The Wellesley Arena will be a place where dreams come true tonight. No, not for the Applejacks hockey club, but for fan Rick Grebinski, who will be driving the ice resurfacer during the game’s intermission – a lifelong goal of his.
Grebinski managed the LCBO store in New Hamburg for 19 years, and a location in Kitchener for 16 years prior to that, before officially retiring on Jan. 31. As driving the ice resurfacer has been a long-time dream, Grebinski got a surprise gift to celebrate his retirement when a coworker arranged for him to have the honour of cleaning the ice during the last Wellesley Applejacks’ home game Feb. 13.
“I was stunned,” Grebinski said of his retirement gift. “They really surprised me with this one.”
In the early days of getting out to hockey games, he said, an ice resurfacer was nothing more than a tractor pulling a small, sometimes homemade sprinkler system. Then, in the ‘60s he saw a modern resurfacer at a Toronto Maple Leaf game, and the experience sparked the idea that he would one day like to be the one sitting atop of the machine, doing laps of the ice in front of a packed house of fans.
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“It’s just a guy thing, I think,” he laughed. “Who wouldn’t want to do this?”
Noting that after he has gone through all the training – instruction as to which buttons to push and which to never touch, which levers do what and how to properly maintain the resurfacer after it is parked in the garage again – he thinks Brad Voisin, Wellesley’s director of recreation, might just offer him a job.
“Now that I am retired, I could get used to something like this. I am at all the games anyway.”
Still, there will be some butterflies in his stomach when he makes his big debut on the ice at Saturday’s game.
“Oh yes, the pressure will be on,” he said with a laugh.
Likening the resurfacing process to cutting grass on a riding lawnmower, he was careful not to leave behind any lines of unfinished ice as he put in some practice time last week. When he was done, the sheen of the crisp new ice looked as though it had been smoothed by a seasoned professional.
Seeing Grebinski do a first, and then a second lap around the rink with careful eyes on the controls but a large smile spreading across his face as he gave observers a wave, it’s clear the experience was well worth the wait.