My Take on Snow Lake - Nov. 7, 2014

The Iceman Cometh

When summer rolls round to fall, the leaves begin to drop and there is that telltale nip in the air; that’s when the thoughts of many in Snow Lake turn to curling. Long before that, people are up at the local rink dusting, washing, sweeping, and polishing, prior to the marathon work of putting in the ice surface people play on throughout the winter. This year, things went a little differently in that respect and curling aficionados visiting the rink for the first time this season will no doubt notice it as soon as they gaze through the sparkling clean glass in the rink’s rotunda.

The ice is nothing short of spectacular and there is a good reason why. The same ice technician who put in ice at the World Curling Championship and the Brier also worked his wonders on the five sheets of the Gordon M. Rupp Rink. Yes, Greg Ewasko made the ice at the local rink this year and he took a bit of time on a mid-October afternoon to talk about it.

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Ewasko is a Level 4 National Ice Technician who makes ice for a living. He’s done the Brier, the worlds, pretty much everything but an Olympics.

“Once I do an Olympics, that’s it for me... I’m done, I’m good,” joked Ewasko during the recent chat. “I’ve done almost everything; I’ve done a World Junior in Östersund, Sweden; Men’s Worlds in Beijing, China; World Seniors in St. Paul, Minnesota and done ice across Canada. I guess I*ve been around.”

Ewasko, 38, got involved in ice making early in life through an interest in curling. “It happened that I was going to school in Selkirk, was on the high school team and just loved throwing rocks  I even skipped the odd class to go throw rocks,” he confided. The technician admits that he wasn’t big on education as a younger man and after being taken under (Selkirk ice technician) Myles Chapin’s wing and taught the intricacies of maintaining ice, he felt that it just might be the right gig for him.

The first curling club Ewasko looked after was in Beausejour, back in 1997. At that time he met an older gent, Jake Versluis, who he says used to hang around with the likes of Shorty Jenkins and Hans Wuthrich (two of the top ice technicians in the game). “For some reason, he just liked me and offered to show me a few things,” said Ewasko. One such lesson saw Ewasko water pebbling the rink parking lot every day for the month of August. “He taught me how to do it properly and how to do some of the finer things in the ice making world.”

From that position, things snowballed and Ewasko ended up helping at a World Curling event in 1999, working with ice makers Hans Wuthrich, Shorty Jenkins, and Eric Montford. “I just kinda showed them that I was really into it ... a keener, and I guess I caught Hans’ eye and he phoned me up and asked if I like to come and work with him, and I did,” Ewasko explained.He proved that he was a quick study and interested in the craft; his skill evolved from that.

It wasn’t long after this Ewasko met Mark Shurek, and started working with him; word of mouth got him to where he is today. “I take a lot of pride in what I do,” he added.

Anyone walking into Snow Lake’s rink this year will see that this man has much to be proud of, as you are immediately struck by how uniformly white the ice surface is. Ewasko says that after the ice is in and painted, the circles or rings are cut in with a four router jig and then they are hand painted. He says that it takes about 10 minutes to cut all the rings, the painting a bit longer. Ewasko is firm in the opinion that in order to make good ice, one must pay close attention to detail and keep good records at every step. Also key to keeping it looking good, is regular scraping (after every draw Ewasko recommends) and fresh pebble. He says the more you can scrape and pebble, the better your ice will be.

“Everything flows from that,” he said.

Ewasko has been in numerous rinks around the world, but admits that he was very impressed with Snow Lake’s facility. “It is so clean and well maintained, you look around and everything is hung up, the garbage is emptied, there is nothing lying around. It is a fabulous place and it’s obvious the people care, the community cares, it is very well kept.”

Concluding the interview, Ewasko admits that he is a gun for hire and will travel anywhere to put in ice. “This is definitely one of the farthest places I’ve come,” he laughs, and says that he looks forward to a return visit.

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