Meet Canada’s ice man

Skims over pebbles | Ice technician hopes he plays a role in Olympic team bringing home gold

DALMENY, Sask. — James Gordon shuffles backward along the curling sheets, squirting a fine spray of water from a tank mounted on his back.

Making perfectly pebbled ice is a priority for Gordon, who was one of more than 20 volunteer ice technicians chosen for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.

This evening, he plans to curl with his team after spending an hour or two preparing the ice at the curling club in Dalmeny, Sask., his home base.

He’s already put in a full day of work in shipping and receiving at Crestline Manufacturing in Saskatoon.

“Being a curler myself, I like to play on good ice,” said Gordon, who has curled in juvenile and high school provincial curling championships and aspires to eventually getting a team into the national tournament.

He started ice making as a teenager through a love of the game and a strong desire to learn about what changes rink conditions.

“It takes a lot of hard work to be good at it,” he said.

“If you’re not good at making ice or if you don’t prep it right, the ice may have more friction on the rocks,” said Gordon. “Faster ice is a lot nicer to play on.”

The Dalmeny rink is his second home, where he is the ice technician and serves on the club’s curling executive.

At 23, he has spent the last five years honing his craft here and at elite events such as Canadian men’s championships and the world women’s curling championships. He has attained a Level 2 in ice making, with the top being Level 4.

Gordon credited his experience and particularly work with the Brier’s head ice technician, Hans Wuthrich of Winnipeg, with helping to tip the scales in his favour during the Olympics selection process.

“I know what needs to be done,” he said.

Accommodations and meals are provided at the games, but he had to raise the rest of the money himself. He hosted a glow curling event fundraiser in Dalmeny, which raised $750. Crestline also contributed $500.

Gordon has now raised all but $500 of his expenses, which includes $2,200 in airfare and a $250 work visa.

While there, he’ll be part of a team creating the sheets atop the concrete pad, pebbling the ice, installing the logos and hacks and scraping and maintaining the ice between games.

He was surprised and pleased to be picked and is looking forward to watching curling and other elite sporting events.

“As long as there are open seats, I can get in free,” Gordon said.

“It’s one of the things I’ll look back on later on.”