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BRENNON RASER AND JED RESTAD begin flooding Kent Freeman Arena in late May to make ice for the International Hockey School. The cement floor is cooled down over a weekend and flooding begins early the following Monday morning. It takes about 45 minutes to flood one arena. (Photos by Brian Basham/Tribune)

The art of the ice

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In the Detroit Lakes area during the summer, the only ice people want to think about are the cubes cooling down their favorite drink. But a crew of Detroit Lakes city employees have two large ice cubes to think about starting in late May.

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Jed Restad and Brennon Raser are in charge of making the rink ice at Kent Freeman Arena -- both in the summer for the International Hockey School and the fall for winter hockey.

Both arenas of the skating complex are cooled down over a weekend in May, their cement floors frozen by coolant flowing beneath. And what would seem to be a complex operation, is started by simply flooding the frozen floor with a layer of water.

Raser and Restad each start flooding the arena in the center, working their way out to opposite ends. The whole process of a flood takes about 45 minutes.

"We use a lot of water," Restad said. "We put it on pretty heavy right away because after we get the lines on, we've got to be more careful."

Initially, the rink will be flooded twice, with about an inch of ice forming. The first few floods will freeze in two to three hours and can be done on the same day. The mid-day May heat can also have an effect on the ice-making process, which is why Raser and Restad will start their work at 5 a.m.

"After we get more and more layers on, it takes a little while for it to set-up again," Restad said.

The Zamboni is then used to smooth out the ice, and the lines, which in Detroit Lakes are rolls of fabric stretched from one side to the other, are put on.

Making May ice is quite a bit easier than making October ice. The summer ice is simply frozen water on the cement floor. Everything underneath can be seen, including guide points, marks on the floor and debris caught in the ice. Winter ice has a whitening agent added, which is a step that can add several days to the process, according to Raser.

"That stuff is terrible," Restad said.

The whitening agent is added to a flood before the lines are put down, and can be tricky. The white has to be even throughout the entire sheet of ice. Once it is added, they have to try not to make marks on the ice that will be seen all winter long.

"You've got to have a pair of boots for on the ice and off the ice because you'll leave your tracks all over it," Raser said.

"That floor is so white. That's when you can really see our flaws. But we don't have too many flaws," Restad said laughing.

The lines and logos are next to be put on the ice. The stretched red and blue fabric instantly freezes to the ice when water is applied. Some arenas will simply paint the lines onto the ice using a similar paint that freezes instantly. The same paint is used to put any logos or sponsors' advertisements on the ice.

The winter ice needs to have guide points added -- due to the whitening agent -- so the workers know where to place face-off circles, the goal crease and center dot. It is easy to see the marked floor through the summer ice.

Restad and Raser have made several homemade compasses out of copper pipe to create a perfect circle at center ice and half-circle for the crease. One man holds the center point while the other applies the line fabric.

The system is not without glitches. One season, the adjustable compass wasn't tightened and extended while the two were putting the circle down, making somewhat of an oval.

"It came unscrewed and the radius just kept getting bigger and bigger as he went around," Raser said.

The fabric had to be torn up, which is not easy, and the circle re-done.

"I got mad and took a big ball of the wet tape and threw it and thought it would make it into the players' box. It didn't and it stuck to the ice," Restad said. "I was not a happy camper that day."

After the lines are down, the rink is flooded a few more times, smoothed with a Zamboni, and is ready for the puck to drop.

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