Inside the Family Sports Center, groups of young kids are laughing and chatting as they work their way around the rink.
It’s here that I met with Tony Kreusch, the head ice technician for the Colorado Avalanche. We stood on the upper deck, watching the children skate around, talking about some of the biggest names to wear the Avs jersey and the greatest hockey players he’s had a chance to meet in his 18 years with the program.
We also talked about ice.
A lot of ice.
It is, after all, his job to create perfect sheets of ice.
“To make the perfect sheet of ice is the ultimate,” Kreusch explained, adjusting the frames of his glasses. “All of those hours that you put in grooming, taking care of it, making sure the temperatures are correct are all worth it.”
Despite not having a hockey background, Kreusch has been around hockey arenas for nearly all of his adult life. He grew up outside of Pueblo and enrolled at Colorado College when he was 18. To make some extra cash, Kreusch needed to find a part-time job. The hockey team needed some help taking care of their rink. Luckily for him, his background in driving tractors proved to come in handy.
It also didn’t hurt that he had a passion for science.
“I loved the chemistry portion of making ice so that it was skateable. That meant having great water quality, great temperatures, things of that sort.”
To do his job successfully, he says it requires a lot of patience, a good eye, and a few key tools. The most important being – water.
“With water we want it pretty clean and pure,” he says, adding that Colorado has excellent water. “Then my next best friend is the machine, the Zamboni. The machine will groom it, lay water, make it level for ya. And then my other one is buildings. If I don’t have a good building that’ll stay cold, then I can’t make ice. You need to get it cold.”
By the time graduation rolled around in 1988, Kreusch was offered a position as a full-time staff member.
He spent 15 years working in Colorado Springs before the University of Denver came calling. A year later, the Avalanche recruited him for the same role. Kreusch called it “a dream come true”.
His first year with the Avs was the 2000-2001 season – the year they won the Stanley Cup. Not a bad first taste in the NHL.
Besides witnessing the Avs win the Cup, Kreusch has had a lot of other big moments -- Frozen Fours and outdoor games – but the joy his ice brings to others is what makes him most proud.
It was his passion for ice and his loaded resume that made him the perfect candidate for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“Just to be there and be part of it is probably the neatest opportunity I’ve ever experienced in the hockey world. Especially to see other teams from around the world that you would never get to see, and especially live, that is probably one of the special moments.”
Kreusch is one of three Zamboni drivers taking care of the rinks. In a two-week span, he’s in charge of handling the ice for more than 35 hockey games. Talk about pressure.
“We will have the world’s eyes but it’s also pressure that makes you do a great job. I mean, it’s like anything else. I’ve come to realize that if you’re gonna be on that stage, you might as well just do your best.”