Meet Art Johnston, the London man who will resurface Olympic ice

Art Johnston, 46, stands with the Zamboni he uses at the Earl Nichols Arena in London. He'll be traveling to Pyeonchang on Sunday. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

A London man will be on an early morning flight Sunday, traveling to South Korea to undertake a uniquely Canadian task.

Art Johnston will be flooding the ice and driving a Zamboni — a job the 46-year-old has been doing for much of his life — at the men’s and women’s hockey rinks at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

“Making good ice is really a combination of things,” Johnston told 980 CFPL.

“You have to make sure the water chemistry is good. You have to ensure the air temperature, the humidity, ice temperature, glycol temperatures, it all plays a big part.”

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The skill of the driver is also a factor, he said.

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“The pattern is an industry norm, but for me I’m always watching, making sure how much I’m taking off, making sure I’m putting enough water on. Safety’s a big thing with these guys.”

Johnston works for the City of London; his home ice is at the Earl Nichols arena where his job entails much more than just resurfacing the ice.

“I’m responsible for the operation of the refrigeration plant, supervising casual staff and making sure they’re keeping busy. On a busy weekend, there could be 300-400 people here on Saturday night. So I’m responsible for the entire building.”

He’ll be headed to Pyeongchang with a group of other North American ice resurfacers: six Americans and one other Canadian. He says it’s his passion that scored him the job, along with a connection he made while working at the 2010 Olympics.

“The head ice-maker in South Korea, I met in Vancouver. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and he got in touch with me in December 2016.”

As for whether he’ll put a loonie at centre ice, a question he’s been asked countless times, Johnston says the answer is “no.”

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Not only is the ice already built, but the material would cause a heat transfer that compromises the ice.

“Everything will be ready to go when I get there on Feb 5,” he said.

“I’m hoping it’s a very smooth process.”

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