Keeping the curling ice at a championship level will require constant maintenance from Mike Merklinger and his assistand Cody Hall next week. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Mike Merklinger will turn Quesnel’s West Fraser Centre into a curling rink

The chief ice technician will have to complete the difficult task in a tight, four-day timeline

While much of the attention at next week’s B.C. Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships will be on the rock throwers and sweepers, there will be at least one man who will be focused on the surface they are playing on.

Mike Merklinger, who has been tasked with turning the West Fraser Centre into a curling rink, has been making ice for 13 years and manages the ice at clubs in Langley, Peace Arch, Cloverdale and Royal City.

He comes from Canadian ice making royalty. His father, Dave, has been chief ice technician at a number of high-profile curling events across the world, and he has learned everything he knows from him.

All that knowledge will be put to the test this week as he installs the curling ice in Quesnel.

“It’s just kind of a different level,” Merklinger said when comparing preparing a curling club versus converting a hockey arena.

“I think the biggest challenge with it is curling rinks are a small, controlled environment, and you’re going into a new environment where they don’t normally have curling ice, so it can be difficult just figuring out the building and the environment.

“Just because you can make hockey ice in a building doesn’t mean you can make good curling ice.

“They’re both ice but it’s very different.”

Assisting Merklinger in preparing the ice will be Cody Hall from the Victoria Curling Club

“We’ve worked together a few times before, so he’s someone I can trust and I know is going to help me.

“All we have is four days,” he said of the timeline to make the arena into a championship-level curling facility.

“We’re going to arrive on Wednesday and we get access to the area at 10 o’clock and we have to have it ready to play on by Monday morning.

“It’s a tight turnaround for us so I’m bringing Cody along with me just to make sure we can get it done.”

Merklinger said volunteers will play a large role in maintaining the ice during the tournament.

“There’s going to be a lot of volunteer hours put into the ice. There always is.

“That’s a big part. Just maintaining the ice and keeping it consistent for the week.”

The ice maker says he and Hall will be there all day every day at the tournament.

“We’re basically in the building from six in the morning until the last rock’s thrown at 10 o’clock at night and then we’ll try to get some sleep and do it over again.”

When asked to compare the making of curling ice to ice hockey ice, Merklinger said it is a whole different endeavour altogether.

“With curling ice, there’s a lot more maintenance that goes into it,” he said.

“It’s a higher maintenance surface, which is a lot more fine-detailed than hockey ice.

“With hockey ice, they’re driving around with a Zamboni to keep it in playing shape but curling’s different.

“The way I sort of look at it is the difference between playing on a really well manicured golf course and a poorly manicured golf course.

“The thing with hockey ice is it can be out of level and nobody would ever know, you’re just skating around shooting pucks. But if you put a rock on that and you throw the rock, it’s going to pick that slight bit off and you’re going to notice it for sure.”

Although it would seem the sport of curling would get tiring to watch after devoting so much time to the surface it is played on, Merklinger says it is important to improving his craft.

“We do watch a lot of the curling because that’s the best way to know what your ice is doing, right?

“We’re curlers ourselves, so we understand the game and what ice should be doing and shouldn’t be doing.

“Sure, it gets a little tiring watching that much curling in a week, but it ends up becoming a blur and you’re just watching rocks go down the ice and not actually following the game.”

READ MORE: Final berth for BC Men’s Curling Championship awarded

READ MORE: Final two berths for BC Women’s Curling Championship awarded

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Quesnel Kangaroos take round one of playoffs versus Williams Lake

The Roos prevailed 6-4 in an exciting home game over their long time foes.

Educational Family Day fun at the Quesnel Museum and Archives

The museum provided games, scavenger hunts, snacks, a dress-up chest and free admission

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Quesnel ringette player excited to help Team B.C.

Katie Young will play centre for the squad at 2019 Canada Winter Games

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

Make sure measles shots up to date, Public Health Agency says

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

Most Read