The man in the above picture is Dan Craig, not to be confused with current James Bond Daniel Craig. Dan (not Daniel) Craig is the NHL's Facility Operations Manager. He's the guy who makes sure NHL teams can not only play games in their home arenas, but also host games at places like Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park. And that look on his face is (probably) not the result of watching the Islanders stumble their way around on the ice during Saturday's 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh.
Craig has been dispatched to Barclays Center in the wake of complaints from more than a few Islanders players about the ice conditions there. On Tuesday night, Kyle Okposo called the ice "awful." Two nights later, John Tavares and Thomas Hickey were among the complainants, calling it "horrendous" and "like skating in mud." Johnny Boychuk talked about the historically sub par ice at Nassau Coliseum being much better during the team's picture day on Friday.
So in comes Dan Craig and his crew to try to improve things before the playoffs (still theoretical at this point) start for Barclays Centers' co-tenants. If you think you're experiencing deja vu, you aren't. Craig was also on hand during the preseason, when the Islanders took their first spins at their new home. At the time, Tavares said the ice was good and Craig said he'd be a frequent visitor to the arena to monitor things and make sure everything was up to snuff.
"I'll be here quite often, more to get a comfort level for the teams coming in, the coaching staffs, the players,'' Craig said. "Just making sure they're paying attention to the small details. All the basics are here.''
Fast forward eight months and the weather in New York is as unpredictable as the Islanders are. Barclays Center isn't the first arena to have bad ice on warmer nights, but with the Islanders still in their first season there and the games growing increasingly more important, getting the ice to an acceptable level is of paramount importance.
"There are plays they would make normally at the offensive blue line that maybe you want to just get a puck in," [coach Jack Capuano] said at practice earlier this week. "I don't want to take away the guys' creativity, but they understand . . . It's not the only rink where it happens. There's a lot of places, whether it's humidity, or something to do with the ice. I know they're trying to do the best they can to make the ice the best for our team to play on."
Anyone old enough to remember the Florida Panthers march to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final probably also remembers the crappy ice at Miami Arena being a key weapon for the upstart expansion team.
In a statement, Barclays Center spokesman Barry Baum said dehumidifiers will be installed as a temporary solution and that the arena is working with the NHL to make things better.
There weren't too many public complaints about the ice earlier in the season at Barclays, where the Islanders have won 25 games. Via Allan Kreda of the New York Times:
They have clearly discovered how to win in Brooklyn despite the ice problems, although defenseman Johnny Boychuk said Friday that the substandard playing surface had often forced alterations in the team's style.
"The ice is soft, the puck jumps everywhere and there are ruts," he said. "You have to change the way you play because the puck can bounce anywhere. I know the N.H.L. is looking into it. They want it to be better, and so do we."
You'd think the Islanders would be a little more grateful. A scoop of Raspberry Pink Peppercorn sorbet at Oddfellows Ice Cream in Williamsburg costs an arm and a leg. The players get to skate on something similar for free.