By Brett Poirier
SUMMERSIDE - With the Canadian Seniors Curling Championship days away, ice preparations are underway at the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club.
Teams from across Canada will begin arriving Wednesday for the tournament that begins on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Along with national tournaments comes world-renowned icemakers, and that exclusive group includes Chris Tapley, an ice technician from Fredericton, N.B.
His work starts days, even weeks before a tournament begins and continues until everyone has left the rink.
"I spend countless hours on the ice some days," he said. "It's a balancing act to get the ice game ready and sometimes that means long days to stay on top of it."
Tapley begins by cleaning the ice surface and removing all the dirt left behind. It's then flooded with up to 600 gallons of water for a rink the size of the Silver Fox. After the flooding freezes, the ice is scraped even to prevent any bumps and then pebbled with tiny drops of water to create the right amount of traction on the ice.
The work isn't nearly done yet for Tapley, he must constantly monitor the ice and its conditions to make sure the humidity or temperature isn't affecting the outcome of the game.
He began curling at a young age and fell in love with the sport. As he grew older, Tapley made the tough decision to focus on ice making instead of the game.
In 2000, he began work as an ice technician and since then has travelled across Canada and to other countries such as Japan, Russia and many parts of Europe.
He loves the travel but says that the job does take away from seeing the sights.
"Everyone asks me about these foreign places I've been to, but I can't tell them much because all I get to see is the inside of a rink and hotel."
Keeping him motivated to do the job is the training opportunities he's received along the way.
"I've learned from the best years ago, and now I look to teach others how to be great at what they do. When I have to set this job aside it's nice to know there's someone just as capable ready to fill your shoes."
With teams flying in from all across Canada over the next several days, the curling club is busy along with Sharon Howatt, co-chair of the tournament.
"We've been anticipating this week for a while now and great to see it's all coming together," said Howatt. "There's a lot of familiar faces coming back to the club since we last hosted the event and the competition level will surely be high."
The P.E.I. teams competing consist of Nola Murphy, Donna Arsenault, Elspeth Carmody and Laurie Tyrone on the female team. The men's roster includes Rod MacDonald, John Likely, Mark O'Rourke and Peter MacDonald.
The P.E.I. female team will open at 10 a.m. Saturday with a game against Alberta, the men will also play Alberta in the following game beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The Silver Fox has called on the services of Tapley many times before, and he says he always looks forward to coming back.
"I feel at home when I'm in Summerside," he said. "I have a girlfriend from the Island and it's always refreshing to see the familiar faces at the curling club."
In the meantime, along with other members from the Silver Fox, Tapley will continue to keep the ice maintained until the tournament gets underway this weekend.
For more information and scheduling of the event visit www.curling.ca/championships/seniors/.