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'The Ice Maker' cometh


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He's known fondly in curling circles as 'The Ice Maker'.

There's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of B.J. Gagnon of Abbotsford, B.C. and he's been studying is iPhone intently the past few days at the Charlottetown Civic Centre to make sure he gets it right.

Gagnon is one of Canada's renowned ice technicians, one of five the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) relies heavily on for its big events.

He's in charge of the ice for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which gets underway Saturday. Gagnon was also running the ice show when the Scotties made its last appearance in Charlottetown in 1999.

Gagnon says things have changed since then. Now he uses his iPhone to monitor ice conditions.

With the touch of his finger, he can call up any one of his ice surfaces across Canada and find out what the ice conditions are like that very second. Sensors have been set up around the Civic Centre and under the ice so Gagnon can monitor conditions.

Those sensors send data to the app on his iPhone and when the readings pop up they indicate outside temperature, ice temperature, inside temperature and humidity.

"When I'm not here at night, say I'm at the hotel, I've got temperatures pre-set and if one of those parameters gets higher than my pre-set it will actually phone me,'' Gagnon said. "My phone will go off, telling me there's something wrong at the Civic Centre and I'll race back here and fix it before it creates a problem.''

Gagnon also takes a lot of pride in the rocks. Gagnon doesn't borrow them from the local curling club, he brings them in personally.

"I have my own set of rocks.''

The rocks being used for the Scotties are the same that were used in the OIympic trials, past Scotties, men's and women's world championships, Canadian juniors and the list goes on.

Each rock also carries a serial number which curlers use to identify them.

Suzanne Birt, skip of Team P.E.I., says curlers document every single rock they throw at each tournament so when the Scotties opens on Saturday they'll know exactly how each rock reacts on the ice.

"We have a list of rocks on each ice and we match them up (to determine) who's going to throw what,'' Birt said. "Some may curl more than others; some may be slower than others so you kind of match up your pair the best that you can.''

Former Brier and world champion curlers Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin both endorse Gagnon's rocks.

And every team at the Scotties has played on Gagnon's ice and with his rocks at one time or another.

Gagnon said it will take the players no more than one game to adjust to playing on arena ice since many of them have done so before.

"These curlers are good. It doesn't matter if they come from the (Northwest) Territories or Ontario, they're good curlers and they're here for a reason. It won't take them long to adjust.''

Teams will get a feel for the ice on Friday during practice before the games start for real the next day.

He's known fondly in curling circles as 'The Ice Maker'.

There's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of B.J. Gagnon of Abbotsford, B.C. and he's been studying is iPhone intently the past few days at the Charlottetown Civic Centre to make sure he gets it right.

Gagnon is one of Canada's renowned ice technicians, one of five the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) relies heavily on for its big events.

He's in charge of the ice for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which gets underway Saturday. Gagnon was also running the ice show when the Scotties made its last appearance in Charlottetown in 1999.

Gagnon says things have changed since then. Now he uses his iPhone to monitor ice conditions.

With the touch of his finger, he can call up any one of his ice surfaces across Canada and find out what the ice conditions are like that very second. Sensors have been set up around the Civic Centre and under the ice so Gagnon can monitor conditions.

Those sensors send data to the app on his iPhone and when the readings pop up they indicate outside temperature, ice temperature, inside temperature and humidity.

"When I'm not here at night, say I'm at the hotel, I've got temperatures pre-set and if one of those parameters gets higher than my pre-set it will actually phone me,'' Gagnon said. "My phone will go off, telling me there's something wrong at the Civic Centre and I'll race back here and fix it before it creates a problem.''

Gagnon also takes a lot of pride in the rocks. Gagnon doesn't borrow them from the local curling club, he brings them in personally.

"I have my own set of rocks.''

The rocks being used for the Scotties are the same that were used in the OIympic trials, past Scotties, men's and women's world championships, Canadian juniors and the list goes on.

Each rock also carries a serial number which curlers use to identify them.

Suzanne Birt, skip of Team P.E.I., says curlers document every single rock they throw at each tournament so when the Scotties opens on Saturday they'll know exactly how each rock reacts on the ice.

"We have a list of rocks on each ice and we match them up (to determine) who's going to throw what,'' Birt said. "Some may curl more than others; some may be slower than others so you kind of match up your pair the best that you can.''

Former Brier and world champion curlers Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin both endorse Gagnon's rocks.

And every team at the Scotties has played on Gagnon's ice and with his rocks at one time or another.

Gagnon said it will take the players no more than one game to adjust to playing on arena ice since many of them have done so before.

"These curlers are good. It doesn't matter if they come from the (Northwest) Territories or Ontario, they're good curlers and they're here for a reason. It won't take them long to adjust.''

Teams will get a feel for the ice on Friday during practice before the games start for real the next day.

B.J. Gagnon is the head icemaker for the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

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