Words and Photography: Adrian Knowler

The brigade of workers whose jobs consist of clearing the ice of snow or debris and resurfacing the ice that makes up Montreal’s 245 outdoor rinks don’t work in conditions that most people would consider ideal. Many work from when the rinks close to skaters at 10 p.m. until 1:45 a.m, maintaining the ice even when the temperature regularly dips below -30 degrees Celsius.

Parcs Montreal supervisor Jean Masson thinks the rinks offer Montrealers a necessary outlet for activity on cold days. “We have to do something in the winter,” said Masson. “Move a little bit, you know? Some of the rinks are used from 8 to 16 hours per day.”

Masson has been working the late shift as a worker, then supervisor, since 1995. He enjoys working at night and says the cold doesn’t bother him. “We’re not gonna be very useful if it’s hot!”

The zambonis for most of Montreal’s smaller rinks are pulled by small landscaping tractors, which are smaller and can run in lower temperatures than most indoor zambonis.

James Loiseau sits behind the wheel of the tractor that pulls the zamboni.

Frederic Godbout sprays a layer of water on the rink, letting Montreal’s harsh winter finish the job of resurfacing the ice by the next morning.

The hoses and components are heated to make sure that the water can flow onto the ice in the coldest months of Montreal’s bitter winter.

Steve Wéry controls the pumps from inside the truck’s cab. The truck pumps 6000 litres of water from city hydrants for use on the rinks.

Supervisor Jean Masson looks over the remaining rinks on his list. He rates the rinks’ ice condition and the data is published every day online.

LISTEN: How to interpret the grades for a rink’s condition, as explained by Parcs Service Montreal veteran Jean Masson.