. Unless we have a torrential downpour like we had the other night, it's not going to affect us at all because it's going to freeze almost as instantly as it hits.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: I'd like to thank everybody for joining us today and thanks to Dan for sharing a little bit of his valuable time. Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
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