Jon Wall is the chief assistant to head ice technician Greg Ewasko at the curling bubble events in Calgary.
The men’s Brier, now into its final weekend, is Wall’s second straight event after the women’s Scotties final wrapped on Feb. 28.
Wall, who has acted as a head ice technician many times in his career, made waves earlier during the Brier for an amazing shot he made on the ice (yes, ice techs throw stones between draws to keep a handle on the playing conditions). In typical icemaker are fashion, the shot was made perfectly from a crouched, non-sliding position and without any brushers.
A social post from Ewasko revealed the shot cost him “a steak dinner and a bottle of wine to Jon Wall!“
The throw even won a daily award, as voted online by fans, beating out a pile of great shots made by the event’s competitors throughout the day.
We know Jon quite well, in fact. Unbeknownst to many on this new Sports Illustrated platform, he wrote a guest column—dubbed Ice Teching—in the pages of The Curling News during the 2017-18 season. The mission was to inform and educate Joe and Jane Curling Fan of curling things that mystify.
Judging from the questions filling social media platforms and chat groups during this Brier, Joe and Jill and their pals seem to have forgotten much that Jon revealed in our pages.
Here’s an excerpt from his December 2017 issue column, inviting curling’s recreational players and fans to consider the difference between “club“ and arena ice as well as the importance of the stones, not just the ice surface.
Now that the TV/webstream curling season is truly underway, I would like to touch base on a couple of points for our recreational curlers.
We all love watching the fantastic shotmaking and (for the most part) amazing ice conditions. It’s easy to say “Wow ... I wish our club’s ice was more like this.”
Well, for most clubs, it’s not easy to simulate these conditions. The biggest factor is the condition of your club’s rocks. This is where my peers might try to lynch me, but I need to let you in on a little secret. At these events you watch on television, we “do” the stones at every event. What I mean by “do” is sanding, texturing, scratching, whatever you may want to call it … we do this at every single event. This is where all the curl comes from.
To really put this into perspective, these rocks are being thrown and swept and kicked and whatnot for between 18 to 30 full draws, and then they are textured again. For most curling facilities, that could be just one week’s worth of play. That being said, we maintain these rocks accordingly to ensure we don’t wreck them within a decade.
Now before you race off to your rink to tell your icemaker that he or she should be texturing the stones every week, throw on the brakes and sit back down. “Doing” the rocks at your local rink this often is NOT a consideration. We do this at events because we don’t have time to break the ice in, to get that big curl and perfect speed … we need to have it top notch right away. At your local rink, you have time to get your sheets through the “green ice” state. While time is the enemy of the event ice tech, time is more friendly to the neighborhood rink’s icemaker.
The other thing to consider is that your club’s ice temperatures are usually warmer than what we have here at the events. Without a big heat load like we have in arenas, cold ice means straight and slow conditions. Outside of aggressive rocks, the other big factor that is different between your local rink and “the show” is that we scrape the ice before every draw, and have a crew of six to 10 guys working on the ice. Meanwhile, your local rink might go anywhere from three to six games before another scrape is done. That is a big factor in the consistency and speed of your ice.
All of this takes time (there’s that word again) and as the saying goes, time is money. Clubs need the ice in use to make money, and that cuts into precious maintenance time for your local tech. So with these two factors to consider, please think twice before criticizing your local icemaker for not maintaining those TV-like conditions game in and game out.