Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 Begins with Changes

Hi Folks,

I am extremely juiced about the 2014 season. I think the new look will be accompanied by great talent and hockey fun.

My role will be a little different this year, and it remains to be seen how much I will be doing ice work. I have taken a full-time position at the arena as Director of Safety and Security. It sort of fulfills a loose life plan I had after retired from my former job, finishing a degree, and wanting to get back into something full time.

There is no way I can walk away completely from the ice, but if I want to grow, then I have to take the good with the bad. This is an opportunity I could not pass up. I've been on the job about 5 weeks and worked 4 major events: Showtime boxing, Pearl Jam, a private convention, and Brantley Gilbert. It is challenging and stimulating.

My heart is with the ice, but as I said, to grow I have to make some compromise.

The ice is going in today. Fairly late, and we would love to have more time but in a multi-use facility, you make do with the time you have. We had to complete some repairs and upgrades to the ice plant, and were somewhat at the mercy of waiting for the parts and the contractor's availability to get it done. They really hustled and got it done as quickly as they could when the parts came in. The condensing tower has been replaced at a cost of nearly 6 figures. The ice plant is very healthy now.

Here are a couple of photos of the ice work today. One is the rink painted white but before any line or logo work. the other is buckets of ice paint queue'd up waiting to be made into lines and logos.

First Face-Off is October 25, see you there!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New look, same fun...

If you are looking for me to come out hatin' on the new look, you'll have to look elsewhere.

I dig it.

Yeah, I know it is a change and change can be annoying. It may be a let-down to some who wanted more razzle-dazzle, or whatever. Can't please everybody and the re-branding is a good idea.

I will admit that I hated Twister when he was introduced. I called him the "stupid toothless tornado" and was just not interested. Heck, I liked the old goalie mask logo and then the half-tornado/half C made by the goalie. But the new look, at the time, I hated. But it was a good thing to re-boot, get some new energy, refocus on the new changes, assets, and strengths of the franchise.

Same thing here. After all the hype, maybe I was a little let down when I first saw the unveiling but it has grown on me rather quickly.

I think it is modern, elegant, and classy. The prominent C represents both Cincinnati and Cyclones. The Cyclone shape in the middle is more true to the actual cyclone name than any of the previous tornados (which are, let us remember land based!).

So this is our first ever logo for the Cyclones with a real cyclone shape. And it is try in the direction of its fingerless as northern hemisphere cyclones and hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise.

Big C for Cincinnati, cyclone icon for Cyclones. Cincinnati Cyclones. 'nuff said.

What more could you want? Some outrageous blingy thing? Something less flashy? Could be a hundred different things, but this is our new logo.

It represents something much, much deeper. A commitment to a quality franchise, in all respects. It is a bridge between all the good things we have enjoyed over the past 20+ years and the new, exciting, good things to come. I'm pretty darn proud to be a part of it.

I dig it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh What A Night! May 13, 2014

All that really matters is CYCLONES WIN! and advance to the 2014 Eastern Conference Championships. 8 wins away from bringing the Kelly Cup back to Cincinnati.

Secondarily, what matters is that I have fodder for an interesting blog post.

Other than that, my day was pretty crappy.  I got to the arena this morning for the Cyclones morning skate. Somebody said the fire alarm had gone off but they did not know why. Then as I walked through the building, Ft. Wayne was also there set up, so they would also have a morning skate. No problem, really, just a layer of complexity to the day. I had hoped they skated up there and drove down for the game.

Come to find out, there was a problem with one of the building's air conditioning unit. It would not be fixed by game time, and the building was heating up. Making it worse, several of the doors were open due to the construction inside the building. "We can deal with this," I thought. Might have to run "Blast Mode" on the ice plant and we'll be fine.

Silly me.

Turns out some components are shared between the building chiller and the ice plant. When I did my morning walk-through inspection of the ice plant, I noticed an alarm and notified the engineers. They would send somebody down later.  When I did my walk-through after the resurfacing for Ft. Wayne, there were more alarms and some audible detection of problems. Called the engineers back, they needed to get there right away.

The first problem led to a cascade of other problems. Some fail-safe did their job and relieved pressure before damage was done - but parts still failed and the chilling capacity of the ice plant was cut significantly. They had to shut it all done for the band-aid repairs, and by the time they got it running we were losing ice temperature and getting behind the 8-ball. Since the building was too warm and the ice chilling capacity was reduced, we were in trouble.

Did did dry cuts after practices to take some mass off the ice and take off the soft top layer. No water was put down to save energy/chilling demand. The ice was left until just before doors opened for the game. Then I did another dry cut to take off the soft top, and a regular resurface cut but with barely any water. Just enough to glaze over.

Same thing for the cut after warm-ups. We closely monitored the ice surface temperature and the temps of the brine solution going out to the ice and coming back. Much higher than normal. Still below freezing, but too warm for comfort.

On-ice intermission activities were cancelled to give me the full 18 minutes to work on the ice and give it extra time to freeze. I lowered the Zamboni blade until I could visually see a perfect deep shave all the way across the Zam. Normally I am limited to collecting one tank full of snow but this time I did not care about the rate of snow accumulation. I only cared about how the ice looked. With it perfectly shaved, I could use just barely a drizzle of water.

As expected, I filled the tank about halfway through the cut. Perfect. Taking off as much as I can in two tanks. Any less and the ice is not as good as it could be. Any more would mean another exit to dump and cut down on freeze time.

If you were there you could still see some wet spots. As the game ran on, the heat from the lights and the crowd built up and our strained capacity to keep it frozen was more and more strained. The ice was definitely soft and surface temperature was between 25-29 degrees, and getting slightly warmer over time.

But, we went the extra mile and did the best we could to give the best possible ice under the circumstances. It was not good ice by my standards, but we made the best of the situation. Outstanding teamwork between operations, marketing and administration, the engineers, the officials, and even both coaches and teams. We tried to keep everyone informed so at least they knew we were doing all that could be done.

I'm proud of the job everyone did and I truly appreciate everyone's understanding.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

NCAA / Olympia / Ice Report


So I got pretty good with the Olympia in time for the NCAA Midwest Regional games. It is a very different driving strategy, mostly because of how the auger speed varies with the engine RPM, which changes with the throttle. It is important to keep them spinning, so I learned to slow down slowly, if that makes sense, but mostly always stay on the throttle at least a little bit. I slowed down in advance of the turns, so I could power through the turns to keep the snow moving. That was really the biggest difference.

The Olympia does not turn as tightly as the Zamboni, so that was an adjustment too but mostly we accommodated that with the resurfacing pattern. If you were not at the NCAA to see it, well first you missed some great hockey, but we started our patterns in opposite corners and then I went straight up the middle after only one total outside pass instead of the customary two. You will (hopefully) see it at some Cyclones games.


Hosting the NCAA Midwest Regionals was an amazing experience. So much activity in the building, different groups focused on their tasks but respectful of each other. The staff at US Bank Arena, and especially Production Manager Ian Adkins did an amazing job. The amount of logistics, contractual obligations, and fine details that he had to juggle were astounding and he handled it gracefully.

The NCAA reps and the Miami reps were, as to be expected, professional and courteous. But, it was more than that. These were genuinely good folks, all interested in having a fair, competitive, and entertaining sporting event. Every detail was important, and they verified the details. However, they also left the expert work to the experts. They gently checked on things, nudged when necessary, but always with the ultimate goal in mind of doing things well. That was all. It was not a "me" mentality. It was a goal-oriented approach and it worked. It worked well.

Even the media were great to deal with. Thursday when I got there, the first person I had a conversation with was a video guy from ESPN. He was sheepishly asking it would be okay to mount a GoPro camera on the Zamboni for some background shots. He assured me it would be out of the way and he had safety cables to secure it if the suction-mount came loose. My response was, "of course you can, would you like to shoot with two? I can bring mine in as well." He was shocked. Apparently other ice guys have been hesitant about it.

To me, it goes back to the theme that we all want the event to go well and to be well-represented and look good. So, it just made sense. They ended up using a lot of the footage. His was on the side of the Zam, facing forward. You could see the board brush doing its job down the boards. My camera was mounted backwards, which showed the ice half resurfaced and half rough. It also made a nice "text crawl" effect of the writing on the dasher boards. Pretty cool, footage from my personal GoPro on ESPN-U.

Again, the important thing to relay is absolute professionalism by all.

Ice Report

We were actually worried about the ice. The pressure for ideal, NHL-quality, ice was real. But, the added mass of the NCAA stuff on top the the Cyclones surface meant that the ice would be harder to maintain, in terms of temperature. The chiller system functioned well. Refurbishments and compressor rebuilds last summer paid off. They also added an electronic control system instead of the old system. Imagine the difference between a thermostat in your house from the 1970's versus the new digital ones. This is a more pro-active system. It also has a "Blast Mode" we can trigger manually under especially heavy loads.

Friday was indeed a very heavy load. All the game lights came on before 5:00 AM for Fox 19 Morning News and were left on all day for the various on-camera spots for the various media outlets and to just have it look its best. But that is a big heat load on the ice. Then all four teams had practice, with resurfacings for each, and then two full hockey games with a crowd of about 5000 in the building for, what, almost 7 hours? That is a huge drain on all the systems when compared to a Cyclones game with one or two morning practices, lights dim except during the game, and crowd only there for 3 hours.

I am pleased to report that the ice was great and we had compliments from many sources. We were told that one of the teams (which I will not name) was notorious for complaining about ice conditions. They loved ours! Amusingly, their video guy was telling me how bad the ice was at a place they were at last year. They were in an AHL facility in the north where you would expect impeccable ice. They were concerned coming to Cincinnati since it is not exactly a hockey town; but they ended up loving our ice!

Another school had a big alumni gathering for the weekend and a luncheon in the restaurant Saturday afternoon when we were grooming the ice fastidiously. They stopped a security person with a radio and requested they radio us to tell us they had never seen such good ice and good care being taken of it. What they saw was physically attractive, which does not necessarily translate to the best skating ice but a compliment is a compliment.

The ability to take off two tanks' worth of snow with one pass was a huge benefit. Literally, we were able to cut through virtually every skate mark and leave the ice perfectly smooth. Usually it takes me several passes with one machine. During use, the concern is taking off more than we put back with water, but we are finishing in under 5 minutes, leaving extra freeze time, so we just blasted the water.

Still, we gradually lost depth. But this was highly unusual because of the number of uses and resurfaces. 4 practices Thursday, another 4 on Friday plus 2 games, and 2 practices and a game on Saturday. Each with at least 1 resurfacing pass. Using two machines for standard Cyclones games, we will easily be able to replenish.

We did have one problem, and now that it is over I can describe it with relief. When it was happening, we were freaking out but also thinking, "if this is the worst thing that happens we are okay." Turns out, it was the worst thing that happened, PHEW!

I'm taking a dramatic pause now. This entry is getting long already, and I want to milk this for some more mileage.