The whistle has just blown at the end of a peewee rep hockey game between the Prince Rupert Seawolves and their opponents from Fraser Lake inside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre Arena.
The Seawolves were dominant in their victory and skate off the snowy rink to celebrate and prepare for their game the next day.
As the players leave the ice, the low rumble of a Zamboni roars through the arena as resident ice maker Hans Hagen goes to work to make sure the arena’s athletes have the best surface on which to pursue their passion.
“I love being with kids and doing something to help make them prosper,” he said.
After making sure the machine is operating properly and filled with hot water, Hagen guides the machine with a veteran’s hand and a smile on his face, effortlessly resurfacing the arena’s ice with smoothness and precision.
Hagen never misses his marks or leaves a sliver of snow when he is finished cleaning the ice. It’s clear that the 57-year-old takes pride in the job he first began in 2008.
“Nine years later I’m still at it and loving it,” he said. “I love my job and I love working for my city.”
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Hagen earned his power engineer’s ticket and worked at the old pulp mill for 23 years before it shut was down. He then moved on to work at General Paint before he heard about the position of ice maker opening up at the arena.
Hagen said he thought the job sounded like a good fit for him as he had past experience as a mobile equipment operator. He decided to apply.
“I had an interview, they asked me to come back and then offered me the job,” he said. “It was pretty easy and simple.”
Hagen accepted the position. In addition to resurfacing the ice, he is responsible for laying it down and removing it at the beginning and end of each winter season.
He also performs other custodial and maintenance duties throughout the building when he is on shift.
“My job here is to maintain a safe working environment for customers and employees,” he said.
Throughout the year, Hagan’s schedule has fallen into a familiar pattern. The season officially begins in August when the ice is installed for hockey camps and player training. Hagan said he helps put the ice in and lays down fabric for where the lines will go.
Pretty soon after that, the minor hockey, house league, old-timers and figure skating season begins and the arena is buzzing with activity.
“Things get full on when the Rampage season begins,” Hagen said. “Then there’s pretty much something going on everyday.”
In February, he provides support for the crews who lay down the hardwood floor for the annual All Native Basketball tournament.
The floor, which was once used by the Vancouver Grizzlies, covers the ice, which is kept cold underneath it.
Once the tournament ends, it’s back to work making sure that everything in the facility is running smoothly for its patrons.
The winter season finishes at the end of March with the last of the hockey games, tournaments and pre-scheduled events, and Hagen moves on to help public works with its summer projects. He said he is proud to be someone who helps facilitate so many people being able to spend quality time together doing activities they love in Prince Rupert.
“Recreation is important in any town, but it’s definitely important in this city,” he said. “Being in the arena is where I shine.”
After doing the job for nearly a decade, Hagen said he doesn’t see himself stopping any time soon.
“Who wouldn’t want to drive a Zamboni right?” he said. “There’s songs made up for that.”