Campus Careers: Clare Drake Arena

Campus Careers is a running feature where we job shadow an occupation at the University of Alberta

The morning facility check, not caffeine, is what wakes Clare Drake Arena supervisor Monty Wood up in the morning.

Now in his in his 27th year at the University of Alberta and his 16th at Clare Drake, Wood’s daily routine is instinctual.

Wood arrives at Clare Drake Arena at 8 AM after dropping his kids off at daycare and school. The morning starts with a routine check of the premises. He goes through the facility, checking on everything. Leaky taps? None this morning. Burnt out lights? There’s one on the second floor.

Wednesday morning is particularly important for maintenance duties. The weekly ice thickness readings must be taken, advertisements on the boards changed out. Every few Wednesdays the arena crew will clean the glass, which will never be completely clear. The outside glass is always victim to handprints, and the inside is always being beaten up by flying pucks. It’s one of those things you always need to do, Wood said.

“Every day is kind of packed, but we don’t think of it in those terms,” Wood said. “We come to work and go, ‘Okay, what do we have to do today?’”

Jamie Sarkonak
After the morning check, the Zamboni schedule is what governs the staff. The schedule dictates when arena staff must “flood,” or resurface, the ice, which has to happen between each skating group.

During the day, Wood’s time is spent at his desk under the stands of the West end of the arena. The administrative grind at the arena is like that of any other, non-hockey job. Wood double-checks timesheets, coordinates with the accountant, and fires off a few emails. Wood gets a break from office duties when Zamboni schedule dictates.

Within the framework of the Zamboni schedule, staff work on outside tasks, such as leaving the facility to buy parts, or performing maintenance on PAW exercise machines.

The only time of the year where regular arena duties are paused is right before finals, Wood said. The guys at Clare Drake are responsible for setting up the 3,000 desks in the Pavilion, Main Gym, and Education Gym as the end of the semester.

The usual shift finishes up at 4:30 p.m. in the middle of varsity practice, which run from 3 until 7 p.m.. The evening staff then takes over, and oversees the evening intramurals.

The evening staff work the ice as intramural teams cycle on and off the rink. During games, maintenance checks Clare Drake for the little things. Are the right doors locked? Yes. Has a disgruntled player damaged the locker room? No.

The Zamboni floods the ice one last time after intramurals and retires to its garage on the West end of the arena. A couple of grease points are attended to, and then it’s put away until the next day.

The last little machine to work that evening deals with the rough ice in front of the bench, ravaged by the day’s skaters. Closely resembling a push-lawnmower, the edger’s only its blade is oriented almost vertically, to shave down ice against the boards.

The arena staff leave at 1 a.m. The cycle restarts in seven hours.

“(Clare Drake) is a neat old building,” Wood said.

“You know, there’s times where you wish for a variety of reasons that we could have something new and shiny … But it wouldn’t be the same feeling. It’s a grand old place.”

Jamie Sarkonak

What’s the most rewarding thing about working at Clare Drake?

We get to watch the (Bears and Pandas) grow up. When they’re here, they come in as a first year … And then when they leave they’re classy people. And to even see the alumni now — one of the Golden Bear alumni is the Edmonton Oiler’s goalie coach. Other ones have obviously had varying degrees of success, but they come in young, naïve. Seeing them grow up is pretty cool.

What’s the worst damage that’s ever happened to the facility?

There’s one dressing room where there’s a hole in the washroom stall door cause somebody kicked it with their skate.

What do you look forward to most at work?

Being able to be here for hockey games. You’re basically being paid to watch hockey.

What’s your relationship with hockey?

I’ve played the game my whole life. Refereed for 25-plus years. I was fortunate enough to be a linesman at the CIS level for six or seven years. Hockey’s a great game, it’s a Canadian game.

What’s the funniest mishap you’ve ever had to deal with?

I don’t know that it was humorous to me, but we use steam to melt the snow in the pit (the Zamboni) dumps into. And this was quite some time ago. One of the past employees left the steam on all night. So when we came in in the morning, we were literally squeegeeing the walls of the entire building cause it was raining. Like, the front lobby — that whole area was raining, it was just water.

Jamie Sarkonak

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