To be honest with you, I was shocked when Les Quinton, the Parks & Recreation Manager at the Oilfields Regional Arena, in Black Diamond, Alberta told me his operations team probably does just four hours of ice maintenance a month.

It was my second visit out to Black Diamond, Alberta in the past two weeks. Over the past year, I’ve spoken at length with Les, who’s been working for the municipality of Black Diamond for over 20 years, and I’m rather impressed with how meticulous he is and the extraordinary things they do at their arenas. In fact, I have SO MUCH to share with you — like the key-controlled light switch story I shared earlier this week — that I think I could write a book.

But the four hours of ice maintenance a month? That just might take the cake!

Four hours of ice maintenance — a MONTH?????

Before I tell you how they do that, I think I should tell you about the weather in Black Diamond. Like many places in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s been extremely hot, day after day after day. August 10th, the day they started making ice, happened to be the day that heat records were broken all over the Province of Alberta, reaching over 100F in places. When I went out there last week, the thermostat was on its way past 31.2C — or 88F. And despite the pounding heat, their ice looked great (and this is with what Les calls “an undersized refrigeration plant”!)

The four hours of ice maintenance per month came into our conversation in reaction to a question I asked him about scheduling. I’d recently visited a twin pad equipped with one ice resurfacer that is SO BUSY they have little time to fit ice maintenance in.

“Ice maintenance?” Quinton retorted. “Do you have any idea how much time WE spend on ice maintenance a month?”

(I got out my fingers and started counting…)

“Twelve hours a week,” I suggested.

“I don’t think we even do four hours of ice maintenance a month.”

Ice Maintenance

“How do you do that?” I asked?

As it turns out, the secret, if there really is a secret, is all about how the ice resurfacer is being driven, and how the operator operates the controls.

“First of all, our operators drive at a consistent pace,” Quinton explains. “None of them go slower or faster anywhere as they resurface the ice. We always try to maintain the the same pace and we’re good at that.”

“Next, we make sure we’re not putting down too much water along the boards.”

“Finally, before we go over the creases, we shut off the water and raise the blade. Once we’re past the crease, we turn the water back on and lower the blade.”

It took 10 minutes to do the ice make, which gave them a 5-minute window before the next user group was scheduled to be on the ice.

Last night at the dinner table, I retold the story. My husband said he remembered back in the day when the arena managers used tractors to resurface, pulling the resurfacing skid behind.

“They were really working back then,” he recalls.

“They are really working when they do the ice at Black Diamond,” I replied. “And their ice is proof of their work — and their skills.”

I took a video so you can get an idea about the pace and how the machine is operated and see how lovely their ice is — ice that is made, by the way, with REALice.

In this video, Les Quinton is speaking to me in the background and although it’s very hard to hear the dialogue, basically he re-iterates what I’ve written above. He says to watch the speed, keep it consistent; don’t use lots of water along the boards, shut the water off completely and raise the blade going over the creases and then put the water back on again and lower the blade once you’ve reached the other side.

Comments? Let me know!