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NHL's ice men help make Dundas rink right

by Magalie Lafreni?re /
DUNDAS, Ont. -- It's safe to say that Don Moffatt will be missed at J.L Grightmire Arena when Kraft Hockeyville 2010 concludes Tuesday night.

Moffatt, who is the NHL's facilities operations supervisor, has made some fast friends at the rink in Dundas, site of the Kraft Hockeyville game between the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, U.S., TSN).

Moffat has an easy rapport with the local ice crew says Joe Kennedy, the facilities operator at the J.L. Grightmire Arena. Kennedy has been busy learning everything he possibly can from Moffatt.

"Don Moffatt has been great," Kennedy said. "He's like a buddy now, he's like a brother. We were working on the benches and he was right there with me, working the whole time, cutting the rubber down and getting things all ready for the players. I won't ever forget this."

Getting a rink ready for an NHL game is no easy task, but the J.L Grightmire Arena was, in fact, more NHL ready than rinks in past Kraft Hockeyville stops.

"It's a pretty nice rink," Moffatt said. "They had already done a lot They've had a new set of boards and glass recently installed and a brand new refrigeration system was replaced this summer. The only thing we had to do was add some spectator netting to bring it up to our standards."

What they have been working on, are the little things, drilling holes and making sure the ice is game ready, but the crew also has been learning some new tricks, some of which are taught by Moffatt and more from Dan Craig, the NHL's facilities operations manager. They held an ice maintenance clinic this past Friday for ice crews at the local arenas. The clinic was a new addition to Kraft Hockeyville to address a group of people that are often overlooked

"Our goal was to share the knowledge and the experiences we have and to be able to help a small rink like this," Moffatt said. "We are also trying to professionalize the industry. Back in the old days, people would see a Zamboni driver or an ice resurfacer driver and they'd say, ‘Oh there goes the janitor.' So just to up the professionalism a bit and be able to show that there are careers available in the industry."

Moffatt and Craig also asked each of the 15 individuals in their clinic to share their personal horror stories. The NHL's ice men offered solutions to their problems and also shared some of their own stories.

"That's how you really learn a lot in this industry, by sharing stories, meeting other people and talking," Moffatt said.

Ray Ritchie, the senior operator of the J.L. Grightmire Arena, learned one thing in the clinic that already has proven to be invaluable.

"He showed us a few things we didn't know, like how to get condensation out of the arena," Ritchie said.

It just so happened to be extremely hot outside on the day of the clinic and fog had built up on the ice. In the past, Ritchie and Kennedy had turned the heaters off, thinking the heaters would make the fog worse, but Moffatt instead had them crank the heaters up in order to dry the humidity out. It is these little tidbits that have made the last few days of hard work worth it to the two men of Dundas.

"I'm whooped," Kennedy said.

"Right now, it's been a lot for the guys," Ritchie said. "But when we sit back and look at this, yeah, we'll be very gratified and satisfied with what's happened here."

So will the community of Dundas. One resident was overheard in the crowd yesterday saying how he won't have to duck from flying pucks anymore thanks to the new nets.

Ritchie, who has been working in Hamilton City arenas for a good 30 years, has directly seen the impact of Kraft Hockeyville.

"It's meant a lot to this community," he said. "The town is electric right now. The town is alive with enthusiasm about this game.  Like they say, grassroots."

Hopefully Ritchie and Kennedy will still get to enjoy the game, but Moffatt has been keeping them busy getting ready for the big show.

"The NHL likes their ice a lot thicker than we normally do," Kennedy said. "Right now, we're really finicky about the ice and the ice temperatures and that's really up to Don where we're going to put it. We're adjusting it up and down."

Moffatt said that Tuesday it's going to be the big boys out there on the ice, so they'll be working extra hard until the puck is dropped.

"Today the ice surface will be much better than it was yesterday," Moffatt said. "We'll spend all afternoon working on it. Everybody thinks there's dead time after Buffalo or Ottawa leaves the ice after the morning skate and before the game starts. But we'll be out on the ice for most of the afternoon, grooming it, making sure the edges are all straight and square and going over the field of play with a fine tooth comb."

And despite his exhaustion, Kennedy can't wait.

"I can't wait for the atmosphere, just from everybody in town talking about it," he said. "It's bringing everybody closer together. It's just neat. It's been really good."

Follow Magalie Lafrenière on Twitter at: @NHLmagalie

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