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Nice ice, baby

There couldn't be a much COOLER job than making the ice for a professional hockey team!

Ensuring that the ice is right for the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the responsibilities of the ice operations manager at the Ice Palace in Tampa.

In a recent interview, Sean McElhinney, who held that job until he left at the end of the year to work with another team, the Carolina Hurricanes, talked about what goes into getting the ice ready for all those blades and pucks.

First, you have to make sure the miles of pipes underneath the concrete are chilled with antifreeze, which helps keep the ice the right temperature. Then you spray water on the floor surface until it freezes. Then you have to PAINT the ice to make it white, put on more water, paint the logos (the team and other insignias) and, finally, put on another layer of water very slowly so as not to smudge the paint.

What results is ice that is 1 inch thick, just right for hockey.

One good way to learn the art of icemaking is by working alongside those who know the trade, Mr. McElhinney said. There are also refrigeration classes you can take at trade school.

During the offseason, Mr. McElhinney prepared for the hockey season, which is a busy time of year for the Ice Palace.

During the game, the Zamboni machine is used to smooth and clean the ice surface.

The Zamboni includes the resurfacer, which picks up cut ice and cleans up dirt; the conditioner, which holds the blade that scrapes the ice; the dump tank, which stores loose ice and snow; and the water sprayer, which consists of two types of water.

The first is wash water, which is sprayed in streams. This fills up the cracks and is then vacuumed to remove the dirt. The second type of water is "jetted" water that is smoothed over to make a good skating surface.

Inspection is the final step. Mr. McElhinney inspected the ice himself to make sure that everything was right.

Now we're ready to play hockey.

Justin Bellware, 12, is in the seventh grade at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa.

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