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Ice, Ice, Baby
They call Dan Craig, 54, the Ice Man and his masterpiece is the Icehouse. No, it’s not a luxury igloo. It’s a customized truck loaded with computers, compressors and coolant pipes that make it possible for a baseball field to transform into a hockey rink.
As facilities operations manager for the National Hockey League, Craig is in charge of rink and arena conditions year-round. The Winter Classic is a single outdoor game played on New Year’s Day. The rink has to be constructed in days. Enter the Icehouse, a 53-foot trailer, that was created specifically for the event.
Fenway Park in Boston was the 2010 site. The first was held at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year’s Day 2008 using a rental truck.
“Because of the size of the equipment we needed and knowing that Buffalo was a major success and not knowing where we were going to set up in the future, we decided it would be to our betterment if we went out and built our own truck,” says Craig.
This giant freezer on wheels travels with two small Zambonis, the materials for the decking and other rink components. It takes 3,000 gallons of coolant, 20,000 gallons of water and 350 gallons of paint to turn a baseball field into a world-class hockey venue in four days.
“We start with the tarp, then we put on the armor deck. Then we put down our aluminum panels and then we hook the pipes up off the aluminum floor back to the truck,” Craig says. “Coolant is piped into the deck panels before we start sealing it with a very fine spray. And then we put on at least an inch of ice before we paint it white.”
Craig feels gleeful when he sees the result. “It’s not even the rink itself. It’s the pleasure of seeing guys play our game at the highest level out there. It’s great to see that sparkle in their eyes. It takes us back to our grassroots. It takes us back to where the game started.”
In April, the Icehouse will get another job, creating a rink for the college hockey championships, NCAA’s Frozen Four in Detroit.