Smooth skating

Justin Cait

The ceremonial puck drop at center ice; a hockey tradition that has been around for as long as the game itself.

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On Friday night, Quinnipiac President John Lahey found himself at High Point Solutions Arena with Arizona State and the No. 17 Bobcats for the ceremonial puck drop in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the TD Bank Sports Center.

While Lahey and each team’s captains were in the limelight, a group of hard-working men in helmets and ice cleats a were proudly standing at ice-level, too.

After all, they are the oil to the machine.

“It’s amazing how the 10 years went by so quick,” Keith Malis, the Site Supervisor and Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds at the York Hill Campus said. “I was on the main campus originally and when I became superintendent up here I kind of inherited the ice, so I’ve been working with the ice ever since.”

Malis and Quinnipiac’s Ice Technicians work to keep the ice in tip-top shape, a task that is harder and more complicated than most would think.

It’s more than just zambonis, hot water, helmets and ice scrapers to fix the ice’s surface. In the depths of High Point Solutions Arena lie countless pipes, over 20 sensors and a full-blown computer system to control the ice without having to lay a finger on the physical sheet.

“[It’s synced] to the ice temperatures and takes logs for the ice depths, so it’s not just all out here,” Malis said. “Everything is written down [in] six or seven logs for ice depths, temperatures and every time they go out to make a ‘z-cut’ or a flood it’s all documented.”

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In addition to the computers, even further behind the scenes are industrial pipes, chambers and even a reverse osmosis system to purify gallons of street water, eventually heated to better freeze the ice.

“We put [the water] out to anywhere between 140 and 160 degrees, so it freezes and has less minerals,” Malis said. “The hotter the water the quicker it freezes, plus there’s less impurities so it’s purer water.”

When on the ice, the Ice Technicians, are always protected from quite literally head to toe. The reason for the unusual amount of required safety equipment is due to an Ice Technician that fell and “split his head open” years ago. Since then, there have been no serious injuries as a result of the protective gear.

Even though the crew is constantly surrounded by the ice now, for Groundskeeper and Ice Technician John LaMadeline, hockey wasn’t always part of the lifestyle.

“I’ve never even ice skated,” LaMadeline said.

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Despite the lack of time spent on skates, it’s the work on cleats that counts now. Nevertheless, the exhausting job has its silver linings.

“I like this part of my job, I get to watch hockey and get paid,” LaMadeline said.