The man entrusted to make sure the Fenway Park ice rink is ready to host an NHL game this Friday has been honest all along since arriving in Boston and converting the old ballpark for the 2010 Winter Classic.
“Mother Nature can beat you into the ground, or you can get a glorious day like this and get two days worth of work into it,” said NHL facility operations manager Dan Craig on the sunny and crisp day when the refrigeration truck arrived at Fenway. “We just keep a close eye on it. There’s nothing you can do when it comes to the weather and controlling it. You just roll with it.”
Craig is right. He can’t control if it rains or snows or if it’s warm or cold. All he can do is prepare and adapt. He’s done plenty of the former since the summer, when the NHL announced that Fenway Park would be the host of this marquee event. And he’s had to do plenty of the latter in the past.
“Last year [at Chicago's Wrigley Field], it rained buckets in the two days leading in and it didn’t look good, but we worked through the night and got it done,” Craig recalled. “In 2008 [in Buffalo], well that was an adventure. We had stormy, blizzard-like conditions heading into the event and we learned a lot from that. It was difficult, but we got it done and we took a lot of lessons that I think helped us through last year’s rain and will help this year if we need it.”
As of now, the forecast for New Year’s Day does include snow showers with a high of 35 degrees and low of 27. Snow can make for a beautiful setting, but it can be a pain if it accumulates. That was the case in the 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo.
“You probably loved watching that on TV because you’re right — it looked great and made for a great atmosphere,” Craig said. “But it can be a lot of work if you’re not prepared. Thankfully, we were and we are now.”
Bruins forward Daniel Paille played for the Sabres against the Penguins in that game, and while he said it was difficult to see up ice, the forward said players just need to be more aware of their surroundings.
“You just really pay attention,” Paielle said. “Not that you don’t usually, but you try to sense the play developing more if you can.”
Paille admitted that the surreal scene of Sidney Crosby going in on a shootout was cool for the fans and the game, but obviously it was a little tougher for the players, especially the goalie.
“It was tough to stickhandle at times, so that must have been tough for Crosby and then for Ryan [Miller] to see, I think he struggled a bit,” Paille acknowledged.
But as Paille and Craig pointed out, unless it rains — which is the only weather that could postpone the event — there will be hockey played on Friday. For the players, the fans and everyone else, there won’t be anything that can put a damper on the day.
“You dress warm, you prepare and you go out and play,” Paille said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for most, and I am lucky to be there twice. You just enjoy the moment.”
NESN.com’s James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question each day leading up to the event.
Sunday, Dec. 27: How badly do goaltenders suffer on a cold day in an outdoor game?
Tuesday, Dec. 29: How many tickets were sold to the public?