Ice guru to face off with Calgary climate

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

CALGARY - The Iceman cometh.

By Wednesday night, a 53-foot truck will pull into Calgary and park at McMahon Stadium.

Thursday morning, Dan Craig -- the NHL's ice guru -- will be pulling on his coveralls and getting to work preparing the surface for the 2011 Heritage Classic Feb. 20 between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens.

With the weather given to change every few minutes, the Albertan is keeping his eye on what he'll be dealing with.

"I watch the long-term weather forecast quite closely," the NHL's facilities operations manager said during a conference call from Saskatoon, where the league's mobile ice truck made one of its final appearances on the cross-Canada tour.

"If I was going to pick an ideal temperature for us to have our game in, it would be minus-5, minus-6."

As luck would have it, that's the expected high for the big event. But with no idea what he'll be facing between now and then, Craig is prepared for anything.

Awaiting him Thursday is a sand-box base already prepared because of the extreme cold in the city the past week.

"This one's even going to be different than we've done in any of the others," said the man who has been in charge of all the league's outdoor games since the NHL phenomenon started in 2003 with the original Heritage Classic in Edmonton.

"Just because of the unpredictability of the weather there, we just thought it would be better for us to put sand and moisturize it.

"We figured that would be an easier way to go than spend a day putting down our styrofoam deck when we got there." Plywood and panels filled with coolant will be stacked atop the sand, and the flooding will begin.

"It's going to be a very fast sheet of ice," promised Craig, who had to deal with rainy conditions for the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field and now moves to the dry and elevated air of the Stampede City. He should know. The Jasper native was making the ice in Edmonton when that city was known for its fast surfaces.

Taking it outdoors in Calgary offers more of a challenge -- just look at the weather dips and rises the last couple of weeks -- but he's up to it.

"You're talking about 40-degree change in two days," Craig said.

"When you wake up in the morning, you put on your coveralls and you go to work and you make things happen."

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