Q&A with VoIP Defender #WJCC2017 icemakers

  • (L-R) Icemakers Mark Callan, Hans Wuthrich and Eric Montford and Katie Maryschuk Photo: © WCF / Tom Rowland

The World Curling Federation’s (WCF) journalist, Katerina Maryschuk, sat down with chief icemaker, Hans Wuthrich and deputy chief icemaker, Mark Callan, to discuss the day-to-day maintenance, operation and management of curling equipment as the pair prepare for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in 12 months’ time.

The VoIP Defender World Junior Curling Championships 2017 is being held in the Gangneung Curling Centre, Gangneung, Republic of Korea this week and is an official test event for the Olympics. The Games will be held here between 8 and 25 February 2018.

Katie Maryschuk (KM): To start, can you tell me about your job and what you do once you get out on the ice?

Hans Wuthrich (HW): My job title is head ice technician and [Mark] is one of the assistant ice technicians. We prepare the ice for every draw, so it’s exactly the same for every team that goes out there. So, if you played yesterday morning at 9 o’clock or tonight at 7pm, it has to be the same. We re-pebble, scrape the ice for every draw and monitor the temperatures in between the draws.

KM: Now for pebbling [the process of applying water droplets to a sheet of ice to reduce the friction between the ice and the stones], is there a certain time that is better to do the pebbling?

Mark Callan (MC): We do two types of pebbling every game; the pre-game pebble which you’ll see me do, the pre-cut pebble, before the scraper starts down the ice. That just helps to keep the surface fresh and alive if you like, and it also fills in any holes that players may make with their hands or their knees.

After the scraping is done, we then prepare the game pebble. We use different sizes of pebbles to ensure consistency of speed throughout the game. We generally don’t put it on any more than 15-20 minutes before the game starts so that we’re ready to go.

KM: For someone who has only seen the sport and is trying to understand what the broom [or brush] does, can you explain to me how it helps the stone to curl?

HW: Basically, they heat up the surface in front of the rock to a point where the rocks glide better and they’ll straighten out because you are altering the surface. The harder you can do that the more you can alter the rock.

KM: Now onto stones. Every WCF stone is made in one place, right?

MC: They are all made from Ailsa Craig granite. Ailsa Craig is a small island off the west coast of Scotland, it’s about 16 kilometres off the coast and it is very unique in that one end of the island is Common Green granite which makes the body of the stone, and the other end of the island is filled with Ailsa Craig Blue Hone granite which is the running surface of the stone.

The unique property of the Ailsa Craig Blue Hone is that it is waterproof so it makes it ideal for sitting on the ice. It’s also a very hard granite, very durable granite so it makes it an ideal granite for the stone to slide on the ice.

KM: Do stones ever break?

MC: Sure! It’s a natural thing. In the past, maybe when it’s been quarried or dynamited, you get a little fissure or crack through it, sure. At every championship we carry two spare stones, so if there is ever a chance of a stone breaking down or having some other problem, we’ve got a replacement to put in so the championship keeps going.

KM: The WCF has a set of stones that travel around the world, correct?

MC: The WCF at the moment has five sets of stones that travel to all the world championships. The set of stones here are for the Olympics, so they will stay in Korea.

KM: Is there anything else that you might think someone would want to know about ice maintenance, brooms or stones?

MC: The one thing we do rely on quite heavily in these championships is a system called Eye on the Ice which monitors the ice surface temperature, the air temperature, and the humidity as well as the dew point. The dew point is the point where frost can start to form on the ice and of course we don’t want frost on the ice.

This system, which is a wireless environment monitoring system, feeds back to the laptops sitting on the desk here [on the coaches bench looking over the arena]. We can monitor the temperatures and we can also do it remotely. It also has an alarm system so if we go home at night and something goes wrong, it sends an alarm so we can see what is going on.

HW: We get the temperatures right on our phones. It’ll phone us, text us, or email us if the temperatures go out.

MC: Really for this level of championships or Olympics, without Eye on the Ice you’re blind!

KM: Well guys, thank you for sharing this fascinating insight with our readers.

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