BC’s Mike Merklinger smoothes the way as Assistant Ice Technician for Olympic Trials
When it comes to curling ice, Curl BC’s head ice technician Mike Merklinger knows his stuff. He oversees the ice sheds for the Kelowna, Kamloops, Cloverdale, Langley, and Peace Arch clubs, he acts as an consultant for a number of other clubs across the province, and he’s helped educate the next generation of icemakers through Curl BC’s Ice Technician program.
This week, he’s serving as Curling Canada’s Assistant Ice Technician at the 7800-seat SaskTel Centre, in Saskatoon, helping to perfect the venue’s four curling sheets for the 2021 Tim Hortons Olympic Trials. In all, nine men’s and nine women’s teams will grapple their way through a round-robin draw, playoffs, semi-finals, and finals—and then on to the Olympic Games.
All of that action on the ice will mean a lot maintenance time for Merklinger, who usually gets to the rink at 6:00 am, and stays until 10:00 pm on game days. With so much trials traffic, the surface requires a lot of scraping, pebbling and nipping, and the rocks will typically be textured prior to the elite teams using them for the pre-event practice. The ice team also closely monitors environmental controls—heat, of course, can melt ice and destroy pebbling, and humidity can cause frost, which will affect rock speed.
The son of veteran icemaker Dave Merklinger—who himself started working with legendary Ontario technician Clarence “Shorty” Jenkins at age 14—the younger Merklinger began to learn the intricacies of frozen water at an early age. Since then he’s prepared ice for every level of curling, from club leagues to Grand Slam events, Canadian championships, and even world championships.
As we inch closer to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the competition will be tough for a spot on Team Canada. Our athletes can rest easy, though, knowing that Merklinger is on the job when it comes to the playing surface.
After all, you can’t have good luck and good curling without great ice.