Players and fans walking into the MTS Iceplex may see a Zamboni cleaning and flooding the ice on one of the four rinks. They likely never give any thought as to how the ice got there in the first place. On a recent afternoon, operations manager Doug Neubauer gave Coffee a lesson on the art and science of making ice.
Neubauer tried to keep his clinic simple for a neophyte. The process begins each year by washing the concrete surface. The refrigeration process is started and the floor is cooled to 16 degrees. Next, a mist of water is dropped from a cart with nozzles that is pulled around the rink 15 to 20 times by a tractor to get a good bond. The ice at that point is about 1/8 of an inch thick. Next, a combination of water and white paint goes down to get the white surface. That is sealed with cold water and ice is built to 1/4 inch. The lines and logos are then painted in.
Neubauer emphasized that the ability to make and maintain excellent ice at the Iceplex is a result of teamwork. The team includes six members with refrigeration training, an ice crew of eight and five part-time workers who drive the Zambonis and do other work. The first shift begins at 7:20 a.m. and most days a crew is working until around midnight. Each rink at the Iceplex is different, so the team has to know how to deal with the specific issues they face. He said that they can access the expertise of MTS Centre manager of ice operations Derek King when they have questions or ideas.
When asked about icemaking being both an art and a science, Neubauer said, "The ice is our canvas and we are the artists."
Before joining the Iceplex team, Neubauer, who has his Class W refrigeration, spent 14 years at the Gateway Recreation Centre in North Kildonan, where there are two indoor and two outdoor rinks. He said that you must have patience to make ice and you need a little more inside.
The challenges of making ice outside at Winnipeg community centres are very different. Marcy Beaucage has been dealing with those challenges for nearly 25 years at Roblin Park in Charleswood. He first got involved as a volunteer when the regular worker was unavailable and later accepted the job as icemaker.
Roblin Park has three sheets of ice. The main rink has a base of limestone while the other two are grass.
The grass surfaces are cut short to begin the preparation for flooding. The next job is to seal the boards with 1/4 inch down limestone, which hardens when watered using a hose. The flooding process begins with a light spray once the temperature gets below freezing during the day. Beaucage then continues to flood in small increments in order to get layers.
"Ice makes ice," he said. "We need to seal it down."
In recent years, Beaucage has brought in a water hauler truck to pump water onto the three rinks. This gets the ice in quicker, which is important when the outdoor season is getting shorter due to warmer winters. The ice in some areas may get as thick as 16 inches. Once the lines are painted and the ice is ready to go, Beaucage keeps the surfaces clean and flooded using a Zamboni that had been used to flood the ice at the Winnipeg Arena.
"This winter has presented challenges as the hot weather around Christmas meant we flood a lot, and getting up to two-to-three degrees in the day played havoc with the lines," Beaucage said. "The sun heats up the north end of the rinks so it melts a lot and softens the ice."
Roblin Park held its 63rd annual Winter Carnival and Hockey Tournament from Jan. 24 to 29. In the program, president Jarret Hannah praised the "Ice Man," stating that "he always has the grounds immaculate even in the most challenging weather conditions."
Not surprisingly, ice conditions proved to be an issue when 48 teams competed in the 11th annual Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel, Feb. 3 to 5. The curlers played on four sheets of ice on the Assiniboine River near The Forks and two more just west of the Osborne Street bridge below the Granite Curling Club.
The majority of the Ironman curlers needed to use a stick to propel the rock the length of the ice. The weather was warm, so hockey jerseys rather than heavy curling sweaters were the dress of the day.
However, Granite manager Paul Sveinson, who helped make the river ice into curling ice, stuck with tradition and wore the green-and-red sweater that Granite members proudly wore for decades. The teams came up with creative names such as Lords of the Rings that won the B event, the 2011 champion Bratwurst and Donut Combos and the Rod Peelers — We Never Sweep. Peeler is a realtor whose slogan is "I Never Sleep."
The team with the longest name, That Symbol That Prince Once Was For A Bit In The 90’s, won the final over Old, Cold On The Rocks. Despite the sticky ice that made a takeout almost impossible, Prince skip Brian Forrester did just that with his last rock to set up a steal of four for the win. Brad Hunt, who curls at Wildewood along with Forrester, his sister Angela from Niverville and Jeff Blonjeaux were the other team members.
Ironman treasurer Mike Thompson said the event raised about $4,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, bringing the total for 11 years to $40,000.