After four highly successful outdoor games, the Blackhawks are up next.
The Hawks will host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, March 1, at Soldier Field trying to duplicate the success of the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, and the first three Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium, the Rangers and Devils at Yankee Stadium and the Rangers and Islanders at Yankee Stadium.
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On Tuesday, the refrigeration truck arrived on the lakefront to begin the process of constructing the rink.
The 53-foot trailer houses the state-of-the-art ice-making and ice-monitoring equipment used to create an NHL-caliber sheet of ice.
NHL ice guru Dan Craig will oversee the making of the ice and construction of the rink.
Chicago weather at this time of year can be unpredictable, but Craig and his crew members have quite a few prior experiences to pull from, including the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.
"I think a lot of our guys are very much aware of what we're going to be up against," Craig said. "We're watching the weather 10 to 14 days out now, and as you can see, we're almost 40 degrees and in three or four days we're going to be back down into the mid-20s again. So you wake up in the morning and whatever Mother Nature gives you, you deal with it."
Craig joked that in Los Angeles he wore a T-shirt while building the rink.
"Well, I was in L.A. and it was 84," Craig said. "I don't think we're going to hit 84 in Chicago anytime soon."
Snow is a different story. It could snow since we're in the midst of one of the snowiest winters in Chicago history.
"Michigan was probably as hard as we've wanted to deal with (removing snow)" Craig said. "That's what our crew is there for. There's a lot of times we have 10 or 12 guys there and people wonder why we have that many.
"Well, with a day like that, that's why we have that many, so we can carry on the game. It's within the time frame that we want it to be; everybody has a great time and the game is fantastic."
Still, the unpredictable climate here is sure to test Craig and his crew.
"Moving forward, that's what I told our crew when we selected everybody, is this season basically tells us where we're going to go and what we're going to do in the future," Craig said. "This is what it's about. We want to bring the game back outdoors where it belongs. We love it. Players love it. This is what we want to do."
Hawks ambassador Tony Esposito also was on hand Tuesday and marveled at the Craig's work.
"The thing that amazes me is the quality (of ice) they get, because the conditions vary so much," Esposito said. "You could be in 10 degrees or in 50 degrees, so you have to give the ice crew a lot of credit to be able to maintain that ice for such a quality product."
Craig also set up the rink at Wrigley Field and now he's back at another iconic venue in Soldier Field, adding it to the list that also includes Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
"Being the sports person I am, it's very unique to be involved in these facilities, especially growing up in western Canada," Craig said. "Never mind being in a place, but working in a place and basically living there for three weeks, knowing every nook and cranny of every iconic facility that we're in, to me, it's amazing to be put in that position."
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