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Meet the man behind the ice at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts
The 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is just days away and preparations are in full swing at Sydney’s Centre 200.
The athletes are not the only ones who’ll need to be in top form for the women’s national curling event. Dave Merklinger is the chief ice technician. It’s his job to make sure the ice is just right.
“As soon as the hockey game was over, the glass came out, the arena got chopped down by the Zamboni, and we proceeded to build the curling ice on top of the hockey ice,” says Merklinger.
Transforming a hockey rink into a curling rink involves more than you might think.
“At this point, we’re at 48 hours,” says Merklinger. “So, if we wanted to, we could probably curl tomorrow, but we don't have to. We get a little break to make sure everything is fine-tuned.”
Merklinger pebbled his first sheet of ice 50 years ago, in 1969. He's also played the game at a high level.
“I actually played in the Brier. I can't play in the Brier anymore. This is kind of like my little get up for it and make ice for others.”
Gordie Cormier is the president of the Schooner Curling Club and is also a Scotties volunteer. He says working with Merklinger is a learning experience and hopes to take his newfound knowledge back to his own rink.
“It's a well-oiled machine. He gives us direction and we pretty much go where he places us,” says Cormier. “He has a very important job. When the lights are on him and all of Canada is looking at the finished product, absolutely he has a big job.”
With the top female curlers arriving on Thursday, Merklinger says his job is to make sure the ice is at its best, so the athletes can perform at their best.
“In an arena like this you have heat loads you need to worry about, the number of people entering the building, the humidity,” says Merklinger. “I can't imagine doing anything else. I really, honestly couldn't.”
The tournament kicks off with a wild card game on Friday night. The game is free for the general public and it will be the first real test for Merklinger and his ice making crew.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore