About the same time you start slipping into your footie pajamas and settling down for the night, volunteer outdoor ice rink flooders are lacing up their boots and heading to the rinks.
Duluth’s outdoor ice skating rinks are maintained by dedicated volunteer hockey parents and UMD’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.
Without these volunteers, maintaining the over 17 outdoor rinks wouldn’t be possible for Duluth.
“It keeps the cost down,” Pat Hall said, a volunteer flooder at the Lower Chester ice rinks. Hall was one among three hockey dads flooding the rinks the Friday night, Feb. 15. His son plays hockey for Lower Chester.
The parents rotate flooding nights in accordance to a schedule they sign up for.
THE FLOODING PROCESS
The flooders arrive at the rinks around closing time.
Before they can do anything, the snow and ice shreddings left over from day skaters have to come off the ice. They grab shovels and brooms and go to work, clearing one rink at a time.
If there’s a lot of snow, they use a Bobcat tractor to haul the main load. The clearing process takes at least an hour, sometimes more.
Once the ice is clean, it’s polished with a Zamboni – a machine that can shave bumps off the ice.
Then, finally, it’s time for the flooding. A thick hose, long enough to reach the far corners of the rinks, is used to spray water evenly onto the ice.
When the water freezes, they go back and spray on more.
The goal of flooding is to fill in the cracks and add layers of ice onto the rinks so they are fresh and ready for skating by the next morning.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming out of that hose,” Jeremy Carlson said, one of the Lower Chester flooders on Friday night.
He has two children in the Lower Chester hockey program.
“I wear these cleats on my feet,” Carlson explained, pointing at his boots. “Otherwise, the hose will spin ya right around.
The hose is so long and heavy it takes three people to work it. The headman sprays the water, another helps hold it and a third person helps carry the hose to the next spot that needs to be sprayed.