Al MacKinnon leads a team of volunteers to keep the ice at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors Curling Championships in professional shape. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Langley Advance Times)

Volunteers; the rock behind every curling tournament

Al MacKinnon leads volunteer ice cleaners at Langley’s Canadian juniors curling championships

Behind every sporting tournament – whether it’s at the local, national, or even a world level – the hands and minds of volunteers are there, making sure all the moving come together to create a successful event.

Al MacKinnon is one such volunteer at the 2020 New Holland Canadian Juniors Curling Championships in Langley.

Hundreds of Canada’s best under-21 curlers have arrived to the Fraser Valley to compete for their spot at the World Junior championships in Russia.

They, as well as all of the committees and spectators are counting on Al to make sure the tournament has quality ice.

“The chair of the committee asked ‘what do you want to volunteer as’, not asked if I wanted to volunteer,” MacKinnon laughed, though he said he happily accepted his role as coordinator for volunteers for ice crew.

“I’ve never done anything major like this, but from years of curling I’m fairly knowledgeable on what goes into it,” he said.

MacKinnon plays on the local men’s league at the Langley Curling Centre, and has been doing so for countless years because of the comradery and competition.

He said he began by aiding renowned ice maker Mike Merlinger lay down fresh sheets before the tournament.

“We clear the ice after the fifth end; we’ll scrape, mop, take snow to other end, and even vacuum the walkways,” MacKinnon explained.

READ MORE: History made in draw 1 of 2020 New Holland Canadian Junior Championship in Langley

MacKinnon’s team clears the ice three times a day after each game wraps, roughly equating to 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m.

“There about eight people that help out after each draw; there’s two or three on the curling centre side and five or six here on the rink ride,” he continued.

The whole process takes an estimated time of an hour and fifteen minutes, meaning MacKinnon gets to also do a lot of what he likes best; take in a curling game or two.

“Everyone’s been doing good. Man power has not been an issue. It’s mostly volunteers who curler in a league or want to see the games,” he said.

When asked if he would help out again in a similar capacity, MacKinnon was quick to say yes.

“Oh yeah, it’s lots of fun and its for kids,” he explained. “We need more young people in our sport.”

MacKinnon said there are several school field trips planned and young flag bearers have been part of the games every morning – all positives that the volunteer likes to see at events like this.

“It’s a great opportunity for local people to get familiar with it,” MacKinnon added.

The tournament is on now until the Sunday, Jan. 26th at George Preston Recreation Centre, 20699 42 Ave.

Tickets and schedules can be found at

MacKinnon and his team will be there everyday making sure the ice is clean until the very last end.


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