He is known, quite simply, as Shorty and when you
are as good at something as Shorty Jenkins is, you really only need one
is the Zen master of ice -- curling ice to be precise, something he
understands and makes better than anyone else on the planet.
the 159th championship I've done," says Shorty standing near six sheets
of his creation at the Nokia Cup/Scott Tournament of Hearts provincial
championships currently underway in Mississauga.
self-described "fun, crazy guy" began making championship ice in
Peterborough back in 1976 and has since been brought in to make the ice
for everything from major cashspiels to world championships.
is probably better known, more popular and more loved than anyone in
the sport of curling. Watching him go about his business in Mississauga
tells you that.
minute he's chatting to volunteers in the hallway, next minute he's got
his arm around Olympic silver medalist Mike Harris's shoulder sharing a
laugh -- while Harris is currently in the middle of a game. Then he's
offering sage advice to an ice maker from a local curling club there to
help and learn.
curlers like Harris, Peter Corner or Wayne Middaugh would have a hard
time being recognized by most people, but not Shorty.
the competitors have ever starred in their own Tim Hortons commercial
like Shorty did a few years back and it's not likely any of the curlers
could get away with the rather distinctive attire that Shorty does
(pink cowboy hat, pink leather jacket and pink cowboy boots).
is as much a character as his outfit would suggest.
how old he is and this is what you get: "I'm 65 going on 30. But this
week I'm 105 because it's been a bad week," he answers with a chortle.
don’t be fooled by the joking and colourful personality, when it comes
to curling ice Shorty is all business.
meticulous record keeper, he has charts detailing every sheet of
championship ice he has prepared. He also has -- by his estimation --
1,400 videotapes sitting at his Trenton home of televised curling
way I can hear what the curlers and commentators are saying about the
ice," he says. "If you saw all the records I keep at home you'd flip."
got into ice-making in 1967 at the Trenton Curling Club, but he got
serious about it a few years later.
good curler himself in his own day, Shorty was competing in a
provincial championship in 1974 and couldn't believe how poor the ice
was so he decided to do something about it.
started studying the effects humidity, air flow, scraping patterns,
temperature, water types and pebbling density have on the curling ice.
He also figured out which curling rocks curled which way.
made it almost a science now," he says without a hint of
gadgets and measuring devices monitor all the variables as he aims at
making his ice 99 per cent perfect.
99 per cent perfect?
no such thing as perfect ice," Shorty admits. "Different curlers like
different ice and you can't please them all."
admit he aims to create ice and use rocks that have a lot of curl to
the as he feels that makes for more entertaining, exciting curling.
got to keep rocks in play. You've got to give everyone their money's
has no problem sharing his knowledge. Raised in an orphanage in British
Columbia, he promised himself that he would do everything he could to
help others as he got older and now he has that opportunity.
seminars that attract ice makers from all over the world. At major
tournaments he'll have a handful of people helping him out, watching,
doing and learning from the master.
he can't fit into his schedule often ask him to recommend someone else.
recommend the know-it-alls because you can't know it all," he says. "At
my schools I give everyone a little booklet titled Shorty's 36 Years of
great Peter Savage once gave Shorty some advice.
'listen you little buggar, you'd better write a book before you die,'"
Shorty laughs. "I might. I figure I've got plenty of time."
when he does write that book, the smart money says the cover would be
Jenkins... The King of Swing
in Hanna, Alberta in 1935, Shorty was raised in Victoria, B.C. He
joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at 17, and after training, he was
posted to the Maritimes for his first years of service. In 1955 he was
transferred to Zweibrucken, West Germany, where he spent nearly five
years in quality control. "I was checking people's work on F-86 Sabre
airplanes and CF-100s all fighter aircraft," Shorty remembers.
1959 he was sent to Cold Lake, Alberta, where he worked on the
Officers' Training Unit squadron and the new CF-104 Starfighter
"In the fall of '62 they sent me back to
Baden Baden, Germany. I was part of the advance party for the CF-104s.
We were there to help unload the CF-104s and then we assembled the
airplanes on site." Eventually the work with its high level of stress ,
put him in the hospital in Ottawa.
"I was put back
into the weapons branch, CFB Trenton. Then I lost my medical
classification to handle the weapons trade, so I had a choice: to
remuster to the supply end or get out with a small pension. I chose to
After a brief stint with Sunoco, managing
service stations, Shorty decided to change jobs. He took two weeks off
to vacation before looking for work again. Those two weeks turned out
to be a turning point for him.
I went to play golf
daily in those two weeks at the Trenton Golf Club. While I was playing
they lost their grounds superintendent. I knew I wanted to work
outside, so I approached them to see if I could work for the club to
learn the field. They said yes, but there was only one small problem
they could only pay me one dollar an hour.
fateful event occurred. In the fall of Shorty's first year they lost
their icemaker. Shorty applied, again hoping to learn the job as he
went along. "The president of the curling club said no, I was too
hyper. I still am." The two weeks went by and Shorty tried again. "They
gave me the same answer but it was getting too close to the curling
season, so I said give me a chance, and I you're not happy or I'm not
happy, the deal's off and the club agreed. "The first year the ice
turned out to be fairly acceptable nobody had good ice then," he
explains. "Being a perfectionist, I started to study ice-making deeply."
began watching curlers, noticing how results varied from night to night
even though he made the ice the same from day to day. After watching
race cars on television, Shorty had a brainwave. He decided to time the
rocks as they traveled down the ice, much as racing cars are timed in
their laps. He bought a stopwatch and began using it at the rink. No
one else had thought to time the rocks, and at first other curlers
laughed at the idea; but within a year stopwatches began to appear.
stopwatch is not the only innovation that Shorty has brought to the
sport of curling. As well as trying numerous types of water tap, rain,
filtered, hot, cold, and so on for pebbling the ice. He tested ice,
brine, and even rock temperatures. Over the years he has accumulated
over $20,000 worth of equipment. All for the making of the famous
Shorty curling ice.
Rocks differ widely in the speed
at which they travel down the ice. Shorty claims to be the only
icemaker today who knows how to chose and match rocks for major
championships. "Since 1984, when I got caught with bad rocks, I refuse
to do the ice unless I get to choose the rocks. The past two years
alone, I've flown to Winnipeg, Scotland, clubs in Quebec and Ontario to
repair and match rocks."
Shorty has been making ice
for nearly three decades so it is not surprising that he is starting to
be selective about the jobs he takes. Last February was the last time
that the Ontario Men's championship would curl on Shorty's ice. Curlers
and curling fans need not despair however, Shorty means to pass on his
know-how and technical expertise, and has already begun by teaching
courses and by lending a free hand to smaller, poorer clubs. People
have questioned the wisdom of allowing others in on his secrets, but
Shorty will have none of it. "I just like to help others," he says.
"That's what I'm here for."