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An Ice Man For All Seasons

10/21/2016, 10:45am MDT
By Greg Bates - Special to USA Hockey

Lupe Urias has decades of experience making a hockey rink run smoothly

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When hockey players and figure skaters around the Kansas City area need their skates sharpened, they look no further than Lupe Urias.

The self-proclaimed “ice man” is always there to take care of the community members at the KC Ice Center in Shawnee, Kansas.

“They all come bug me to sharpen their skates,” said Urias, who figures he sharpens 40 to 50 pairs of skates each week. “I try and do the best that I can for the rink. To me, it’s all about the rink and making the rink successful.

“I’ll put my skate sharpening skills against anybody.”

Sharpening skates may be Urias’ specialty, but it certainly isn’t the only thing he does at the rink. For the last five years, he’s maintained the ice, driven the Zamboni and taken care of other maintenance needs around the building.

The 51-year-old is truly a jack-of-all-trades.

“When you work at the rink and you’re an ice man, it helps if you have other skills,” Urias said. “If you can change out light bulbs or replace a ballast in a light fixture or change out a light switch, anything to help the rink out to where they’re not having to come out of pocket to have somebody else come in and do something if it can be done in house — to me that’s a huge deal.”

Working at his first ice rink in 1988, Urias quickly learned that the more he was able to do the more valuable he would be. That’s been his calling card for the last 28 years in the business.

Urias started out working at the Ice Chateau in Overland Park, Kansas, as a rink guard and also maintained a day job at a mail order company.

“I hung out at the rink so much because I liked skating that they finally put me to work there,” Urias said.

Urias’ first rink job was a valuable learning experience. He didn’t know much about the workings of an ice rink, but he started helping on the ice, which eventually led to him driving the Zamboni. That’s also where he picked up sharpening skates.

“At Ice Chateau, I found out who the best ice sharpener was there and had him show me how he did it,” Urias said. “Then I had everybody else show me how they did theirs. That and a lot of research and learning online.”

Urias left Ice Chateau after about six years when the rink closed its doors for good.

Not far away, the Pepsi Ice Midwest was being built in Overland Park and management sought out and hired Urias for his expertise. Urias, who was the facility ice manager, conducted maintenance on the building, worked on the machines and took care of the compressor room. While working at the arena, Urias was able to attend ice technology classes in Ohio and got certified.

Ice Chateau closed after a decade and Urias moved on to the KC Ice Center in 2011. He’s kept busy with the arena’s two rinks — one indoors and one outdoors. During the summer months, the indoor rink is used for roller hockey.

“I like doing everything that I do, because I think I do it very well,” Urias said. “I take great enjoyment in it.”

After all these years, Urias still loves to drive the Zamboni.

“Everyone wants my job,” Urias said. “They think it’s really fun to drive the Zamboni, and it is. But there is still an art and a skill to it. I’m not out there just driving around in circles laying water down. I have a lot of people tell me I make it look easy.”

Urias also works on a farm during the day doing a lot of commercial mowing. On evenings and weekends, Urias is working at the rink, logging about 30-40 hours per week.

With nearly 30 years of experience in the business, Urias has found a home at KC Ice Center. He isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon.

“It’s a job that I really love,” Urias said. “I love the people and I love what I do and I try and do it the best that I can. Unless something happens to the rink, I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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