Sports

Curling ice ready to rock

HEAD ICE technician Dave Merklinger checks the rocks while working on the ice surface at the South Okanagan Events Centre that will be used for the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling which gets underway Thursday. - Mark Brett/Western News
HEAD ICE technician Dave Merklinger checks the rocks while working on the ice surface at the South Okanagan Events Centre that will be used for the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling which gets underway Thursday.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Things have changed when it comes to making good ice for curling.

Just ask Dave Merklinger, head ice technician for the Canadian Curling Association, who makes sure the ice is the best it can be during the 2013 World Financial Group Continental Cup in Penticton. He’s got experience having done the job for European championships, world championships, the Briers, Scotties and the Olympics.

“I have been doing this for way too many (expletive) years,” said Merklinger, who pebbled his first sheet in 1969. “Back in the ‘70s the technology wasn’t there. Now they have temperature monitors and it’s an understanding more than anything of how it works.”

No need to look up registration for ice making school at your local community college. Merklinger had his first full-time job in 1974 and has been doing it ever since. He and his crew, which included Penticton Curling Club ice maker Del Haidenger went to work at the South Okanagan Events Centre ice Saturday evening at 10 p.m. They flooded the ice, leveled it, put the circles and logos on and 24 hours later it was all taken care of. No challenges and Merklinger hopes it stays that way.

Haidenger said there were a lot of differences from the curling club.

“The plant is a lot more efficient, modern,” said Haidenger, who has worked with Merklinger before. “We can be more accurate that way.”

One of the things that is important about making ice is making sure the water has no impurities, otherwise it will break down. They use a jet ice system that will de-ionize the water to remove the impurities.

Merklinger, a curler himself who played in the 1985 Brier, is familiar with all the curlers and has a good relationship with them. He has no problems talking to them about the ice if they discover any problems.

“My job is to provide entertainment for the fans for TV,” said Merklinger, who manages the Vernon Curling Club. “It has to have a nice curl to it. I have got to make them (players) look good.”

The three sheets were built right on the ice surface. When it comes time to remove it, all the has to be done is drive the zamboni over it to scrape it down.

Merklinger loves making ice because he loves the game.

“I’m a competitive curler myself,” said Merklinger. “That’s why I got into it. I’m not at the calibre of  Martin and the boys. I have played against them a few times, laying a licking on a couple of them once in a while.”

 

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