Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Ice Follies of March 1, 2014

It has been a long time since I have posted. Too long. But I have had a shortage of topics to motivate me to write. The night of March 1, 2014 definitely gave me material! If you were there, you had to have noticed that besides the ice being pink for Pink In The Rink night, there were some issues.

At the end of the day, this is life in a multi-use arena; and arenas have to be multi-use to survive. And so it goes.

Let's start with the pink ice. Prior posts have addressed it in detail but I will recap. First the ice has to be shaved to near perfectly smooth, as the pink will sink into skate marks and be harder to get out. This takes some depth off the ice. Ideally we flood a little in the days before to add the depth that will be removed. Then the pink is sprayed on through the barrel/cart/pump/wand system. 8 oz. of resin mix per 100 gallons of water is all it takes. The pink goes down then clear water on top through the wand - enough at least that water from the Zamboni does not melt the pink and float it to the surface. Then Zam water to get about 1/4 inch above the pink so we can play a hockey game and have enough depth to safely shave for good ice.

Ideal ice depth is 7/8 inch, although ours is deeper in some spots. Adding 1/4 inch to that adds almost 30% to the total mass that has to be kept frozen. The compressors have to work much harder to maintain the ice even under ideal conditions. Ice itself is an insulator; one inch if ice has about the same insulating qualities as one inch of fiberglass insulation. So even with the compressors operating at peak, the top ice surface will still be a little warmer and softer than normal - even under ideal conditions.

But this night, conditions were far from ideal. Because of some contractual obligations for the Eagles concert on March 4, we had to keep the building warmer than usual. Factor in the crowd of over 7,000 and more body heat and moisture from breathing was injected into the building. So, we did not have ideal conditions. It was hot and the ice was soft.

The normal ice making response for this problem is to cut as deep as the blade and the snow tank capacity will allow, while dropping minimal water onto the ice. The problem is that even knowing we stayed all night Friday night flooding over the pink, there is always this fear of cutting down to the pink. It would be dangerous for the skaters to hit patches of pink resin. But, not shaving super deep, the lighter water flow made all the imperfections in the ice stand out.

I could not risk flooding too deep because it would not freeze. You saw, there were still some wet patches, especially in the third period. Ice surface temperature was 17 degrees before the game. It went up to 24 by the first intermission and 27 by the second. Clearly, I was fighting a losing battle.

Another side effect of rapid ice temperature changes is stress cracks, particularly along the dasher boards. It is a fairly normal occurrence as water expands when it freezes and the whole sheet expands and contracts slightly with temperature changes. But along the dashers it is most problematic because it is the end of the sheet so it can pop out in small sections.

This is why other crew members sometimes go around the outside of the ice during intermission, checking for pops and filling in with snow then freezing with water. So, on this night of Folly, during the second intermission I decided to start the pattern about one Zam width inward and go around the boards last, this way the guys would fill any spots and I would not have to use time to go back over the same spot.

Well, turns out they got it done while the little kids played the exhibition match at intermission and there were not too many spots, but I did not want to deviate from the plan because everyone on the ice was made aware of the change.

And then, my little swirling buddy Twister had to get in on the act. As I rounded the north-west corner of the ice, he threw a pink rally towel over the glass. Well, he tried to. It went under the Zam. I only caught a glimpse of it and was not sure what I saw. A driver has two choices when that happens, and it is important that he commit to his action:

1) IF, and ONLY IF, he can get the conveyors off and the conditioner raised before the object gets there, then that should be done. Shut down the conveyors, raise the conditioner, turn off the water, and let somebody go get the debris out before the Zam goes back.

2) If you can't be sure to get everything stopped before the object enters the conditioner, then it is best to let it go. Slowing things down might actually increase the chances of it getting stuck. Keeping everything moving at normal speed is the next best thing to shutting down so it has the power and momentum to go all the way through.

This is what I did. I felt the go through with quite a rattle and a thud, but was sure it went all the way through because of how the show tank shook. Also I could tell I was still moving snow through the conditioners and into the snow tank. When I got to the east end, however, everyone was signaling me to shut down because of it.

I did, since they were so adamant, but when we were able to chat briefly, I assured them it had gone through and I was going back to pick up the crap I left and get off the ice.

That cut was ugly enough, due to the above reasons, and I wanted to get off the ice!

It just could not have been helped. An odd paradox of not being able to employ the best practices for good ice. But, both teams have to play on the same surface and our Cyclones made a stunning comeback and shoot-out victory, so I'll take it!

We melted the snow in the dumping area and found the towel. Like the brave women it represents, this towel is a survivor! It had a couple of small tears but it survived.

Saturday night, crews stayed to dry-shave the ice until all the pink paint was removed. This was finished at about 3:00 AM. Then the building was changed over for the Eagles concert on Monday. This included removal of all the glass and the dasher boards around the east end of the rink. Then Tuesday the pro-deck was removed, the dashers and glass were replaced, and we are now flooding the ice back up to the proper depth of 7/8 inch.

I hope you enjoyed this babble. If you have any questions, please ask. Give me some content!




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your explanations and expertise! I wish I had the money to bid on your behind the scenes tour!


9:53 PM  

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