San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ice Planer Brings Snow, Slick Skating Rink

SINCE opening its doors in June 1972, the CastilloCountry Club ice skating rink has faced a major problem —how to smooth the ice after the hours of skating that sliveredthe surface, causing jagged grooves and difficult skatingconditions.Lacking the necessary equipment that many modern-dayrinks use to smooth and resurface the ice, the facility was leftwith few choices. They were forced to use a tedious alternativesolution: melt the entire rink, then flood and freeze anew one.Now, what used to take two people more than an hourand 100 liters of hot water at the club, located in San Rafaelde Heredia, north of San José, is done in 20 minutes by oneperson.The solution is thanks to Dev Minty, manager of thehockey arenas for the City of Calgary in Canada, who foundan ice planer that had been sitting in the back room of anarena there for more than 25 years.The 35-year-old machine, which scrapes the top layer ofice off exposing a smooth layer below, is now almost completelyobsolete in Canada as the modern-day Zambonimachines (which shave, scrape, wash and squeegee the icesurface all at once before putting down a fresh layer ofwater) are now used to resurface the ice.ALTHOUGH the ice planer is considered ancient inCanada, Minty knew where the machine would be well welcomed.Minty placed a call to his friend, Calgary nativeBruce Callow, who relocated to Costa Rica in 1992 and since1997 has promoted hockey in Costa Rica.Callow was thrilled.After making sure that the planer was in working orderas well as giving it a fresh coat of paint, Minty sent the planerto Costa Rica, where it arrived in March. A few weekslater, Minty and his family vacationed to Costa Rica so hecould instruct the country club’s staff how the machineworks.And while the rink’s maintenance crew was happy to seethe machine that would ease the workload, they appeared tobe more interested in the large amounts of “snow” that isproduced as a result of scraping the ice’ssurface. After practice, the “snow,” isswept together to create a pile where thechildren can play.It was “large to those in Costa Rica,but not so much to those of us inCanada,” Minty said. “I found it interestingthat the staff was more interested inthe amount of snow that would be producedas opposed to the benefits of thinnerice.”JUNG Han Yoon, manager of sportsand recreation at the country club, wasone of the amazed onlookers.“I had never seen snowmen,” he said.“About 90% of the people who come herehave not seen an ice rink or snowmen.”Callow said that once enough snow is amassed the countryclub, he plans to allow children come in and enjoy theadditional planer benefits.“Most of these kids have never seen snow,” Callow said.“Letting them come in and enjoy it, that’ll really be a thrill.”Making certain all children have a chance to experiencethe snow that the planer produces is a priority for Callow.“I want to make sure that this opportunity is available toall kids, not just the ones who can pay,” he said, adding thathe hopes to someday bring in school groups (who are sponsoredby an organization or business) to the private club’srink.Because use of the rink is somewhatlimited, the ice only needs to be planedonce a week, however, Callow said thatsince the beginning of the machine’suse the difference has very noticeable.“The rink quality has improved100%,” Callow said. “It’s less chippyand it’s smoother and the edges are niceand flat now.”Which is a welcome relief for thehockey team, which practices thereevery week. With players ranging fromages 5-21, Callow often divides thegroup by age and ability with moreemphasis on playing for enjoyment thanhours of training and drills.The response to the hockey teamhas been higher than Callow originally expected. Fifteenchildren regularly showing up to practices held Saturdays at5 p.m. at the rink at the country club.And as the rink improves, Callow hopes to also see itexpand – his goal is to try and double the size of the countryclub’s rink and is searching for additional funding and sponsors to help with the expansion.PROMOTING hockey in this tropicalcountry hasn’t always been easy – kids startedout playing at the Real Cariari Mall,between San José and the Juan SantamariaInternational Airport on a synthetic surface,also known as plastic ice, where special syntheticpanels fit together and then lubricantis added to make it slick (TT, Feb. 21,1997).“It’s slower than real ice and you have tosharpen your skates all the time because itreally burns out the blades fast, but the kidsloved it all the same,” Callow said.The hockey team members played on arink at the Waterland Park and even a warehousein Santa Ana until moving to theCastillo Country Club’s ice rink in 1997.But Callow isn’t done yet – he stillwould like to see hockey grow as a sport inCosta Rica.“What we have right now is the nucleusof a great program,” he said. “My goal hereis to build up hockey and keep it alive.”CALLOW’S team also receives supportfrom the Toronto-based NationalHockey League Players Association(NHLPA), which helps support the developmentof hockey in the other countries.Three years ago, the organization donatedfull hockey gear, something one can behard pressed to find in this tropical climate,for 30 players.In the future Callow hopes to build astronger relationship between with theNHLPA, which, through its dreams andgoals program, has helped support thedevelopment and promotion of hockey allover the world.For more info on the hockey organization,contact Callow at Times reporter Robert Goodiercontributed to this report).

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