Monday, November 29, 2010

Behind The Scenes - What Keeps The Cyclones In Motion

Actually, the title should be "WHO" keeps the Cyclones in motion.

The answer? Equipment Manager Chris Burke and Athletic Trainer Bob Case.

Regular readers may recall than on a few prior occasions I've lauded the maintenance staff at US Bank Arena for all their work before, after, during, and between events at the arena. I like to recognize the folks who make it all happen and who are under-appreciated.

Well, more specific to the Cyclones operations are Burke and Case. Most fans probably have no idea the long, hard hours they put in for the team. They are not an NHL operation with a full staff of helpers. Basically it is just the two of them to handle all of the team's equipment needs and basic medical needs.

They are the first to arrive and the last to leave. While the players are waiting in their apartment or hotel for the game, Burke is there setting up their dressing room. Then, when they leave to go to the bar or even just go home, Burke is there packing their stuff, making repairs, doing the laundry, etc.

The night before the home opener this year, I was at the arena until after 3:00 AM stringing the second goal net. That's the latest I've been there in 4 years and that time it was by my choice as the best fit for my schedule. Well, the Cyclones played in Toledo that night. Burke and Case came rolling in to US Bank Arena in the middle of the night and had to unpack and set everything up for the big home opener.

Mind you, they first had to pack up in Toledo and load up the bus, then ride the bus back to the practice rink in Evendale where the players got in their cars and went home. But, all the equipment had to be moved from the bus to the team van, driven downtown, and then unload and set up for the next game.

This is routine operating procedure for these guys. Take this current weekend, they had games Friday and Saturday at home, but then had to pack up Saturday night to be ready to travel to Toledo for the Sunday afternoon game, then haul it all back again to get ready for practice Monday morning.

Endless, thankless, essential jobs that no fan should take for granted!

Thanks guys, I wouldn't have two rings without you! All I had to do was show up and drive in circles!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ice Edger Between Periods

First, WOOHOOO BIG WIN CYCLONES!!! They boy's took the Gwinnett Gladiators to school tonight on fundamental hockey. The Gladiators have a lot of talent, but the Cyclones played good solid, blue-collar hockey. It may have taken a shootout but a win is a win!

Cyclones are back to a .500 record, climbing from the league cellar to 1-point away from first place in the division. Yahooooo!

Now, to the ice. You may have noticed Drew the Operations Manager going around the boards with a lawn mower looking machine before I go out on the Zam. That's an ice edger and is a lot like a lawn mower with blades to shave the ice. The edges always build up frozen muck from the snow being pushed up against the boards and the Zamboni going slower around the boards and leaving more water unless the operator is careful and reduces his water on the first lap.

Also the shaving blade is tapered on the ends so it doesn't leave grooves out on the ice. Between the length of the taper and the space of the side of the conditioner, it's about 5 inches in from the edge before the blade is cutting at full depth. On all the rest of the laps, the overlap takes care of the depth; but around the boards the blade is simply not cutting as deep.

So, the edger serves the purpose of cutting down that recurring high spot around the boards. Typically this is only done after-hours and the fans don't see it. But, right now we have a little problem. I've mentioned before that Zamboni machines get treated a lot like a boat - they are either sitting idle or running at full power most of their lives. They shake, vibrate, and occasionally parts fail.

In this case, part of the board brush broke early in the season and we're still waiting for the replacement parts. The board brush comes out between the front and back wheels on the driver's side, sort of like a street sweeper brush, and whisks the built up ice and snow out and under the Zamboni. It is then retracted after the first lap.

With this being broken, we're running the edger around very lightly just to blow the bulk of that frozen muck out away from the boards. This is also why you see the maintenance guys with shovels running around the corners because the conditioner dragging at the back of the Zamboni simply can't fully follow the curvature of the boards in the corners. Again, usually the board brush is my best friend here, but until it is repaired, we're doing it "Old School."

Whatever it takes to help the team win. That's our job, to make their playing surface as good as it can possibly be (which may not be perfect) to give them their best chance at victory. That's the only reason I have a job. To help them win if I can.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Win 11/10 and Ice Conditions

Thankfully the Cyclones earned their first home win last night, on a Wet Wednesday at US Bank Arena. We really needed that! By allowing it to go to OT they gave up a point to a division rival, but a win is a win. Defense and goaltending were solid as they gave up a lot of shots on goal. The team needed to feel what it is like to win, especially at home.

It looks like, hopefully, they are starting to gel, learn Coach Skalke's systems, and learn about each other. As a bonus, today we learned that Dustin Sproat is returning!

You may have noticed the massive wet spot in the ice last night. We sure did! Frankly, we're not exactly sure what caused it. The area in front of the Cyclones bench is always the first to get sloppy. It has to do with where the brine under the ice is piped out, back to the chiller room; and the air flow of the building seems to flow more there, causing vaporization. This is always the first area to get wet - if you were in the house for the 2008 Kelly Cup clincher game in June, you saw it wet in that spot.

We're not really sure what caused it last night - all systems were working. But, it is understandable that this area was the first to be affected, since it is known to be a weaker spot. When the equilibrium is upset, this will be the first place to see the symptoms.

For the second intermission cut, I was turning the resurfacing water OFF going up the bench side in front of the visitor bench, and not turning it back on until making the turn to go up the other side. Still, it was wet. We dry-cut deep after the game, down through the wet/soft stuff, turned out all the lights, and reduced the building temperature. By now all systems have been double-checked.

Saturday is "Throwback Night" so we'll have lots of people in the building. Lots of body heat and moisture in the air from exhaling. All enemies of good ice, but it's all figured in to the equation of an ice arena.

Come on out Saturday, see Dustin Sproat's return, check out the Throwback Jerseys and old-tyme pricing as the Cyclones take on the league-leading Gwinnett Gladiators!