Dan Craig will play a key role in determining whether the NHL’s first outdoor game in Southern California is a success or a failure. Craig is the league’s ice-making guru, the man responsible for setting up and maintaining a rink for the Kings-Ducks game Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium. Past outdoor games have featured snow and rain and even unexpected sun that threatened to turn the ice surface into mush. That’s all been preparation for playing a game in the warmth of Southern California. Everything Craig and his crew have learned from staging games in places like Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will be put to the test when the Kings and Ducks take the ice at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25.
Craig spoke confidently Thursday about pulling it all together.
“This is a very unique setting,” he said. “For us, it’s knowing it will not work during the day. Everybody that’s coming on the crew knows they’re working from 6 or 7 at night until 6 o’clock the next morning. We cover the (ice) sheet up and we’ll go to bed and come back the next day and do it all over again. … We had the rain in Pittsburgh and we were about 58 degrees. We were at 60 degrees in Philly. So, I know with the sun going down we drop down into the low 50s (in Los Angeles) at that time of year.”
Craig said he’ll have an initial crew of 12 about two weeks before the game that will grow to 40 or more as the date approaches and then back to 12 on game day. The ice-making plant will be located behind the center-field fence, with lines heading straight for the rink. The rink itself will run from first base to third with the center faceoff dot roughly at second base. The Kings will use the Dodgers’ clubhouse and the Ducks will be in the visitors’ locker room. The teams will each practice on the rink the day before the game.
Said Craig: “Whenever we do an event, we try to get both teams in(to the stadium for a practice) generally around the same time we’ll be playing the game so they get a feel of the stadium, they get a feel for the air and whatever lighting is out here. You get shadows. You get (different) depth perception. It’s totally different because in behind the nets, in behind the boards, there’s nothing there compared to being in a normal rink. That’s a depth perception issue. We want to make sure guys are (aware) before they step out there, OK, this is what you’re going to feel, this is what you’re going to see. We’ve gone through it. We’ve discussed all those issues with all the clubs.”