Alexandr Nosov is the Chief of Ice Preparation Services at Neftekhimik Hockey Club. With a team of five staff, he is in charge of the pouring and filling process.
Mr. Nosov describes the many variants to consider and elements involved in making the ice suitable for games and training sessions.
“Once we’ve turned on the compressors, the rink cools down to a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius before we start pouring the first sheet. It starts with a layer of cold water then alternates between hot and cold for 8 to 10 layers overall.
All the layers combined will form an ice thickness between 3.5 to 4cm.
The total amount of water used to fully fill the rink is from 50 to 60 tonnes (metric).”
The vehicle we see at every game is an ice resurfacer, but is often referred to as a ‘Zamboni’.
Frank J. Zamboni (1901-1988) created the machine that was first used by the NHL in 1949.
However, ‘Zamboni’ is a specific brand of ice resurfacer but the machines at the Nefterkhimik Arena are manufactured by a Canadian company called Olympia.
The resurfacer holds a tonne of water – 800 litres in the main tank and 200 litres in the reserve tanks.
The ice decreases by a thickness of 3mm during a game because of damage from skates, as well as a number of other factors. This machine removes the damaged sheet of ice and adds fresh new sheets that each have a thickness of about 1mm.
Alexandr showed me the Olympia Ice Resurfacer close up and in action. Sitting in the driving seat, you can really get a feel for the impressive size and mechanics of this contraption.
I then asked about what elements affect the condition of the ice. Players notice the condition and it can subsequently affect their performance.
“The quality and purity of the water is a major factor. If the purification process is not up to standard it greatly affects the ice. Other factors include everything that the spectators bring with them to the arena. I’m talking about perfumes, clothes fibers and even natural body odour. The ice attracts all these things.
Above all, the players notice when the preparation process has been rushed.”
It is difficult to put into words just how important and crucial Alexandr and his team are to the overall functioning of the club. Truly experienced specialists are needed to continuously prepare the ice to a standard required for Neftekhimik HC to compete in the KHL.
It is a process so precise that it can sometimes take up to 7 days. This happens at the end of the off-season after the summer break.
The Ice Preparation Services Team at the Neftekhimik Arena is the very foundation of why hockey is possible there.
A big thank you to Alexandr Vitalievich – The knowledge he passed onto me made for some very interesting listening and a desire to research this subject further.