Ice Resurfacing: Tips on How to Get the Best Ice

Ice resurfacing requires an odd skill set.  Some of the job is technical skills and some of it is artistic.  Anyone can perform the technical skills, but only a few people can take those skills to the next step by developing artistry. To highlight this concept further, let's take a look at how ice resurfacer drivers are typically trained and developed. 

Most rinks either train people who want to drive the ice resurfacer, or those people who have the work-time availability to drive the machine during key day parts.  The workers who want to drive the ice resurfacer are usually easier to train.  Regardless of which type of worker, ice resurfacer drivers usually go through stages.

The first stage seems to be fear.  Most new drivers are scared of performing the wrong action and breaking the machine.  Some of these feelings are valid, especially when it comes to collisions with the walls, but most of the time ice is fixable.  This stage is characterized by poor ice quality with streaks where the machine did not overlap the passes correctly.  Blade level is always an issue leading to overfull dump tanks when the blade is too low, or bumpy ice when the blade is too high.  Most drivers survive this stage and go on to stage 2.  Proper management style for this type of driver is concern, gentle correction and positive reinforcement. 

The second stage is where the driver feels that now I've got this skill set down, I will go faster.  Most drivers in this stage go fast in the straight-aways and over-slow for the corners.  Sometimes they even have informal contests with other drivers to see who can make ice quickest.  The ice is usually unevenly coated with water (unless the machine has one of those new automatic feeds) with loads of water in the creases near the ends of the rinks.  When you see the goalie suiting up with SCUBA gear, you know there is way too much water in the crease.  Blade height is still a concern, but usually drivers in this stage don't fill the dump tank overfull.  This type of driver is most likely to crash the machine into the boards on a corner.  Proper management style for this type of driver is to commence retraining, write ups if he or she hits the boards and negative reinforcement for what is going wrong.

Once a resurfacer driver gets through the preceding stages he or she will usually understand the best ice comes from proper use of wash water, and a steady constant speed to make sure the ice making water is uniformly spread.  Even with the automatically metered newer machines, a steady constant speed is best.  This type of driver is very steady, and what I would call a third stage driver.  He or she can make ice in 7 minutes, but won't unless circumstances demand that kind of speed.  Blade height adjustment is not a problem at this stage.  Proper management style for this driver is a once a year training session with the rest of the drivers.

Every once in a while a driver will want to go beyond the technical skills to drive the ice resurfacer.  This type of driver is usually motivated to observe how different environmental conditions affect the ice quality.  Once the driver observes this, he or she will want to control the ice cut to take advantage of the conditions.

Even though buildings seem the same every day, there are small differences.  Some of the factors that enter into ice making include relative humidity, building temperature, number of people in the building and ground temperature.  Refrigeration repair technicians call all of these heat loads.  Before I knew how to make ice, I always wondered why the Inuit Eskimos have more than 1,500 words for ice.  Watching how ice in a building changes from snappy and fast to swampy and slow, I am now starting to understand. 

The fourth stage driver who notices the different building conditions usually turns into what I call a master ice resurfacer driver.  Master ice resurfacer drivers rarely make ice the exact same way twice. If the building is warm, he or she will use less water.  If the building is cold and the ice can handle a stronger flood, he or she will use more water.  This is the artistry part of ice making; knowing how to change the cut to get top results.  Master ice resurfacer drivers drive intuitively.  Some master drivers listen to the sound of the snow going through the machine and adjust the blade based on the sound.  Most master drivers are able to drive rapidly about two to three inches from the wall without looking down at the edge of the machine.  You always know who these drivers are because the older figure skaters always want him or her to make their ice.  Proper management style with this type of driver is usually hands off because nothing more is needed. 

Most organizations need to actively cultivate master drivers.  In the ice arena business, the end product is ice.  Without a good end product, guests will always go to the competition.  No one can afford that in any business.  We, at Rink Management Services Corporation, can help you set up a training program for your ice resurfacer drivers that will help them transcend the stages.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Darren wrote:
What is the best way to find out the best blade height ?

Wed, February 10, 2016 @ 2:12 PM

2. Hockey Rob wrote:
Darren, This would depend on some factors. Is this ice for indoors or outdoors? Is this after hockey or figure skating public session?

Thu, February 11, 2016 @ 3:54 PM

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