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Hermano Fortes finds family at hockey rink

After 28 years smoothing ice at Meehan Auditorium, ‘Brown’s Ice Wizard’ still smiles

Staff Writer
Friday, November 11, 2016

Hermano Fortes has driven the ice resurfacer at Meehan Auditorium for 28 years. Known as “Brown’s Ice Wizard,” Fortes comes to the rink seven days a week even before the ice hockey team arrives at 7 a.m.

He backs his beeping behemoth onto the ice as eight or so front-row fans let out a cheer. He loops around the arena, hugging the glass and bumping the outstretched fists of announcers and scorekeepers. Passing his frozen faithful, he playfully bangs on the glass and flashes a snow-white smile.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Brown’s Ice Wizard, Hermano!” the announcer says.

He is all joy and care.

Hermano Fortes has worked in the Department of Facilities Management for 28 years, and for 28 years he has driven the ice resurfacer that smooths the ice of the rink at Meehan Auditorium. But when he started working here, Fortes was far from an ice hockey fan.

“I didn’t know what hockey here was all about,” he said. But now, Fortes’ fandom outshines even the most passionate Brunonian’s.

He peers over the white hood of his monstrous machine, methodically transforming the opaque white arena into a mirror you can see your skates in. It’s a ritual, rounding the rink and erasing the evidence of periods past. After just a few minutes, he drives the resurfacer off the rink and shovels any remaining ice shavings into a big yellow bucket. When he is done, he takes a seat right behind the goal, crosses his arms and beams as the players score the gleaming surface, steadily undoing his work. By the night’s end, he will have shined that rink four times.

Throughout his 28 years at the university, Fortes has been recognized — both officially and unofficially — for his contributions to the Brown community. Most recently, Fortes was one of 42 university staff members who received a 2015 Excellence Award for service, which acknowledges those who have made “contributions in making Brown a better place to work,” according to the University Human Resources website.

Fortes’ notable care was on display last Friday night, when women’s ice hockey player Maddie Woo ’17 broke her femur and had to go to the hospital after a collision with the boards. Fortes rushed behind the scenes to supply towels to both Woo and the paramedics and attempted to comfort the injured senior captain.

“After the game on Friday, I went over to say ‘Thanks, Hermano,’ for everything that he did,” said Sam Donovan ’18, one of Woo’s teammates. “He said that we’re part of his family. He’d do anything for us.”

You can always find him behind the wheel of the resurfacer. “Every day,” Fortes said. “Seven days a week.”

Fortes is at the rink even before the team arrives at 7 a.m., Donovan said. “He’s always the first one to greet us in the morning and say goodbye when we leave,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder if he just stays there all the time.”

He never gets tired of his work, Fortes said. He punctuates every sentence with a smile.

“He’s my favorite person at the rink, and I think all of us can agree with that,” Donovan said. “He’s just always smiling.”

Fortes’ favorite part of the job is his daily interactions with the players, he said. His least favorite part? “There isn’t any,” he added with a grin.

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