Preparations for the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS, SN) are on schedule.
Mike Craig, senior manager of facilities operations/hockey operations for the NHL who is overseeing the rink build, said his crew will work over the weekend before taking a break for Christmas.
“We had high expectations for us to be making ice by 6 p.m. [Thursday] and we were basically right on track,” Craig said Friday. “So, we’ll continue to do that today. We have very good weather for that, nice cloud cover, cool day today, so we’ll continue to build ice and get ready as we go.”
The weather in South Bend, where the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will play outdoors at the iconic home of the Fighting Irish football team, was cloudy with a temperature of 36 degrees on Friday.
Craig said once his crew resumes work after Christmas, it will put the finishing touches on the rink. The Bruins and Blackhawks are each scheduled to practice at the stadium on Dec. 31.
“We do very fine layers at a time,” Craig said. “We’ll flood the ice between 200 and 220 times between now and practice day. By the time we’re done we’ll have [ice] about 2 1/4-inch thick. Because it’s temporary, we do it thicker. It’s just a different environment, gives us a little more control.”
Craig said preparing for the NHL’s 12th Winter Classic and 26th regular-season outdoor game has been an enjoyable process.
“It’s a great setting,” Craig said of Notre Dame Stadium. “Even last night, as we started making ice, it’s a special time when the building’s nice and quiet. It’s a great venue and everyone here’s been fantastic to work with.”