PHILADELPHIA -- In the crazy world of making ice, where ice doesn’t usually form, surprisingly more is better.
As in, the more people on the temporary sheet of ice at Citizens Bank Park, the better things will be for Monday’s Winter Classic featuring the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers as far as ice magician Dan Craig is concerned.
This is pretty much the opposite of what you might imagine would be the case.
“Absolutely. Dan, he loves it, for him it’s a good thing,” explained Don Renzulli, senior vice president of events for the NHL. "We’re probably going to get more play this year than in any year prior, so he’ll have enough people on the ice that it should be in pristine condition for practices and game day."
While it’s not exactly like a fine wine, Craig explained that the more people use the ice, whether it’s the media who skated and then engaged in some shinny hockey Friday afternoon, or local police officers who played later in the afternoon, the ice actually improves the more it's used.
“It’s tempering is what it is,” Craig told ESPN.com on Friday.
“The more that you skate on it, every skate cut, and then you put hot water back into it, you’re inter-weaving so you get a better density on the sheet of ice, and density is the No. 1 thing that you want,” Craig said.
In terms of the quality of the ice with the Winter Classic still three days away, Craig said he was happy, well, as happy as he ever gets before this game.
The weather, of course, will be a constant backdrop to the Winter Classic story, as it always is.
The bright sun on Friday forced the delay of the media skate and media shinny game Friday as Craig was reluctant to remove the tarps covering the ice surface for fear of melting. And a similar forecast for Saturday led officials to move the much-anticipated game between Philadelphia and New York Rangers alumni back, to a 3 p.m. start, when the sun’s impact will be lessened.
“What’s different about this is we have the alumni game sold out tomorrow, we actually have a police game tonight, so it puts a little bit of stress on everybody on the front side,” Renzulli told ESPN.com. "We had some rain and some winds the other day that probably set us back a little bit, but we’re caught up and we’re not going to totally finish everything off for the alumni game because I want to keep a few things special for our game."
For those wondering what the prospects were for an on-time puck drop on Monday, especially after last year’s persistent rain forced the delay of the game in Pittsburgh, so far so good. Earlier predictions of rain are giving way to a forecast of snow flurries for Monday afternoon.
“We’ve got warm temperatures the next couple of days, it’s supposed to get down in the 40s, and with wind I’m guessing we’ll be in the high-30s game day. And if we get a little snow, that’d be great,” he said.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.