Weekly maintenance ice man Roman Petryk prepares the ice for another week of curling at the local club. Leagues are in action Monday to Thursday evenings.

Preparing the ice for Hope’s curlers

Local club welcomes several new members this season

He says he shaves at least once a week — and he sends in his shaver blade every summer for a tune-up, at a cost of about $250.

But one look at Roman Petryk’s curly beard and you know he must be talking about something else.

The 27-year-veteran ice maker at the Hope Curling Club was prepping the ice on Monday afternoon for the coming week of curling, and he took a few minutes to explain his job.

“I’ll be shaving off the pebbles off the ice and putting down new ones,” he said. “It takes about an hour for each sheet.”

The rocks are in plain sight — but the pebbles are harder to see, unless you’re right on the ice. Pebbles are little icy bumps, laid down by sprinkling droplets of hot water from a hand-powered device that’s simply called a pebbler.

“The rocks need the pebbles to bite on and they wear off during the week,” explained  Petryk. “We also pebble before every game.”

Petryk put the club’s battery-powered Ice King shaver into action, making numerous passes up and down the sheet, gradually shaving the ice down to an almost-smooth surface.

“We’re not like the ice rink, where they are just skating on it,” said Petryk. “We’ve got to keep things perfectly level here, or the stones won’t slide properly.”

Dust and grit in the four centimeter-thick ice can take the edge off the blade over time, so Petryk does a temporary tune-up every month or so with a hone — then it gets sent away for an annual overhaul in the summer.

It pays to be connected, to keep maintenance costs down. Petryk said the ice man for the Abbotsford club gathers blades from clubs in the region and sends them back east in one shipment, giving all the clubs a better deal.

Speaking of costs, the club got off to a smooth start this season — unlike the past two, said club president Galen Toy.

“It was nice to begin this season without any troubles with the ice plant,” said Toy. “The last two years started with the successive failures of our two compressors, one in each year, costing the club approximately $11,000 each to replace.”

Petryk figured the units only have a life of seven or eight years, so the club will have to keep putting funds aside for such surprises. Other than player dues, the club raises funds through their annual bonspiels and other events at the club, including the Men’s Spiel in January, the Ladies’ in February, the Mixed in March and the Spring Fling Dance in April.

“Much appreciation to our various local business sponsors for their continued generous support,” added Toy.  “Without the numerous club volunteers and our supportive business community, we might not have made it through the last couple of years.

“We kicked off the pre-season in early October with a well-attended curling clinic/fun ‘spiel,” said Toy. “We introduced the game of curling to a number of people who had never curled before, and we’re happy to welcome a dozen new curlers to the club this year.”

That open invitation worked for Ross and Sally Fullbrook.

“They had never curled before,” said Petryk. “They came out to the clinic and decided they’d give it a whirl. I have them curling with Shirley Trick and myself on Thursday nights.”

The youth movement has fallen away for the time being — but there’s regrowth on the other end of the age spectrum.

“My dad [Jimmy] came back last year and this year, he got Roy Chou back on his team,” said Galen. “Dad started curling as a kid back in Manitoba but he hadn’t been curling here for almost 20 years. It’s good to see both of them back.”

For those who don’t like to — or physically can’t — get down in the hack, the “stick” has helped players extend their years in the game. A flexible fitting slides over the handle of the rock and simulates the action that a curler’s hand would give.

“You’ve got to develop a feel for it — but there’s some debate that it could be better than the traditional delivery,” said Galen. “Take the sliding and balancing out of the equation and it may actually be more accurate.”

In national curling news, Hope resident Doug Marshall and his mixed rink from Chilliwack were the B.C. reps at the Canadian National Mixed Championships, in Sudbury last week. His foursome finished in a five-way tie for fourth place, with a record of eight wins and five losses.