Tournament Ice Made Easy

The operations team in Slave Lake, AB

Tournament Ice Made Easy

It’s no secret that tournament ice is typically hard to keep good, especially with so many ice makes in such a short amount of time. Up in Slave Lake, Alberta, the twin pad recently hosted a 3-day tournament with 29 adult teams, resulting in 65 ice makes – on REALice ice. Not only did the ice hold up for the entire tournament, the operations team never had to venture onto the ice to repair scars and gouges like they used to do when they did hot water floods. This is that story.

Treaty 8 First Nations Cup

This year, the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup took place 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 to the Multi Recreation Centre.

For perspective, this is a community arena but it’s also got a Junior “A” team – the Icedogs. It has community hockey, figure skating and sledge hockey, and runs hockey schools and tournaments regularly. But this tournament was different…bigger! 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 tournament ice not holding up back in the old days flooding with hot water. 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 cooling demand that come with so many back-to-back floods, leaving puddles on the ice that had a hard time freezing, resulting in soft ice.

The ice resurfacing machines were readied for the Treaty 8 tournament, including blade and towel changes.

The ice resurfacing machines were readied for the Treaty 8 tournament, including blade and towel changes.

It would be their first big tournament using REALice. 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 and that’s what they’ve got at the MRC. The ice crew 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 job ahead of them, with fresh blades and towels installed before the first puck dropped, then two more blade and towel changes each over the course of the tournament.

“That’ll be the REALice”

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!”

Hot Water Floods and Tournaments

The tournament ended on Sunday and Bacon and his crew were back at it Monday morning, taking the ice out on Arena 2 for a dry booking later that week. Treaty 8 has asked about availability next year, and word about the quality tournament ice is spreading like wildfire. Another group has just inquired, this time bringing 32 adult teams.

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

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