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Posted at 7:37 AM ET, 12/24/2010

Winter Classic conversion begins for Capitals, Penguins at Heinz Field

By Cindy Boren

When the Pittsburgh Steelers' home game Thursday night ended, Heinz Field belonged to Dan Craig.

He's the NHL guy in charge of making a stadium morph into an outdoor hockey rink for the annual New Year's Day Winter Classic. This year, he has a little tighter turnaround, facing a noon Dec. 30 deadline for the game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Craig and his crew will build equipment roadways and platforms, put down miles of tubing and use 3,000 gallons of coolant and 20,000 gallons of water...with all the work proceeding outdoors. And Craig, who has done the ice for previous Winter Classics, knows that each venue is different.

"I did watch it as a fan, but it's one of those things where there are patches on the ground that I was watching within the field and I was watching the way the snow was swirling," Craig of the Steelers' game last Sunday. "You take record of it. You say, 'Okay, that's what is happening at this end zone and that end zone,' but until you stand there and really are able to work with it you [don't] get a true appreciation."

The process is complex. Craig will get a BlackBerry message every 15 minutes; something called Eye on the Ice will send updates on whether the ice is too cold, too warm or just right.

While the crew puts down roadways and builds a 15-inch-high stage and panels to contain coolant, the refrigeration truck, which was a special guest star at the Pens-Caps game Thursday night at Verizon Center, will travel to Pittsburgh. By Christmas night, there should be ice. Lines and logos will be painted on Tuesday, with another inch of ice added after that.

By Cindy Boren  | December 24, 2010; 7:37 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Winter Classic  
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