UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The ice has finally returned to the main rink at Pegula Ice Arena. With Pegula staffers scheduled to put the finishing touches on the ice throughout the weekend, the final product will be ready to go come Monday.
Transforming the varsity rink is hardly a quick process, as the week-long agenda features carefully scheduled steps. One of the main individuals behind the entire operation though is Chuck Van Dyke.
Most fans might instantly recognize the Penn State Zamboni driver often seen on game days gliding across the ice to loud chants of "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck" from the Roar Zone.
Not a man of many words but brimming with plenty of witty personality, Van Dyke has been a Penn State employee for nearly 10 years, working at both the Greenberg Ice Pavilion and Pegula Ice Arena. While he's often seen on the ice, there's all kinds of responsibilities in a typical day.
"It could be anything here," Van Dyke said. "It's not just coming in here doing ice work, you have maintenance and anything that needs to be done, we do it all here. If a seat breaks, we fix or anything really that need repaired or replaced."
Since arriving at Pegula, Van Dyke estimated he has probably been involved in painting and setting at least seven sheets of ice between the main and community rinks.
"We start by cooling down the ice," Van Dyke said. "Then we put a paper barrier around the edges to hold in the water. We put a line down the center with string to divide the rink up and then we just start misting water to get a thin layer of ice down."
The center line is set with white string while black strings are run pulled tight for circles, blue lines and end lines. After the lines are set, white paint is mixed and sprayed evenly before another misting of water to make a sheet of ice that seals the paint.
Next up is setting the lines, which no longer includes any actual paint, as blue and red lines are actually fabric inlays. After the inlays are set, it's back to misting fine layers.
Perhaps one of the most involved steps is painting the Penn State Athletics logo at center ice, which begins with a massive stencil.
"We've had that since Greenberg, somebody drew a picture of the lion logo and poked a whole bunch of little holes in it," Van Dyke said. "They take blue chalk and they make a little pattern on the ice and then you start painting."
For Van Dyke, it takes four or five painters to lay on the paint inside the carefully chalked lines before it's set with more thin layers of ice.
Once everything from ads and lines to logos are set and painted, the real icing begins.
"We get so many layers down and then we bring out a fire hose and it gets built up pretty quick then," Van Dyke said. "After it gets to about a half inch we'll bring the Zam out and start dumping water with the machines."
What seems like a complicated process is just another day at the office for Van Dyke, who used to be a truck driver before a friend of his encouraged him to apply for his current position.
"When I came here, I was like I wish I had come here years ago," Van Dyke said. "It's a lot of fun. The best job I've ever had in my life is driving Zamboni."