The Manitoba Moose are no strangers to Bell MTS Iceplex. The team runs their training camp and many of their practices and gameday skates at the facility in a typical season.
This season, however, the Moose will be getting far more comfortable at the Iceplex. After playing their first four games of the season at Bell MTS Place, the team will play the remainder of their home schedule at the Iceplex.
Though the facility is one of the best in the province in terms of minor hockey, the transition to hosting professional hockey has required some upgrades. The Iceplex’s operations team has been busy as of late, working to make improvements that meet new broadcast, technology and player safety requirements.
Among the changes made were replacing the tempered glass that sat atop the rink boards with more flexible acrylic panels, an AHL standard for player safety given the higher pace and heavier hits at the pro level. The operations crew was also tasked with redesigning the penalty box area, installing rounded acrylic corners at the benches for safety, changing the rink board advertisements to materials that won’t scuff players’ equipment, painting trapezoids into the ice behind each net and adding risers behind the benches for the coaches of each team.
“Painting new lines on an existing rink was a new challenge for us, so adding in the trapezoids was a bit of a learning curve,” said Trevor Johnston, Senior Operator at Bell MTS Iceplex. “The change from tempered glass to acrylic was a lot less stressful, however with a small team working on the project, it was far more time consuming. We had a team of two to five staff working over five days to install the new system, learning how to do it as we went. By the time it was done the rink was starting to look like an entirely different rink.”
Additionally, the team installed new shelving in several dressing rooms for visiting teams and ran extra electrical lines to those dressing rooms in order to heat and dry equipment for the players.
The transition to hosting AHL hockey has truly provided a seemingly never-ending list of to-dos for the operations team.
“The week prior to puck drop consisted of constant walk-abouts, looking for things we thought needed to be moved, changed, cleaned, or repaired. All the while, we were getting update after update from others on additional set-up, as they thought of more things they would need.”
True North’s A/V and IT teams were busy in the preparation for Moose games at the Iceplex as well, making sure that the rink met the technology and broadcast requirements of the team and league. Two new cameras, a video switcher, and many auxiliary pieces such as cables and microphones were installed to ensure the production, communications, and marketing teams were able to do their work at the facility during games.
The A/V installments have created a new versatility for the Iceplex and the A/V team that may be useful for any streaming or smaller-scale production down the road, while many of the other changes will add to the experience of future facility users – improved dressing rooms and redesigned penalty box and benches, to name a few.
Bell MTS Iceplex General Manager David Sattler stresses that the most important steps for the facility in hosting the Moose are to provide the team a safe place to play hockey.
“We of course have to meet the league’s standards and the needs of both the Moose and the visiting teams, and a big part of that is the on-ice experience for those players,” said Sattler. “Ultimately, though, the success of hosting the Moose will be measured in safety. It’s our top priority to ensure our COVID protocols provide the players and staff with a safe place to play and do their jobs.”
It’s that commitment to safety and a superior experience and the team’s ability to pivot that makes Bell MTS Iceplex one of Manitoba’s premier hockey facilities. Whether the facility’s staff are preparing to host the Manitoba Moose, one of Manitoba’s many minor hockey teams, or a one-on-one training session, their top priority is always safety and to ensure that their guests leave having received superior service.
“Our whole Iceplex team put a tremendous amount of time and effort into readying the facility to host AHL hockey,” added Sattler. “It’s a level of commitment that is just the norm around here. It might get highlighted in instances like this when we’re preparing for professional hockey games, but everybody from our housecleaning staff, to our operations staff, to our office staff put this level of effort in every day for the kids playing Timbits hockey to the youth playing AAA hockey too.”