Sioux Lookout curling kept alive by dedicated volunteers
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The Sioux Lookout Golf and Curling Club (SLGCC) is in the midst of their curling season, with many Sioux Lookout and area residents enjoying various curling leagues, as well as different curling events, at the club.
Many participants and community members see the white, shiny ice, but what they don’t see is a group of local volunteers that log many hours preparing the ice and maintaining it regularly.
“Years and years ago the club was all run by volunteers, even the bar staff. There was a time when we had the money to hire a full-time ice technician… Right now we don’t have the financial resources to pay for that person,” said JoAnne Van Horne, Project Administrator, SLGCC Board of Directors.
“It’s been probably the last five years that volunteers have been doing everything, which includes putting in the ice and maintaining the ice… The ice is actually really good. It’s almost better that we have volunteers do it because more people have a little bit more knowledge of ice making and what’s going on,” said Garth Hyslop, volunteer and first Vice President of the SLGCC.
More than ten volunteers start cleaning the rink and preparing for the ice at the end of the golf season. The cleaning is just the beginning of an intensive process to get the ice down and ready for curling.
“Cleaning the rink so it’s ready for ice is a big process. There’s lots of volunteers right from the cleaning after golf season, which includes the floors and walls, to actually putting the ice in. There’s over a dozen people that have volunteered and volunteer regularly, so it couldn’t be done without the volunteers and everybody that helps,” said Glen Poirier, volunteer for approximately five years.
“The cleaning process starts at the beginning, so you have to make sure all the dust is out, they wash the ceilings, they wash the walls, and then it goes to a flooding process. The big thing, when we need around 14 or 15 volunteers, is to paint the ice. That’s a process in itself. There’s a big bin that sticks outside and it’s filled with the paint and water. We come in and you have to run a hose out (to the bin), and we have a wand with pressure sprayers on it… Because the hose is a one inch hose, you need all the people to carry it. It has to be carried so you don’t drag the hose on the fresh paint on the ice. It used to be a lot more work when we painted the rings in, but now we’ve got the plastic rings to put in. In about a day we can have all the lines, rings, and decals in. It’s successive flooding after that… Even down to the water we use, it’s demineralized and it’s called jet ice. It filters through all these filters, and it’s basically to take out any minerals or any hardened substances out of it,” Hyslop explained.
“We have to sweep the surface of the ice and make sure there’s no dirt on there because the dirt will keep rising every time you put water on it. So you put the water on, and usually every flood is around 300 gallons of water. We put on 17 floods usually, so usually we use about 5000 gallons of water to get it ready. The problem with our ice is the cement has humps in it… That’s why we do so many floods. If it was really flat, we probably could do it in four floods,” said Laurie Jefferson, volunteer for approximately five years.
“It’s a good month of work to get it going… Then you have to continually maintain it. When we hold competitions here, like the under-18 regionals, we want that ice to be in the best condition,” said Van Horne.
Once the ice is ready for the curling season, volunteers take time daily to regularly maintain the ice so that it’s ready for use at all times. Some of the regular maintenance includes scraping and pebbling the ice.
“Every time somebody wants to use the ice, or for regular league play, we need the ice prepped every time. You can’t go out there on dirty ice, so we do need people who know what they’re doing and how to prep the ice,” said Van Horne.
“There’s maintenance before every time there’s a game, whether it’s cleaning the ice, making sure it’s free of debris, and making sure the surface is good for play with pebbling and ice maintenance… The ice has to be scraped at least once a week to make sure we have a good surface to play on at all times,” said Poirier.
“Before each draw somebody will go out there, sweep the ice, and they’ll pebble it. Pebbling is what the rocks run on… We have a device that nips, with really sharp blades, the top off the pebble. If you don’t do that, the ice is really hard to throw on,” said Jefferson.
“Theoretically it could be scraped every day… Certainly for competition play it’s between each game you scrape,” said Hyslop.
The group of volunteers have been involved with the SLGCC, and curling specifically, throughout their lives. They said their volunteerism is just their part in keeping curling in the community for residents to enjoy.
“I’ve been curling for a number of years, so I’ve always been a part of the process from coaching to just participating on a weekly basis. To help keep the club going, it’s just my part to help with the process and get the ice in so everybody has the opportunity to curl,” said Poirier.
“The events couldn’t take place without the volunteers of the club. Any time you need people to help or step up to make sure those events take place, this club and the members are always quick to step up,” he added.
“I’ve been curling for 50 years… As a curler you want to help…The group of us that comes together, we know each other in the community and we come together to help out and make sure the club is going,” said Hyslop.
“We couldn’t afford an icemaker, so we got people who had time on their hands and wanted to keep curling, otherwise it wasn’t going to get done… It’s a good feeling that the ice is being used. Hopefully we’ll be getting more and more people out. The mixed curling is coming along really well,” said Jefferson.
Van Horne said being involved in the ice prepping and maintenance requires training, but she believes the group would be willing to train others to help with the process.
“We can’t just have anybody go in there. They have to be fully trained and know what they’re doing because it is a science to do that ice. The group that we have doing it, they’re pretty experienced, but I’m sure they would love to train somebody new to take over and become more involved in that because it’s a huge process to start and it’s ongoing,” she said.
For more information, the SLGCC can be reached at 737-1800.