Of the dozens of tasks that ice makers must execute daily, some involve repetitive motions that can cause injuries, like bursitis, tendinitis, and more. Removing the built-up ice along the boards is an example of a task that requires repetitive motions. Swinging a forged steel ice scraper back and forth like a pendulum, brute force is used by the ice maker to chip at the uneven ice and remove it from the boards. “La Touche Finale” is a de-icer that takes the hard work, and the repetitive motion, out of that job.
I spotted the La Touche Finale (or “The Final Touch” in English) earlier this season when I made a pilgrimage to the Marcel Dutil Arena in Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Quebec. That single-pad, a dozen miles north of the US-Canada border, is the world’s first arena to use a 100% C02-based refrigeration system and I wanted to see it in action for a story I was writing on the proliferation of C02 rinks in Sweden. As I toured the arena, I came across a machine I’d never seen before and couldn’t imagine instinctively what it might be used for. I asked Sylvain Lessard, the arena manager there, what it was.
He told me La Touche Finale blasts away the ice, automating the job of scraping the boards — and it works like a charm.
We had no time for a demo, but on the top of the machine was a sticker with contact details for La Touche Finale. I called the number and arranged to meet Roger Gelinas at his workshop in Shawinigan later in the week.
Gelinas is now retired, but his working life was spent working in the City of Shawinigan’s arenas — where La Touche Finale was invented. Many of the City’s arena workers performing the de-icing task were developing long term joint problems. Finding a way to automate the repetitive actions would make the ice maker’s job easier, with less stress on the body. To make sure there would be no impact on the air quality in the arena, no combustion engine was used.
The machine is built on a mobile skid that holds a hot water heater (fill it with water and plug it in to heat the water two hours before use) and a pressurized air tank which also needs to be filled. The operator pushes the skid alongside the boards and, with the help of hand controls, directs a high-pressure jet of hot water, removing the unwanted ice from the boards. There are a couple of different models (the price increases with capacity) but the top-of-the-line model includes lights, a rear-view mirror so the operator can see if the ice has been completely removed, as well as a handheld wand for tackling problem areas manually. The only maintenance required is to drain the hot water tank when you’re done.
You can see it in motion below:
Back to Shawinigan
Word of the invention began to spread throughout the province — especially once the City of Shawinigan won a Health & Safety award for the de-icer from Quebec’s Health and Safety Commission. Soon, other municipalities were asking where they could buy it and Gelinas was given permission to reproduce it and make improvements, which he has. There are over 60 machines in use in the province of Quebec, and last week they made their first international sale, to an arena in France.
The machine costs from $3,000 depending on the configuration, which is a small price to pay for the health of your staff.
“The costs of the de-icing machine largely compensate for the damage to the health of a single injured worker as well as for the loss of time related to such problems,” says Diane Desaulniers, Health and Safety Manager.
As for time, it takes about 10 minutes for an operator to move around the arena to clear off the boards using La Touch Finale de-icing machine.
If you are interested in learning more, give Roger a call (if you speak French) at 819-247-1885, or for help in English, call Guy at 418-557-4422.
La Touche Finale
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