January 10

Maine father-son ice makers unfazed about freezing Fenway

Leon and Jason Paquin will work the ice-surfacing machines at Fenway Park.

Jason Paquin won’t look up. He expects a big crowd of college hockey fans to watch over his shoulder as he drives the bulky ice resurfacer onto the rink in Boston on Saturday. He will feel their presence but he won’t acknowledge them.

FROZEN FENWAY 

THE START TIME for the Hockey East doubleheader at Fenway Park on Saturday have been moved up due to expected rain in the area.

UMASS-LOWELL and Northeastern will meet at noon, followed by Maine playing Boston University at 3 p.m.

“I don’t want to freeze,” said Paquin. He wasn’t talking about the air temperatures at Frozen Fenway and he wasn’t punning. He knows of men who were unable to move when their moment came to resurface the hockey ice in front of tens of thousands of people.

“That won’t happen to me. I have a job to do.”

He and his father, Leon, are working this year’s hockey event at Fenway Park, resurfacing the temporary sheet of ice on the rink constructed between first and second base. Their three-week gig ends Saturday evening after the University of Maine plays Boston University in the second game of a college doubleheader later.

Other than Paquin family members, perhaps no one has bought a ticket to watch the father-son duo drive their Olympia ice resurfacers slowly around the rink. That doesn’t matter. This is serious business to the two men.

Their goal? Make the ice sheet as perfect as they can. If you don’t think that won’t take concentration, communication, skill and maybe a lucky break, think again. The Boston forecast calls for rain and, naturally, temperatures above freezing.

“We’ve never made ice outdoors,” said Leon Paquin. “We’re not in a controlled environment.”

Saturday may turn into their ultimate challenge. Emotions may run the gamut from frustration to satisfaction.

Leon is 58 and has worked in ice arenas for years. Once a fixture at the Biddeford Ice Arena, he’s now the assistant manager at the rink at the University of New England. Jason, 29, played hockey for Biddeford High. His father introduced him to ice making when he was 18. After living and working in Georgia and Florida, Jason returned to Maine to make ice at the Travis Roy Arena at North Yarmouth Academy.

Making ice and resurfacing it isn’t as simple as putting water down on a frozen surface. It’s a craft and a passion. “I’m my worst critic,” said Jason. “Sometimes I’ll put on my skates and test it myself. I’m always watching to see how the puck moves on the ice. I’m always listening to what the players tell me.”

Hearing that the ice was one of the best sheets a player has skated on are words that can melt veteran ice makers.

The Paquin team got the Frozen Fenway assignment through their network of people in the business. The event started in 2010 and was held again in 2012, but this is the Paquins’ first time working the games.

“Where do we watch? Good question,” said Jason. They take the ice resurfacers through the garage door at the base of the Green Monster in left field. Water pressure is low and refilling the tanks can take five to 10 minutes.

He’s caught a few minutes of games here and there from a spot in left field.

Wednesday night while Edward Little High played Yarmouth at the Travis Roy Arena, Jason admitted his first time walking into Fenway Park this winter as an ice maker made him feel “warm and fuzzy.” Never in his dreams had he imagined this. Being an assistant to legendary Biddeford girls’ hockey coach Marie Potvin was a highlight, he says, but the Fenway experience working with his father may be even bigger.

Last Saturday, Jason did notice a group of boys, maybe 11 and 12 years old and Boston College fans, waving at him as he drove away from the rink. Older BC fans seemed to adopt his father.

“Talk about the icing on the cake,” said Leon from Fenway Park on Thursday morning. “Making ice with my son, being at the rink . . . this is my happy place.

“Every day you wake up, you’re going to make a memory. Saturday, it will be memorable.”

Rain or no rain.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:ssolloway@pressherald.comTwitter: SteveSolloway
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