By Matt Calamia
In a perfect world, Mike Craig, the man in charge of constructing the rink and ice at Yankee Stadium for the upcoming Stadium Series games, would have cold temperatures, limited sun and even snow flurries.
“We always ask for some mild — basically right around freezing,” Craig said Wednesday outside Yankee Stadium, as the trucks and equipment arrived in the Bronx just 11 days prior to the drop of the puck between the Rangers and Devils at the first hockey game ever played at the historic baseball venue. “Get a nice, cloudy day. No sun, something like that. If we can get a little bit of snow to fall in there just for the effect, that would be great.”
According to Craig, 12 semi-trucks worth of equipment and supplies for the event arrived at Yankee Stadium. The work has already begun at the famous ballpark in the Bronx, as the rink site has been mapped out on the field.
The Stadium Series presents a new dimension for Craig, his crew of about eight or nine ice workers and the League. Since the inception of the annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, in 2008, the League has held just one NHL game at each location. In New York, the rink will be used for two games.
Craig, though, does not see much changing in terms of additional work.
“We’ve never done it before,” he said. “That’s a different one. I don’t think it’s going to effect us too much. It’s really jus the matter of keeping on top of the weather patterns and making sure we’re able to maintain things to where it’s a great ice sheet out there.”
For the players and fans nothing can dampen the experience of watching hockey at Yankee Stadium — or anywhere outdoors.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to play at Yankee Stadium,” Rangers winger Carl Hagelin said on Wednesday outside the Stadium. “Obviously we’re not going to play there as baseball players, so we can play here as hockey players. Everyone’s excited to get going.”
For Hagelin, these two games will mark his fourth and fifth outdoor games since college, where as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in two outdoor games, including one game at the Big House, the site of the 2014 Winter Classic. Hagelin also played at the 2012 Winter Classic as a rookie.
“I don’t think it’s too much to be honest,” Hagelin said when asked about any adjustments a player must make when playing outdoors. “The puck gets a little bit colder so it bounces around a little bit more, but other than that, you play on your adrenaline and usually you can skate a bit more because of the fresh air.”
Mats Zuccarello, though, will be getting his first taste of outdoor hockey since he was a child.
“I’ve never played outside, so it’s hard for me to say what kind of differences it will be,” Zuccarello said. “I’m just looking forward to being part of it. It’s going to be a nice experience.”
For what it’s worth, the current 10-day forecast has temperatures hovering around 30 degrees leading up to the 26th, with snow expected on the 22nd.
While the Rangers will be focused on their opponents, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders, Craig’s one foe will be the weather, which he hopes will treat everyone well.
“We’ll build it and then we’ll basically rely on Mother Nature to gel us out.”