In the catacombs of the HCD
The Vaillant Arena is home to the legendary Hockey Club Davos (HCD). A glimpse behind the scenes there shows why the red carpet spells lots of work, why there is a supermarket trolley in the changing room, and why the four rink-maintenance men are also artists.
The puck whizzes across the ice. The stick of HCD attacker Dino Wieser swings, causing it to fly up and crash into the Perspex screen on the touchline. There is a whole canister of pucks in the middle of the rink, and the two HCD players who are training at the Vaillant Arena in Davos this morning take turns at dipping into it. The only thing happening on the playing field is their movement. The stadium is otherwise totally quiet. There is only one man on the stand, which would normally be crowded with thousands of fans, all feverishly cheering their team to victory. He sprays each seat with a cleaning product, and wipes it with a cloth. High overhead, under the impressive domed wooden roof of the arena, a team-strip, proudly bearing the number five, hangs in honour of Marc Gianola. This former defender and team captain of the HCD, is an ice-hockey legend. He retired two years ago, after a highly successful career in the sport, and is now in charge of the club's marketing activities. „I sometimes miss being in the team“, he says. „I’m now a lone wolf, and have had to get used to the fact.“ It is however good to continue to work with the HCD, despite having retired from the sport. He is providing us with a glimpse behind the scenes this morning, showing us a world that spectators rarely see.
The final touch is what counts
The heart of the HCD is the stadium’s changing room. Skates and helmets hang from the ceiling, with team-strips and training-suits stowed in lockers. It is decorated in the team’s colours of yellow and blue, and its ibex logo seems to be everywhere. The carpeted floor is patterned with the markings of an ice-hockey field. An empty supermarket trolley stands in the middle. It has nothing to do with shopping, however. „This is our laundry cart“, explains Marc Gianola. „After each training session, everyone throws his dirty kit into the trolley for despatching to the stadium’s laundry.“ The team-strips are all neatly hung out and then ironed, ready for their next mission.
«From blunt to razorsharp; each has his own preferences.»Marc Gianola, HCD’s head of marketing
Star attacker Reto von Arx is sitting in the recreation room. The TV is on, and the place smells of coffee. Marc Gianola chats briefly with his former team-mate, before leading us into the catacombs of the stadium, with their massage room, wellness facilities and skate-grinding workshop. „That's a really important place“, says Mr Gianola. This is because the correct quality of the grinding is decisive. Stefan Steiner, the man in charge of equipment, knows exactly how to grind the skates for each player. „Each one has his own preferences“, explains Mr Gianola. Some prefer blunt blades, while others like them to be really sharp. Some want their blades ground after every training session, and others are content with just three times a year.
Every day: shooting training in the „Commando Room“
As we continue the tour, our guide opens a door marked „Commando Room“. A wooden staircase leads down into an almost-bare basement. There is a goal up against the far wall. „This is the police and security central control room during matches“, explains the club's head of marketing. „But at other times, it’s used for shooting practice“, says Mr Gianola. „Every player has to spend a daily half-hour in here, repeatedly practising his shooting and scoring accuracy.“
72,000 litres: the rink-maintenance staff clean the ice every hour
The foyer at the south entrance, which is normally crowded with spectators during breaks in play, is now dark and empty. A strip of foam matting runs right along it, like a red carpet. But the HCD is not expecting any VIPs this morning. This „red carpet“ actually means hard work for the players. „The players use these mats for jump-training, designed to improve their speed and coordination“, explains Mr Gianola, as we make our way to the ice-machine garage. The machine drives in just as we arrive, with rink-maintenance man Reto Fümm at the wheel. He is one of four rink-maintenance staff employed by the Vaillant Arena. The 1,800 square-metre rink is formed by 72,000 litres of water, frozen into a five-centimetre-thick layer of ice. The stadium is ice-free between April and August, for maintenance of the refrigeration system. Mr Fümm expertly reverses a concrete container along the floor. The next load of snow is on its way. „Keeping the ice clean is a work of art“, says Mr Fümm. „We need to estimate how deep the grooves and scratches are, how much water we need to drain off, and what cutting-depth we need to use for the scraper blade on the ice machine.“ There is no fixed formula for this; only experience counts. When the rink-maintenance man drives the machine off the ice, there should be no puddles, and all the water must once more be frozen. „The players provide us with feedback about the state of the ice“, says Mr Fümm. „We keep each other fully-informed, to ensure it’s in tip-top condition.“ The machine has a one-hour break, before the next round of ice-maintenance starts.
More about the world of the HCD
Full information on the team’s players, fixtures and the club itself can be found on the official website of the HCD.
Are you a follower of the blues and yellows, when they are out on the ice? Then join the HCD fan club, and enjoy the experience of following a winning team along with other like-minded supporters.