Dan Craig’s Miracle: The 2021 NHL Winter Classic

Today holds a special place in the hearts of hockey fans everywhere. 41 years ago today, the hockey world was stunned when a group of college kids beat the Soviet Union at Lake Placid, and would eventually take gold.

Over the weekend, we got to witness a miracle as well. Through unrivaled determination, an absurd amount of hard work, and the dream of making something special, we were able to witness the beauty and grace that was the 2021 NHL Winter Classic.

Not only did we get to play a game, we got to see two very interesting matchups. On Saturday, we got to see two Stanley Cup contenders, with the Avalanche and Knights facing off. Although the game was in question after a very long delay due to poor conditions, we did get a full game.

On Sunday, we had the beasts of the east battle for important points in their division; The Bruins and Flyers faced off for a high scoring affair, although I think some Flyers fan might have welcomed a postponement after the Bruins laid a 7-3 beat down on them.

Rewind to October 2020, and the NHL postponed the Winter Classic that was to take place at Target Field in Minneapolis, due to the ongoing COVID crisis. As was the feeling of most things at the time (and still are), we were uncertain if we would get the spectacle that is the Winter Classic.

Not only is it the perfect opportunity to see the game in its purest form, but we get to see NHL players play the game they love, outside, like many of them did as kids. Way before thinking about the NHL, or even dating, it was the outdoor rink that gave players salvation.

There is one man who should get a lot of credit who many of us never heard of; Dan Craig. Craig has been head of the NHL’s VP of Facility Operations, and along with Derek King, who personally oversaw the construction of the rink on the 18th green, the vision the NHL had became a reality.

NHL.com reported, “If you ask the question, ‘Can we do this?’ Whatever [this] is, I’m always going to say yes,” Craig said. “I know there’s going to be challenges, but yes. Can we do it? Yes. Don’t ever ask the question. ‘Can you do it?’ Yeah. We will make it happen.”

This is the perfect showcase of what the NHL and the sport of hockey stand for. When there is a problem or obstacle(s) in the way, there is a way to overcome it, just as we saw with the playoff bubble last year. It is because of the determination and precise execution of people like Craig and King, that we are able to enjoy such wonderful spectacles. Whether it is finding a way to finish the year, or creating one of the most visually stunning and breathtaking venues in NHL history, someone, somehow, will find a way.

CFTP — Kevin

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