Building a New Rink “DOWN UNDER”

Building a New Rink “DOWN UNDER”

In early April 2017, Kerry Goulet found himself having a moment while overlooking the massive warehouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wondering what he had got himself into. He had just touched down from traveling over 1,000 kilometers from Toronto, Canada to find the perfect set of used NHL style boards for the new and improved look of the dasher arena system for the Hungry Jack’s 2017 Ice Hockey Classic Down Under. It had only ever been a dream of Kerry’s that the Classic could deliver a new look and experience when it came to the ice and board system. With one of his top ice expert, Jeff Amaral with him, he was able to purchase a set of boards that would require extensive work to make that dream come true. The ice and board system was the perfect size and most important, it had the ability to be converted to the specific measurements to fit in Melbourne’s Hisense Arena footprint.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of the hard work that goes behind building a rink from scratch, you need to know where this dream of Kerry’s first blossomed. Kerry had seen an outdoor game in Finland a few years ago that had a rink with completely clear dasher boards. He instantly fell in love with the look and feel and knew it would deliver a one-of-a-kind experience to the spectators Down Under. As most boards are solid, having the clear boards allows for the spectator to see all the action on the ice without any obstruction. He immediately sought out his team, Amaral and Paul Kempffer and then the search and brainstorming began. The idea was fantastic and seemed foolproof but making it happen was where many roadblocks, tight timelines and hard work came in to play. Before Kerry and the team could even dream of starting the process of the new dasher board, they had to get the older rink system out. They first learned that it would require taking the old poly off the frame, rebuild the frame, and modify the entire frame system. Because the floor layout in the Hisense Arena does not allow for an official NHL sized rink, the rink system would need to be down sized. However, the system came with a seamless temper glass set up, which meant much more planning was required.  Sounds simple….but there was nothing simple about this process.

You’ve heard the saying “measure twice, cut once”; Kerry was not going to make a mistake that would jeopardize the experience for the fans at 2017 Classic. This meant Kerry and his team of Amaral and Kempffer flew to Minneapolis on several occasions to take measurements and re-design the layout of the board system, all the while knowing they must keep the system portable. The system would have to be dismantled after each game, put on a truck to go to the next city, as quickly as possible. They wanted to make sure the dismantling process was seamless, which meant making sure every decision made did not hinder that process. Paul Kempffer was instrumental in making sure all the sizing of the materials were right, all necessary parts were in place and most importantly, he single handedly organized the loading of the boards, (with a crew of three, including his right hand crew member Dave Jenkins from Toronto) the tempered glass and the Zamboni on to the respective containers for shipping.

The ice floor and dasher board system, which includes 4’ x 6’ temper glass panels that weigh well over 200 lbs., had to be installed in three days, have pristine playing ice and create the atmosphere of an NHL ice surface.

Before even thinking about getting the game-day ice in playing condition, the ice crew had a tremendous amount of planning and logistics to go through first. First and foremost, was the shipment of the boards out of North America, which entailed four 40 ft. containers coming from Holland with the ice making system (piping, glycol, pumps and so much more). Everything needed to clear through customs and be delivered to the first venue, Qudos Arena in Sydney, on time and in priority placement.

The shipment alone is a stressful period as they were dealing with very tight deadlines to get the containers from inland to the Vancouver port (dasher boards only) and then a few days later to get the Zamboni and its parts from Toronto to Philadelphia to make its sailing deadline. Once all this was achieved, it would then take five weeks to cross the Pacific Ocean and land in Sydney by May 26th. One small delay and the games are in jeopardy.

Once the containers have arrived in one piece (sorry many pieces) it is time to get to work. All of the elements for making the actual ice must be taken out first. This will require a staff of ten, working eight hours each to properly place each ice panel in place to allow the experts to piece the floor together, somewhat like a puzzle. Once the floor is secure and connected to the refrigeration system, water needs to be added and lots of it. The amount of water will sometimes vary but typically it requires 60 liters for the first dump and main freeze. Once the ice has hardened then the ice crew will install the white vinyl sheets, which consists of 12 tubes of 4 meters wide by 24 meters long, that will cover the entire ice surface. The Red, Blue and Goal lines are precisely placed, followed by a layer of water (yes, another!) that is dumped to harden the vinyl and hold it in place.

With the ice down, the boards can begin. The dasher board construction begins with 78 sections of boards, each weighing approximately 68 kg. This dueling process of installation and placement will take roughly six hours and requires eight loaders and two dasher board experts. Now we have ice and boards, what do you think comes next? The tempered glass panels; each one has to be installed individually, put in the exact place. Once they have completed the entire lap of the rink, all the hard work is done, kind of. The tempered glass panels form a seamless enclosure to protect the spectators from the puck, which can travel up to 160 kilometers an hour. Now you can understand why the individual placement of each panel is highly important. Each panel varies in size and weight but the average piece is 1.2 m by 1.8m (4 ft. by 6 ft.) and weighs around the 91 kg (200 lbs.). To complete one full sequence of the rink will require 110 panels of the tempered glass. This job calls for eight crew members working another four hours to complete this final, but definitely most important stage of production. Let’s recap: we now have the boards, the glass and the ice; you’re probably saying, great, we’re done! Not so fast, we still need to groom the ice for the Professional Ice Hockey players and ensure the ice is in pristine condition so they can show of their skills. To ensure the ice is hard, smooth and in pristine condition, it will take an additional two days to continue the process of in watering, shaving the ice with a Zamboni and getting the ice to the proper temperature and thickness. Now, this is where Jeff and Paul do their magic behind the scene and the spotlight…

Fun Facts:

  1. Board system has roughly 80 panels
  2. 280 bolts to join boards and 140 nuts to brace to footers to secure the boards to the ice surface
  3. 1365 sq m (14,700 sq feet) of white vinyl
  4. 110 tempered glass sections for the enclosure
  5. 80 top clips to hold the seamless glass in place
  6. 26 km of aluminum piping
  7. 18,000 liters of cooling liquid (glycol)
  1. 80,000 liters of water
  2. A Zamboni (ice-resurfacer) which weights almost 5,400 kg (12,000 lbs) with water
  3. Takes 3 days from nothing to playing ice hockey
  4. Takes 16 hours to dismantle and be on the truck to travel to the next city

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