Bottle this ice, curlers

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Hans Wuthrich thinks he can give the curlers the same great ice at Vancouver 2010 that they'll have here. But he has a message for the curlers. Be happy you're here.

There was great debate whether the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings should be held here or at the Olympic venue in Vancouver to give, as Steve Colbert would have insisted, "those cheating Canadians" home ice advantage.

Wuthrich, from Gimli, Man., said he doesn't think playing on the ice he's made here or the ice he'll make in Vancouver will be significantly different. But if this had been held in Vancouver, they'd have all been cheated out of this environment.

The Olympic facility is going to be a major letdown for the teams which win here and the teams which played here in the 2007 worlds.

"It's really, really disappointing," he said of the Vancouver site on the same property as Nat Bailey Stadium, the local minor league baseball park.

Wuthrich insisted on having every ice-making aid in what is essentially a recreation centre after the Olympics, so he can at least give the curlers first-rate ice in a third-class venue.

"It would have been nice to go to Victoria or Abottsford. They have nice arenas. If you were ever going to showcase curling at the Olympics, you'd expect to do it in Canada. It would be been nice to showcase curling in Canada with crowds like they'll have here," he said. "It's going to be the most disappointing for the two teams who make it from Canada to be in the Olympics in their own country."

When they get there, though, the head ice maker for the trials and the Olympics believes he can give them what they want the most and that's great Canadian competition ice.

"Even if it rains every day, we should be able to make your nose bleed every day in that building. Absolutely. I made sure," he said of having the icemaking capabilities in the big box structure, which could just as easily be turned into a Costco, Staples, Walmart, etc., when it's over.

It's not that they've actually done it yet.

"The test event was really useless," he said of the 500 fans for the world junior draws, which didn't, in any way, give the ice-making crew a feel for how the building would work with its capacity of 6,000, making the giant assumption that half those seats, reserved for IOC, Olympic family, sponsors, athletes and media, are ever full.

They had people wanting tickets to get in the building in Italy four years ago and mostly empty seats inside. There will be more ticketed fans in just two days here than the entire Olympics in Vancouver.

But Vancouver is in February and the trials start tomorrow, and Guthrich and his team -- Dave Merklinger and Tim Yeo -- are still trying to get the ice ready in time for today's practice sessions.

"We've been behind. Normally we move in on the Sunday, but we didn't get the building this time until Tuesday," he said.

It takes a full day to get the quirky Rexall Place surface, which is two inches higher at one end than the other, ready to paint and pebble. If nothing else it always gives them the chance to inform the local ice makers that they can explain the Oilers' problems -- they have to skate uphill two of the three periods.

Wuthrich was the ice maker for the 1999 and 2005 Briers here and Merklinger for the 2007 Worlds. Yeo, from Gibbons, has been head ice maker for Canada Cups, Continential Cups and several other major events. He will retire after this season.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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