Kiwi icemaker learning at Brier

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:26 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. – There are people here from all parts of Canada for the 2011 Tim Hortons, but they’ve got nothing on Nelson Ede.

The 56-year-old from Naseby, N.Z., is part of head ice technician Hans Wuthrich’s crew. He met Wuthrich at the 2010 senior worlds in Chelyabinsk, Russia, and took the World Curling Federation ice technician course in Fussen, Germany, last July.

“I told him I’d certainly be interested in any opportunity to experience a big competition and obviously Canada is the place to go. And the Brier is the biggest competition in the world,” he said Monday at the John Labatt Centre. “The committee here was good enough to allow me to come and assist.”

The four-sheet rink in Naseby, in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island, is the only dedicated indoor curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere, Ede said, and it stages both the New Zealand and Australian championships. Naseby itself only has a population of 120 “when everyone’s home,” but there are around 30 curling clubs within an hour’s drive – all outdoor venues.

Ede’s the development officer for the rink, “trying to improve the scope of all curling in New Zealand,” with the icemaking a volunteer part of his job. The rink isn’t a club in the sense of having members as its income derives mainly from the public – it’s in the middle of a biking trail that’s popular with tourists.

“It’s the finer points of competition icemaking I’m trying to gain,” he said. “We host national and international events, but in the past the NZCA has brought in icemakers from overseas, mostly Canada. I hope to pass on some of the skills I’m picking up here.”

The biggest thing is dealing with arena curling ice, something practically unknown in New Zealand. And the problem with the frosty ice in Saturday’s opening draw of the Brier, brought on by wet, warm weather and a subsequent excess of humidity in the JLC, “was a great learning curve for me,” he said. “We just wouldn’t get a chance to experience those issues back home.”

Naseby is about 4 1/2 hours by car from Christchurch, which was recently hit by several earthquakes and aftershocks. Fortunately, he said, no one he or his friends know was injured, but some friends in the city lost their houses.

“But we are a pretty resilient country,” he said.

And one that’s trying to improve its standing in the curling world.

“Australia and New Zealand used to be the leading countries (in the Pacific Rim), but now China, Japan and Korea are dominating, simply because they have more resources to put into it. We’re very committed to the sport and we have some talent there, but we just don’t have a big enough pool to fish from,” he said.

Ede heads home Wednesday and there’s no doubt the ice in Naseby will be the immediate beneficiary.

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

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