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The Malik Report

The Winter Classic’s ice surface is in good, grumpy hands

During my time spent at hockey rinks, I've learned that the best facilities managers--i.e. the men in charge of making ice--are equal parts artists, alchemists, perfectionists, most definitely workaholics, and especially curmudgeons. Al Sobotka, the man in charge of Joe Louis Arena's ice surface, most certainly fits that bill, and tonight, Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika reveals that the man in charge of the ice surface at Michigan Stadium's a man after Sobotka's heart:

Millions will watch on television across the United States and Canada. More than 100,000 will come to Michigan Stadium, almost certainly setting a world record for hockey attendance. CF-18 fighter jets will fly overhead. The Zac Brown Band, Mayer Hawthorne and The Tenors will perform. The Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Winter Classic.

At the center of the spectacle will be this: an inch and a half of ice, atop less than a quarter of an inch of aluminum flooring, atop a chemical solution pumped from a refrigeration trailer, where the temperature can be tuned to within half a degree.

“Everything revolves around that,” said Dan Craig, standing in a fourth-floor club area of the Big House, looking down through a window, literally overseeing the construction of the rink below. “If that doesn’t happen, everything else goes out of orbit.”

Craig is the NHL’s senior director of facilities operations, better known as its ice guru – “for lack of a better term,” he laughed. That means everything revolves around him. If he doesn’t do his job, it affects the players, coaches, fans and countless others. Hockey is a game of inches, and it is played on a surface of inches, and at the highest level it doesn’t matter if the game is indoors or out, if it’s a routine night or special event.

“It’s a regular-season game,” said Craig, wearing a scruffy beard, insulated overalls and work boots, “and that’s where the stress is.”

Cotsonika continues at extended length, and his article's definitely worth your time.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.