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Kootenay ice technician retires in style

Trail Curling Centre’s ice technician Mike Williams retired earlier this month
Trail Curling Centre ice technician Mike Williams went out in style as he helped clean his last sheet of ice after announcing his retirement at the BC Club Curling Championship last month. Photo: Submitted

The Trail Curling Centre is losing one of its most valuable assets.

After spending the last five years as Ice Technician in Trail, and eight years at the Rossland Curling Club, Mike Williams announced his retirement this past month.

Williams likes his job at the Trail rink, yet, when asked what he would miss the most, he replied: “The people, for sure. Whether it’s the club members, the volunteers, or the athletes, that’s who we do it for … And I want to thank everyone who helped with my career over the years.”

Being an ice technician has it’s share of challenges, but what truly makes a great sheet of ice and consistent running rocks almost transcends the everyday work that goes into it.

“There is the science end of it, and various techniques, but there is a bit of art and a bit of luck,” said Williams. “It’s kind of a combination where all these things come together. Once you can learn to read what the blade is showing you when you’re scraping the ice or what the ice looks like, then you are looking at the humidity, the air temperature and the ice temperature and water temperature, all that makes a difference. So it’s a matter of juggling all those things to try to get the best result.”

For Williams, every sheet was a work in progress, and adapting and reworking the ice can vary from one sheet to the next. In Trail, Williams wrestled with Sheets E and F, which were continuously impacted by frost heaves.

“Every facility has its own quirks, but E and F, we flooded those about every six weeks and basically just start from scratch again. It was a big job on those two sheets in particular. It was impossible to keep them flat.”

Williams honed his ice-making craft to such a fine point, he was invited to work several international tournaments including the BC Men’s Provincials, the Scotty’s Tournament of Hearts, and the World Curling Championship.

“I really enjoyed working with the other ice techs, and of course all the other volunteers from all the different rinks,” said Williams. “They are passionate about what they are doing or otherwise they wouldn’t be volunteering.”

In addition, Williams was vital to the Trail curling club and its hosting of big events like the BC Club Championship in March, the Torchlight Brewing Classic in September, and the 2019 BC Seniors Curling Championship.

But regardless of the level of curling, there seems to be a common trait among curlers to which ice technicians everywhere must quickly adapt or perish.

“Not to criticize the curlers too much, but it’s never their fault. It’s either the rocks or the ice - in their minds. When I first started, I use to take it personal but I soon learned to look at the scoreboard, and ask, ‘Did that guy win or lose?’” laughed Williams, who will hand over the Ice Technician duties to longtime curler and Trail resident Murray Walsh.

Once Williams finalizes the sale of his Rossland property, his plan is to travel the world for the next two-and a-half years.

“Nothing is written in stone, I’m going to fly by the seat of my pants,” said Williams. “It will be a big adventure, for sure.”

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Jim Bailey

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