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Laying the foundation for another season

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
Scotiabank Operations employee Chad Baroud paints one of the bluelines during ice installation at Scotiabank Place on Thursday. Photo: T. Anderson/OSHC

by Todd Anderson

The operations crew at Scotiabank Place was busy this week installing the ice in preparation for another Senators season. It's a sign that the 2006-07 campaign is just around the corner.

"This is a 12- to 17-hour process," says operations manager Tim Swords. "Our custodial crew scrubbed the slab (arena floor) Wednesday night and soaked it with water to hydrate it. Afterwards, the engineering crew turned on the refrigeration system. We need the slab to reach a temperature to where the water freezes. This morning it was 17 F and ready to go."

Bolts are screwed into the slab at the centre of each faceoff dot to help ease the painting of those areas later on. The operations crew then paints the entire slab white and sprays three to four layers of water over it as a seal.

A paint stick - a long rod with a brush at one end and a hose that feeds from the brush to a canister of paint - is used to create the faceoff circles. A string attached near the brush at the bottom of the stick is hooked onto the bolt in the slab. Crew members extend the string to its full length and then walk with the brush on the slab to ensure a perfect circle is painted.

For straight bluelines, the centre red line and goal lines, two strings are lined up with the outer edge of the lines marked on the boards. Water is sprayed on the strings to freeze them in place and crew members paint between them.

Stencils are used to trace the outlines of logos.

"It's like paint-by-number after that," Swords says.

Logos in the ice may be removed, if required. To do this, the ice must be scraped down past the level of the logo, so it is removed. The area is flooded again to bring it back to level. Logos are always readable from the north end of Scotiabank Place because that's where most television cameras are located.

Unlike some NHL teams who use lay-ins for their logos, Scotiabank Place staff opts to hand-paint theirs.

"We like hand-painting because the logos show up better through the ice," Swords says, adding the same Senators centre-ice logo has been used for the last 10 years, except when a special logo was used to commemorate the Sens 10th season.

Once all the painting is done, the surface is flooded manually throughout the evening to bring the ice up to the required level. In order for the water to freeze after each flood, a 30- to 40-minute wait is required. Typically, the Scotiabank Place ice is 1.25 to 1.5 inches thick for hockey events.

For concert events, four to six hours are required to convert the arena, depending on the show. When events require just the installation of a floor - and not the removal of the boards and glass - conversion takes only about 45 minutes. The floor is insulated and keeps the ice surface cool.

The entire ice installation process tests the physical condition of staff members points out Swords.

"The guys can't kneel or sit on the slab because the ice is to thin and they'll melt it with their body heat. It's labour intensive, so I definitely encourage them to stretch before."

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