“Each has been unique,” Craig says of the games he has staged. “You can start when we did Buffalo. We ran the gauntlet on every weather element possible. We’ve gone from extreme cold in Edmonton and Calgary to really warm weather in Philadelphia and rain in Pittsburgh. There’s always a pride factor, but you are always conscious of reality. The No. 1 thing we bring forward is player safety.”
Now You Know: Almost a quarter of the NHL’s 30 teams are based in warm-weather states Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The Kings franchise was part of the NHL’s first outdoor game in 1991, a preseason contest held in the parking lot of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The game-time temperature was 80 degrees, and grasshoppers kept jumping on the ice. Bugs will be the least of Craig’s concerns for the game in L.A., which he doesn’t view as anything other than a “typical” outdoor hockey affair. The game will take place at night, when the average temperature dips to about 48 degrees — better for making and maintaining ice.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t do it here,” Craig says of Los Angeles. “It goes back to whether Mother Nature will allow you to do it. The rink will be covered during the day with a specialized tarp to go over it every morning. At no time will we work when the sun is on the [ice] surface.”
Craig and his highly trained crew have taken several scouting trips to Dodger Stadium to prepare, and the custom-built refrigeration truck that is being constructed for the Winter Classic game in Michigan between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings will hit the road for L.A. after that contest.
“I’ve wandered the whole facility,” Craig says. “I need to know every element about it — where the wind blows, where the sun hits, where the trucks will park. There are always little quirky things, but this one is a fairly straight run.”