Energy Face-off (3rd period): Making ice

The third and final blog (unless there is over time!) about energy and hockey. This one takes a look at running hockey arenas.

Outdoor rinks

It was Trevor who hooked me into looking after our community outdoor hockey rink and as ‘head honcho’ of the rink rats, he also taught me to drive the Olympia-a Zamboni-like propane-driven ice machine. Several winters later, I still look forward to my shifts clearing snow and cleaning and flooding the ice.

Put simply the Olympia works like this: you pass a big scraper over the ice to shave off the skate-roughened surface, which then is picked up by a horizontal screw device, pulled up a vertical screw and dumped into a snow hopper. Next (because this is an outdoor arena we separate out these stages) you drive around again laying down a thin layer of water. Hot water is best-it flows better and by momentarily melting the ice surface helps cover over the cracks and grooves. Last year we installed a new tank-less water heating system that saves on our energy costs.

Indoor arenas

A lot of electricity is used in indoor hockey arenas—mainly for refrigeration, lighting, water pumps, and fans but also to keep spectators warm while they watch their games.  A typical community arena can consume between 600,000 and 2,000,000 kWh of electricity per year, equivalent to about a hundred homes, depending on the location, facility construction and operating profile.


Fortunately, newly built arenas tend to be more energy conscious, for example the Winsport Canada athletic and ice complex in Calgary which has three North American sized ice surfaces and an international arena with room for 4,000 spectators. It’s available to both community associations (hockey, sledge hockey, ringette and skating) as well as Olympic athletes and has the environmental and energy measures in place to really make it act locally and think globally!


All the ice resurfacers at Winsport are electric vehicles. By not using propane, this avoids the need for energy intensive air filtration units to keep the internal air quality in good condition.  All the heat from the refrigerators is used to create hot water for the rest of the building and maintaining the ice surface. Even the scraped-off snow gets re-used as water for the toilets. These and some other designs that conserve energy are calculated to save half a million dollars on utility costs each year. Once the building construction is complete in 2012 it will be eligible to take silver on the podium for LEED certification.


Community facilities

Ice facilities, both indoor and outdoor, play an incredibly important role in communities across Canada. Managing them with energy use in mind not only keeps down costs for community associations and local governments but helps reduce GHG emissions. SaskPower has come up with some tips and a manual on how to save energy in running these in Saskatchewan, where there are more ice hockey rinks (500) per capita than any province in Canada. It’s worth a look if you want to do more on your energy planning at home—you don’t have to be an Olympia or Zamboni driver!