Meet Dan Craig, the NHL’s man to build outdoor rinks for the Stadium Series

Stadium Series
Workers build the rink for the 2014 Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium.
Credit: Getty Images

As the NHL embarks on its ambitious plan to grow the game — and revenues — by expanding the number of outdoor games exponentially, Dan Craig has been tasked with overseeing the conversion of football and baseball stadiums into hockey rinks.

It is a bold undertaking, one that has made Craig, the NHL’s senior director of facility operations, among the league’s most indispensable executives.

“We go on the road with eight to 10 trucks, and that’s what [we’re] put together to do,” Craig told Metro New York by phone from Los Angeles, where he and his team of eight have been transforming Dodger Stadium into a hockey rink for the Jan. 25 Anaheim Ducks-Los Angeles Kings Stadium Series game.

“[The work is going] well.”

And make no mistake, it is work. Craig estimates it takes his crew eight to 10 days to turn a stadium into a hockey rink, which includes the creation of ice, constructing the board and glass, and platforms for musical acts. The NHL trucks in the ice, boards and glass — “Everything that people find in a normal ice rink, we have in a 53-foot trailer” — and then Craig and his team begin the process of building a hockey rink.

“It’s not just the hockey rink, there are a lot of entertainment elements that have to come in,” Craig said. “[It takes] 48 hours to set up before we start making ice and [then it’s] three, maybe four, days of building ice before we can even put in our lines. Mother Nature sometimes challenges us and we build ourselves [some] bonus time, so that’s why it usually takes eight to 10 days.”

Outside of a Rangers-Kings exhibition game at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, 1991, the NHL has attempted to hold its outdoor games in markets where the weather is more conducive to hockey.

The Los Angeles Stadium Series game could be categorized as an experiment to see if a so-called nontraditional marketplace could successfully host an outdoor game.

“If [a nontraditional market is] where the commissioner decides that’s where we’re going to have the game, that’s what we do. And they tell us to come in at a certain time and we set everything up and away we go,” Craig said. “The elements are going to be a little different. The elements are going to challenge you. Right now I’ve got a bright, blue sky here, bright sunshine so… we’re [going] to start up this afternoon and become like hermits and work in the dark.

“When we were in Philadelphia [for the 2012 Winter Classic] we were [at Citizens Bank Park] at six o’clock or seven o’clock in the morning and we could only work until about 10, and then we had to put tarps on top of the ice surface. It’s the same element there. It doesn’t matter where you are, the sun really affects how we make a sheet of ice. We were in Calgary [for the 2011 Heritage Classic] where it was minus-20 and minus-19, and the sun was hitting the boards and melting the ice against the side of the boards, so it doesn’t matter what you try to do. When you have a bright, sunny day, you might as well put blankets on the surface, [put] your feet up and get a little shut-eye.”

The sheer volume of outdoor games the NHL is attempting to play this season has increased Craig’s workload.

Until this year, the most outdoor games the league held in a single season was two in 2010-11. This season, the NHL has scheduled six. The Winter Classic on Jan. 1 was both a critical and commercial success. The NHL has four Stadium Series games, including the Jan. 26 and Jan. 29 Stadium Series Rangers-Devils and Rangers-Islanders games at Yankee Stadium and the March 2 Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver.

Unlike the Winter Classic, where he and his entire team were able to prepare Michigan Stadium and Comerica Park for the events, Craig monitors the progress at Yankee Stadium through text messages and email.

“It’s just that [you know] exactly what’s going on,” Craig said. “It [gives you] an ability to hopefully get four or five hours sleep instead of waking up every couple hours and coming down to the stadium to check on things. So that’s what [modern communication tools] really lets us do — be able to go out for coffee and not worry about any of that type of stuff.”

Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…