Three months until the Memorial Cup and the London Knights have lost their icemaker. Art Johnston, with the John Labatt Centre as chief operator since it opened Oct. 11, 2002, drove the Zamboni for the last time last night.
He begins his new job at the East Elgin Community Complex in Aylmer next week.
Johnston leaves at a critical time as it's a known fact the Knights have not always been impressed with the ice conditions.
The ice has always been temperamental, caused by the number of non-hockey events scheduled in the building. It's a fact of life for NHL teams, who all play in multipurpose buildings, but a rarity for major junior teams.
"You always worry when somebody else knew comes in, but they're pretty well on top of what has to be done," said Knights general manager Mark Hunter. "The ice has been better, but you have to be on top of it when you have so many shows in your building."
JLC general manager Brian Ohl said a search for a replacement for Johnston hasn't been concluded.
"We're sad to see Art go, but in terms of the quality of the ice, I don't see it impacting it," Ohl said, adding building operator Alain Lecompte is also involved with ice, as is Vince Vella, director of operations. "It's a constant effort, especially in the show season. When you have more than just hockey in the building it does add to the complexity of the ice, but we stay on top of it."
Johnston spent some time at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre before coming to the JLC. He'd also spent 13 years in city arenas.
"This building is definitely not a nine-to-five job," Johnston said. "For anyone who hasn't worked in a facility like this, there's some adjustment needed."
Johnston was aware of the complaints from the Knights about ice conditions but said: "It's been pretty good the last couple of weeks. I've been happy with it."