ARENA CURLING // ZAMBONI TRAX Google-mapping your arena ice

By Brad Whitlock, U.S. Curling News columnist,

expertise of your Zamboni driver(s), the age of the rink, the weather, and sheer luck, your are- na’s ice sheet may vary by several inches (up and down) from side-to-side and end-to-end. Tese variations in elevation, in many cases, may be unknown to the Zamboni drivers. Tey run the resurfacer back and forth on a scheduled basis and, as far as they are concerned, everything is good to go for the next hockey session. Last issue I made the case that once the hockey


players and the figure skaters have had their way with your curling ice each week, your fate lies in the hands of your Zamboni driver. Communica- tion with your rink, ice maintenance personnel, and specifically the Zamboni drivers is key since they mainly live in a world of non-curling ice sports. Ridges, falls, Zamboni tracks, etc. mean little to them. One way to improve your communication with

them is with a niſty tool called an ice map. Te map shows where the ice is high, where it’s low, where it’s just right, and by approximately how much. Te drivers can then use the map to figure out where to remove more ice and where flooding is needed to build-up areas of the ice sheet. Tink of it as a Google Map for your arena ice. Fantastic, you’re probably saying. Where do I

get one? Sorry, it’s one of the few things you can’t yet buy on Amazon. However, the good news is you can make one yourself. Tere are various ways to do ice mapping but

the result is basically the same – a picture that reveals the high and low spots on a sheet of ice. I’m familiar with a system developed by John Tryon of the Orange County Curling Club that is an enhancement of a tool that originally came from Ryan Hardy (of the same club). To use Tryon’s system, you ideally need two

people and two pieces of equipment – a construc- tion-grade laser level system and a laptop/tablet running Microsoſt Excel. Te laser level system is similar to the devices

you see used by road construction crews where one person stands bravely in the middle of the road (as traffic whizzes by) holding what looks

USA Curling (( 27

eing from the Arena Curling School of Hard Knocks, you know that the ice you curl on is not level. Depending on the

like an oversized yardstick while the other per- son stands safely further down on the side of the road. What’s being measured is elevations. Sounds expensive, but you can get a used one on Ebay for $400. Te result of using Tryon’s system is a color-

coded map of the arena ice, marked off in a series of grids, which the Zamboni driver can then use to adjust the blade and machine as they resur- face the ice. Te easy visual appearance allows the Zamboni driver to see “that anywhere on the map that’s red is too high and anywhere on the map that’s blue is too low,” Tryon explains. Without the map, the driver is flying blind. Map- ping the ice repeatedly over time provides a way to show the drivers how the ice level is improving (or getting worse) through their efforts. Of course, the rink (and drivers) need to be

open to using the map. “Color and communica- tion is important for their buy-in,” says Tryon. “Te Zam driver has to be able to visualize the high and low spots – through the coloring – to effectively use the map. Ten, we give that color map to everyone – the rink management, the ice techs, and the drivers. We post it in on the re- surfacing machine and in the office. And then we update it to let them know how they’re doing,” adds Tryon. Dan McCarthy of Hollywood Curling Club

has used Tyron’s tool for more than two years and he says once you see it done it really is straightforward, intuitive, and useful. “Te way

Figure 1

it works, gener- ally, is that you put a device in the center that is self-leveling. It emits a laser beam which is then captured by a second device that measures each section of the ice,” says Mc- Carthy. Te laptop is then used to record the el- evations on an Excel spreadsheet as you move up and down the ice. Michael Kurbatov of the St. Louis Curling

Club has been using the same ice mapping ap- proach for more than a year. He says they have seen significant improvement to the ice levels. (An example of a map he produced for their are- na through this system is in Figure 1.) Tryon freely shares his knowledge about ice

mapping and has a nice write-up he can send you on how to do the mapping. Feel free to email him at for detail. Ice mapping won’t solve all your ice issues.

But it’s a good way to communicate with your rink personnel. As McCarthy says, “you can’t ex- pect miracles but it definitely helps.” Lest we forget – this is, aſter all, arena ice. Q

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