A few weeks ago, it was just a slab on concrete with so much potential.
The surface at the Fort Frances Curling Club still is a long piece of concrete, but another curling season is now upon us and the ice is in.
That isn’t really breaking news, but what is worth mentioning is who helped cover that piece of concrete.
Lloyd Stansell and Berek Kadikoff arrived from Thunder Bay last Monday morning and the two ice-making professionals lent their hands, tools, and, most of all, their expertise in putting in and painting this year’s playing surface.
But why did the curling rink seek the services of Stansell and Kadikoff, you ask?
Well, unless you’ve had your head stuck in a gopher hole, you know the local curling club is hosting the Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts in February and everything must be oh so perfect for the event that will be celebrating its silver anniversary.
And that starts with the ice.
But judging from the way the surface looked last Tuesday afternoon, it was visibly apparent how good Stansell and Kadikoff are.
“That’s as good as I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been around for 25 years,” noted Tom Fry, who has helped install the ice for the past 19 years and is part of the Scott organizing committee.
Stansell has been grooming ice surfaces since 1958 and the 70-year-old, who could pass for 50, has been an ice-maker at the Brier a whack load of times and has been the main installer for the Scott tournament five times—the last one being in Sudbury in 2001.
In short, he’s become a Jedi master of ice-making.
“It comes to the point where I guess you pretty much know everything,” admitted Stansell.
That’s why Fry and the local curling club’s ice-maker, Kevin Busch, played the parts of Jedi’s-in-training as they watched Stansell and Kadikoff’s every move and technique.
“Tom has been writing down everything in his little book and we’ve been picking things up,” said Busch, who’s been the ice-maker at the local club for the past four years.
“A lot of it is common sense, and taking time to do it and doing the right job,” he noted.
“I’ve got a sheet going and I mark everything down,” added Fry.
And who could blame him?
“It’s really nice because we just haven’t experienced the kind of techniques that they use to do this,” Fry remarked.
“It’s a huge benefit having them here because we haven’t done it like this before,” echoed Busch.
That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the way they did things in the past, but there’s always a better way to do something.
And one thing that will make this year’s ice memorable other than the fabulous painting job is the ice itself.
You see, this is the first year the club will be using Jet Ice, which is a de-ionizing system that essentially recycles the water to create as fresh of an ice surface as there can be.
“It’s probably the best system out there right now,” said Kadikoff when asked what he thought of the Jet Ice system (the past five Winter Olympic Games have used Jet Ice and so does the NHL).
Painting a curling ice surface is a meticulous process that involves time and precision. The task began last Monday morning and was completed by Wednesday afternoon by the group that included Andy Jackson.
And with only a few things left to check off the to-do list, Stansell glanced over the ice and gave it a thumbs-up.
“It looks really nice,” he said.