The world’s best women’s curlers have been on display at the CN Centre during the World Women’s Curling Championship.
However, there is no World Women’s Curling Championship without ice, and that’s where Dave Merklinger comes in.
Merklinger is the World Curling Federation’s Chief Ice Technician, and he’s in charge of making sure the ice is ready before each draw.
“This is televised all over the world. If the conditions are not good and the players are not entertaining, my job is to be the entertainment director, ” he said.
“I try to make them make a lot of good shots. It has to be consistent with the right amount of curl.”
“We have our own ice scraper with a five-foot blade that peels off the very top layer, similar to what a Zamboni does, and then we dress it up with some pebble, and good things like that to make those rocks go down the ice,” Merklinger explained.
He also said the ice in the curling rink is quite a bit different from the ice on a hockey rink.
“We’re probably a little colder here than hockey would run their ice,” Merklinger explained.
“We try to get it as level as possible, and when I say that we flood it, so it’s perfectly flat and perfectly level, and we keep it that way, whereas a Zamboni that goes around the track or around the arena, time after time after time, it’s not perfectly 100% flat.”
There’s around 20 people that are working on the ice crew for the World Women’s Curling Championship here in Prince George. That included putting the carpeting and bunting to transform the Prince George Cougars home arena into a world class curling rink.
He added that Prince George’s mid-March weather has been fine for the ice crew.
“We aren’t running any air-handling type units, or blowing a lot of air on the ice,” Merklinger said.
“It’s raining a little bit but it hasn’t affected the ice to the point where it’s difficult to play on.”
Merklinger got his start in ice making with Shorty Jenkins in Trenton, Ontario when he was just 14-years-old.
“Just pebbling and sweeping up snow and things to help him out for a dollar an hour and hotdogs and french fries, and then I stuck with him, and I ended up starting on my own full-time in 1974.”
Merklinger says ice making has changed a lot since then.
“We’ve learned a lot through the years, like back in the 70’s when we started working with ice and started making it in arenas, like foam around as opposed to wood which can get knocked out easily enough,” he explained,
“The equipment has changed tremendously to allow us to come up with a better surface.”
“Rocks are a huge factor, so we have to ensure those rocks are very well taken care of, whereas back in the 70’s nobody cared what a rock was. As long as it goes up and down the ice it was fine. But the game is so fine, and they’re so good at making shots and they have such a good feel. Those rocks need to be exactly the same”
Merklinger’s son Mike is also an up and coming ice maker, and is serving as Dave’s assistant during the World Women’s Curling Championship.
After this event, all of the equipment used will go into storage in Cambridge for the Summer.
– story by Darin Bain, MyPGNow.com staff