Building great ice is a shared responsibility, and you can help -- it's easy to get started!
Before every game, the surface of every sheet must be "mopped", "pebbled" and "nipped". This page tells you what you need to know to nip and pebble. There's some technique involved, too, so to get started, offer to help someone prepare the ice before your next league game, so they can show you the ropes.
Once you have nipping and pebbling down, there's lots more to learn about the ice! Just talk to a member of the ice committee to get started.
Mopping involves pushing the wide shaggy mops positioned at all four corners of the ice shed over the entire surface of the sheet, and should happen as soon as a game is complete.
When mopping, be careful to overlap the center line slightly as you go up one side, then back down the other. It doesn't matter how fast you walk, but do not stop moving or the debris and the mop itself will freeze into the ice. Finish behind the hack, by tapping the mop lightly on the ice a few times, then lift, step over the invisible pile of dirt you just made, put the mop back, and sweep up the pile of dirt. Often a teammate will do the last part for you.
Tip: Use one of the mops at the away end. It is much easier to get behind the hack where there are no stones in the way!
Pebbling is the process of spraying water onto the ice to form the pebble that the stones will ride on. It requires the most thought and judgment of any of these activities, but it's nothing too difficult.
Pebbling is best learned by demonstration, but here is the outline in case you forget a step:
- In the machine room, fill the pebbling backpack with about 0.75 gallons of purified water per sheet you will be pebbling. Before you turn on the pump, check that the wand is properly hooked above the water level so it will not dump that precious water down the drain. There are instructions in the machine room for how to pump the water.
- Select a pebbling head and attach it firmly to the wand, with the holes oriented so they will face up when you are wearing the backpack. Grab a rag and hoist it onto your back, then check the orientation of the head again. Keep the pebbling wand held high above the water level in the backpack.
- Head out to your first sheet, and check it visually: hack covers both on, and nothing in your way that you could trip over. We have all tried to put a hack cover on while wearing the backpack -- once. You'll end up very wet and with a lot of extra water on the ice.
- Stand just in front of the hack, facing the boards, with your right arm over the centerline. Lower your hand and begin moving it back and forth lightly until water starts to emerge. Cover the back with these short strokes as you begin walking backward.
- Once you're past the hack, you should be at full speed. Your hand should make a full cycle at least once per second: a fast "one-two-one-two-.." You should travel from one end of the sheet to the other in under 45 seconds, which is a pretty brisk pace backward.
- Be very careful as you enter the far house not to trip over the hack! Make a short stroke or two over the hack, lift the pebble head, and you are finished with the sheet. Use the rag to wipe any drops off the head.
- When you have pebbled all of the sheets required for the next game, empty the backpack back into the purified water tank, remove the pebble head, and leave things ready for the next person.
If you need to stop while pebbling (maybe you're leaking or a stray stone is heading right for you) just lift the head where you are. Take note of your location, then when you're ready to begin again start from the other end and stop where you left off.
The pebbler has a lot of options: pebble head type, hole size, water temperature, and number of passes. There are also conditions to consider: when was the last scrape (look in the logbook in the machine room)? how quickly is frost developing (more quickly very early in the season)? how has the ice been playing? what kind of ice is most appropriate for this league? It comes down to intuition and experience, but here are some guidelines:
- Choose the pebble head type that gets you the most even coverage with your pebbling technique. If you're not sure, choose one and see.
- Smaller holes make faster ice, while larger holes make slower ice
- Smaller holes make smaller pebble, which can get buried by frost
- Colder water makes softer, but taller pebble, while hotter water makes flatter, but harder pebble. harder pebble will hold its shape longer into the game.
- If you need to lay down a lot of pebble, perhaps because the surface has been worn down by a lot of play, make two passes.
In general, a medium head is a good choice early in the season; fine is good after November, and on freshly scraped ice in good condition, XF can make nice, fast ice. Water around 105F is good; colder is OK, but if it's much hotter then dilute it with some cold. One pass is usually all that's required.
Tip: If the ice is particularly frosty or slow, you can perform a nip-pebble-nip, where you begin by nipping, then pebble and re-nip as usual. This takes longer than the 15 minutes between league draws, though!
Compared to pebbling, nipping is pretty easy and a good way to get started. The idea is to remove the top of the pebble, using sharp steel blades embedded in the red "nipper" stored at the away end.
- Get the chamois from the storage room just inside the ice-shed door. Check that it is dry, and if not dry it off with a towel. Bring it into the ice shed and set it against the wall to cool.
- Take the nipper off its rack and put it on the ice surface behind the hacks. Leave it there as long as possible, optionally sliding it sideways behind the hacks, to cool the blades down to the ice temperature. Attach the chamois to the nipper.
- After each sheet is pebbled (wait at least 30 seconds for the pebble to freeze), make three passes over the sheet: one on each side, coming within a few inches of each sideline, and one in the center. Be as straight as possible on the straightaways, and make your turns broad, ensuring you are at least cutting the entire surface of the house. Any normal walking speed is fine - it makes no difference.
- Listen to the nipper, and after you've gone a few yards check that there is snow across all three blades. If not, stop and investigate.
- At each return to the away end, bump the nipper gently into the boards to free up the collected snow. If you're lucky, a helper will sweep that snow up for you. Watch for any other snow you drop along the way, and remember to come back with a dustpan to pick it up.
- When you are finished, lower the nipper's handle to the ice, tilting the blades up slightly. Raise the blade-guard and clean the snow and ice off of the blades. Then pick the nipper up and return it to its cradle.
- Brush the snow off the chamois into a trash can and return it to the storage room where it can warm up and dry out.
- Clean up all of the snow you just created. Even an imperceptible dusting of snow is dangerous, as it can cause a gripper to unexpectedly become a slider. There is a push-broom in the back closet that does a great job of running down the ice behind all four hacks to catch anything you missed.
Tip: if you find yourself stranded with the nipper at one end of the ice (for example, when nipping three sheets), turn it sideways and slide it to the other end, so that the blade is not cutting any ice. Check for snow!