NHL Stadium Series: “Mr. Freeze” in the State of Hockey

Minnesota's first outdoor NHL ice rink made possible by "The Ice Guru"

History will be made in Minnesota on Sunday, as the NHL Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium will be the first outdoor NHL game in the state’s history.

A credit given to a man known as “The Ice Guru.”

While the match-up between the Wild and Blackhawks will feature some of the NHL’s best players, the biggest star won’t be taking the ice, his job is already done.

Making ice, to many, it may sound simple. But to Dan Craig, it is an art form, a livelihood.

“We leave the hotel right about 6 in the morning and the day crew wasn’t getting back until about 7:30 at night,” Craig said.

For the last 11 days, Craig and his team have been spending every waking minute putting together the rink at TCF Bank Stadium.

Craig has been a part of all 17 outdoor NHL games dating back to 2003, setting up in different climates like Canada, Boston, and even in California. Nut now, he gets to bring the game back to where it belongs, the state of hockey.
“This is what they live for. So to put their professional team out there on a rink, outdoors, let’s go, let’s play on!”

While playing a game of this magnitude outdoors already presents its challenges, weather plays a huge role in the way the ice comes together.

“We’ve had some pretty cold stretches here, and we have had some pretty long nights and fortunately for us the last couple of days kind of backed down a little bit,” Craig said.

The biggest challenge facing Craig and his team is the sun.

“The sun really effects our logos, so if the sun breaks out, we’ll cover up our logos as long as we can and then just hand scrape them and get a little water onto it if that is what it is”

Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has played in two of outdoor games and says the ice is good to go!

“It’s pretty good, a little soft in some spots, but I think it is going to be a little colder tomorrow.”

The 22,000 gallon ice surface is managed by a refrigeration system which pumps coolant called glycol through thousands of feet of hoses to help remove heat, keeping the ice at a stable 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ironically, the air temperature can get to be too cold for optimal ice conditions.

“When it gets cold that’s when it kind of chips up and it’s a little bit tougher to play your game,” said Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews.

Craig says that the ideal air temperature is close to freezing

“If you can run anywhere from 28 to 32, to 34 degrees outside, without any sunshine I’d think that’s your ideal,” Craig said.

The good news for Craig and his team is that the sunshine and temperatures won’t be an issue Sunday. The forecast looks a bit gloomy with a rain snow mix and temperatures in the upper 30s at puck drop.

The stadium series game right on KDLT at 2:30 Sunday.