This year, the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup took place last weekend in Slave Lake, AB. The town of 6,651, three hours north of Edmonton, has five hotels and several restaurants happy to have the business a tournament this big brings, and a twin-pad arena in the Multi Recreation Centre

Slave Lake has a Junior “A” team – the Icedogs. And it has community hockey, figure skating and sledge hockey, and runs hockey schools and tournaments regularly. But this tournament was different. With 29 adult teams competing, in three different divisions, the question on lead hand Wayne Bacon’s mind was, “Would the ice hold up?”

Will the Ice Hold Up?

Bacon asked that question because he’d been bitten before with ice not holding up back in the old days when they still did hot water floods. The MRC is a big facility, so the hourly flooding on both rinks wasn’t an issue for the facility’s boiler — it was able to supply them with the 140°F hot floodwater they used back then. But the ice plant? That was a different matter. It had a hard time keeping up with the demand, leaving puddles that had a hard time freezing, resulting in soft ice.

So he asked me that question. It would be their first big tournament using REALice.

I told him that because they’re using treated cold floodwater instead of hot, the ice would be just fine. The MRC started using REALice last summer to maintain the ice with cold floodwater instead of hot in an effort to save money. It’s lowered their utility spend and CO2 emissions and, best yet, it’s given them a tool to make great ice all season long. Of course, you can’t discount how important it is to have good operators to maintain the ice. The ice crew at the MRC keep their ice to a tidy 1 1/4″ thick, just like they should, and the facility’s two ice resurfacing workhorses were prepped for the work ahead of them, with fresh blades and towels before the first puck dropped, then two more blade and towel changes each over the course of the tournament.

“That’ll be the REALice”

The ice resurfacing machines, ready to do their job.
The ice resurfacing machines, ready to do their job. Blade and towel changes before the tournament began, and two more of each over the course of the 3 day tournament.

Three days and 65 floods later, the ice had done its job. It had set up nicely, froze quickly and played well for everyone. 

Bacon says they got tons of comments about how nice the ice was.

“Everybody loved the ice.”

But it’s what he said next that really counted.

“I know for a fact the hot water wouldn’t have made it for the weekend. It’s all about the REALice. Hail REALice!”

Hot Water Floods and Tournaments

On Sunday night, the winners were presented with championship banners. Amazingly enough, the winners from all three divisions – Womens, Mens and Legends – came from the Loon River First Nations. Bacon and his crew were back at it Monday morning, taking the ice out on Arena 2 for a dry booking later this week. But the ice might be going back in again. Word about the quality tournament is spreading like wildfire and another group has just inquired, this time 32 teams.

“Bring it on,” says Bacon. “We’ll be ready!”