Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Ice for 2011-12

I have to admit that I'm struggling for material. I'm open to questions. Some Q&A may make for good blog posts.

I can write a little about the ice so far, and some real-life aspects to ice cuts during games.

The ice is really good so far. Drew and the boys used the misting wand for much of the original depth, rather than jumping on with the Zamboni as soon as it is thick enough. The atomizers create thinner layers that blend better and freeze more clearly than the thicker sauce left by the Zamboni. This is the best ice base I have seen since the return of the Cyclones in 2006.

The game cuts for Friday 11/18 went fairly well. There is always this sort of conflict with the on-ice productions at intermission and the resurfacing. The marketing folks take the intermission promotions very seriously. It is a way to energize the whole arena and to involve some real fans for an unforgettable experience. A good Emcee, like Smitty aka "DJ Mitts" can really carry the crowd and make for a very professional experience.

I don't discount that at all. But selfishly, my mission is to make the ice surface the best that it can possibly be, doing my little part to help the team win. There is also a pride factor. I want the visiting players and the officials to walk away saying "man, the ice in Cincinnati is the best in the league." At the very least, I want them neutral and to at least not notice. It kills me when I know they leave thinking the ice sucked. And finally, the league expects the Zamboni off the ice with 5:00 remaining in intermission to allow for drying(freezing).  Now, honestly, we go past that often and they've never said a word. It's not something they hawkishly watch.

7 minutes is a bare minimum for an acceptable cut. Really 8 is better. I can't do it in much less than 7 because the Zamboni can only go 9 mph max and I have to slow down in turns. That leaves all my attention to driving without crashing and no time for allowances in blade depth, water control, etc. Also when driving at break-neck speed the recirculating Wash Water does not work at full efficiency.

Do the math. I have to be on the ice and moving along the boards with 12:00 minutes to be finished at the 5:00 mark. To have my full 8 minutes I have to be resurfacing by 13:00 left, which really means getting onto the ice by about 13:20. That never happens, does it?

The answer? Well, there really isn't one. I have been to NHL games and their on-ice promotions are extremely short. Like 2-3 minutes. Just a quick on-and-off. Then they hit the ice with 2 Zamboni ice resurfacers so they can cut deeper, removing more snow, leaving better ice, in just over half the time. But that is the NHL. Down here in the minors, simply put, that ain't happening.

I say the ice is critical. Without ice, we don't have hockey. The marketing folks would be quick to remind me that without fans, we don't have hockey either. In the end, we at US Bank Arena and the Cyclones work very hard to find balance. I think we're mostly successful. I have no reference to other arenas in the pro world, but I think we have a good thing going.

And, when all else fails, when I'm bearing down the ice with 8600 pounds of the coolest machine on earth, people get out of my way! ha.

Questions, people, questions!!


Blogger drimo said...

I think the on-ice promotions take too much time. There is a real difference in the amount of time a Clones game takes compared to an NHL game. Yes, some of it is limitation on resources like only having one Zam, but the on-ice promotions I think slow it down too much. And they do the same thing *every single game* for the past four years!

Honestly, does marketing truly believe people come to the games just for the on-ice promotions? Kids, maybe, but many people come to see a hockey game, not some t-shirt launcher.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Auntie Sue said...

Interesting explanation of intermission ice repair! Here's my question: Does it drive you crazy when the goalies come out and immediately make a mess of your freshly resurfaced crease?

11:22 PM  
Blogger Guido said...

@drimo - No, I don't think people come to games for the intermission entertainment but I do recognize that repeat fans are critical and once they are in the building the first time, we have to do all that we can to reach as many as we can. The on-ice promos are an important part of fan involvement. It is a balance that is sometimes difficult to keep, but we have to. Even when I get irritated at delays, I never lose sight of the big picture.

@Auntie Sue - great question! I'll answer that in a new post.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Guido said...

@Auntie Sue - send me an email so I can get with you and give you some cool stuff for bringing a good question.

1:52 AM  
Blogger mathew said...

How do you know how deep your cutting?

2:45 AM  
Blogger Guido said...

Hi Matthew - GREAT QUESTION! This is definitely part of the art and the Zen of Zamboni work because there isn't anything like a depth gauge or guide. You want to cut deep enough to give the best possible ice surface but there is a catch and the catch is you don't want to fill up the snow tank before finishing.

When I first lower the conditioner, before turning on the water, I'm looking behind me at the cut. Usually I bring the blade up a little at the end of a cut so that on the next cut I can lower it down in the dry ice until it looks like it is cutting cleanly across the ice.

But looks can be deceiving. Next I feel the flow of it all. If cutting too deep the machine will bog down. If too shallow it will slide a little more in the turns.

Finally I watch the flow of snow being thrown from the vertical conveyor into the snow tank. When you see me stand up and look, it's usually at that. After years of experience, I have a pretty good sense of my depth by the amount of snow flow.

After all of that, I am also watching the tank content. When you see me stand and reach in with my left hand, I am pushing a rubber trap door out of the way to see how much snow is in the tank. If it looks like I have room, I may lower the blade. If it's looking full, I raise the blade to a skim to finish the cut.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

I drive for the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA (6 full-size rinks, 1 mini rink). When you're doing your ovals, how close are you coming to your end boards? I personally try to get as close as I can, hoping to avoid low spots along the goal line. Also, do you guys have painted concrete or painted ice? We shifted to painted concrete last year and are having some issues with cracking (delamination, maybe?) and some truly wikkid sub-surface frosting that I attribute to off-gassing from the paint.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Guido said...

Hi Keith,

Thanks for writing! I love chatting with other drivers. Unfortunately we are usually consumed with our own operations and don't get to network enough.

Our sheet corners are odd. Several years ago the pipe joints were all bad on the end u-turns and the pipes were falling apart more than a foot back. They had to cut both ends short by about 2 feet to get good enough metal to welk in the turnarounds. Then they had to re-make the corners out of the dashers. Our radius is extra small and tightens up in the turns.

With that, I have to come across the goal line and make the turn extra deep every time to be able to get lined up to go back. That also helps with the unwanted depth.

I always back off the water to just a drizzle to keep the pipe full on the ends.

We still do painted on ice. There are too many events held on the floor during the summer, and the ice comes out for the circus every year. If we painted the hockey lines, they would get torn up by the bobcats taking out dirt from the circus, monster trucks, etc.

That frost is bad. Do you find that it puts a strain on the compressors and keeps the ice soft on top due to insulation of the air?

email me direct if you would like:



11:26 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Regarding the frost, no unreasonable strain so far as we can tell.

We don't have any comrehensive data on frost thickness, though I *think* it ranges from negligible to about 3/4 of an inch (based on observations made during routine ice-depth readings and panicked chaecks made when the ice cracks under the machine's weight).

One of our drivers works at Babson College, and told me that the same situation there was rectified by drilling holes and introducing hot water at the slab. With six sheets running 363 days a year, that would require some coordination.

We started out with four sheets, and have added the two full-size and the one mini rink. The compressors are currently working at capacity, and *were* in deteriorating condition until we hired a full-time boiler/ compressor guy who had just graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He's a real God-send both in terms of being organized and in having the certified knowledge to be able to say what needs to be done.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Regarding the non-skating activities, we *have* excluded them until this year (well, 2013, actually). Indoor lacrosse is coming to the Sports Center and the logistics of the installation and removal are leaving me scratching my head.

Luckily the team and the organizers are handling all that, as it seems to be a specialty skill involving a tricked-out forklift to bring in the turf and a trained crew to install and remove it.

No getting around the need for additional grooming after the removal, though I imagine the nighttime crew will try their hardest!

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

I do have another question for you, though: does your rink employ security personnel? I mean in addition to police details for large events.

Our boss expects us to deal with most of the crowd problems, and though he's been very supportive of us and our on-the-spot decisions, it can be awkward at times ejecting the angry coaches, parents, players, and drunks.

One NHL player (who shall remain nameless) has promised to deal harshly with me for crossing him!

10:03 AM  
Blogger Guido said...

Hi Keith, I let the blog get away from me... I do not have to deal with security issues at all at US Bank Arena. We have "event staff" who deal with lower level issues and then Cincinnati PD in the building for events. We have had a few players really upset but they didn't get too carried away.

When I worked at a local public rink, formerly called "Icelands" but now called SportsPlus in Evendale, a suburb of Cincinnati, I was put in that awkward position and I quit after being put in an unacceptable position.

I was a cop full time, so I know something about physical encounters. I was supposed to keep people out of the back Zamboni area during a high school game between two Cincinnati rivals. They were probably 2x the fire code on attendance. A student player who was suspended from the team kept coming into the secure area and I kept running him out.

The private security guard also tried to deal with him but his area was the places where people were allowed to be.

Finally I went to tell this kid for the third time when he balled up his fist, dropped back his strong leg, cocked his arm, and told me he was not moving. Then, he flinched. Just enough. Before he knew it I had him in a arm-bar and he was crying for his mommy. The security guard escorted him out of the building. I prevented myself from being imminently assaulted and probably injured.

His rich mommy and daddy complained to the GM who had been GM at an amusement park but knew nothing about ice rinks, they allowed him back in and scolded me saying "you can't touch a guest, ever."

I said he was not a guest, he was a punk who was about to assault me and my lawsuit against them for getting my butt kicked because they won't allow me to defend myself would be much worse than his for being a jerk and dealt with reasonably.

They said I can't do that, ever. I said I quit and that was the end of that.

That ownership group went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

11:26 PM  

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