Verneris, Dhanus 20, 249
Engineers mining for water outside Novyimir have found a way to skate on underground ice deposits — a fluke development that has led to the first-known organized hockey league on Mars, according to reports out of the secretive settlement.
A migrant contractor who just returned from an assignment at one of the remote KMH mining facilities tells us that workers in the glacier-rich region of the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle are playing a rudimentary version of hockey, competing with other teams from nearby ice mines.
“They’re using an awful lot of resources to make it happen,” said the contractor, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals from the mine operator. “I don’t think they want people to know about it.”
Excavators around Novyimir have carved out swaths of rock and dirt to access the rich ice deposits dozens of metres beneath the surface — creating massive underground caverns roughly 200 metres deep with floors of ice that run for kilometres.
“We were working 24-hour shifts, right?” the contractor said. “And we’re just slipping around on this stuff all day until someone finally told the foreman, ‘You think you could get us some skates?’”
“It seemed like a shame not to skate on all that ice before we processed it.”
Management at the mine apparently took the suggestion seriously. Within a month, the KMH Ministry of Subterranean Extraction developed a method of outfitting cavern personnel with skates. The move was an attempt at “increasingly workflow and reducing accidents,” according to a memo the contractor smuggled from a work site.
At first, the skates didn't work. For a skate to get traction on ice, it needs to melt the surface enough for the ice to hug the blade. The average temperature in the mine, roughly -125C, was simply too cold for the ice to melt. To mitigate the issue, KMH implemented environment controls in all six ice mines near the Korolev settlement, bringing the temperature at ice level to an average of -3C — similar to a hockey rink.
“They thought we were all going to get from A to B faster and easier,” the contractor said. “But really, it was a mess. People zipping around, clumsy, with heavy machinery around? Someone was gonna die.”
“The guys who came up with the idea, they were desperate. The Russians who run things over there, they don’t like wasting money on mistakes. So figured they could salvage the whole project by turning it into some Employee Fitness and Morale program.”
So far, it seems to have worked. KMH medical logs show a drastic reduction in cases of muscular deterioration among mine personnel in the Korolev district. And the contractor says the deputy minister of natural resources attended a game last month.
“A lot of the players are old KHL guys,” the contractor said. “It's not bad hockey. I think some higher ups have even slipped in an order for real, composite sticks on the next barge shipment from Russia."
But the move is not without critics. Eriika Yang, who runs three ice-mining operations in Tiangong, called the program "ghastly and moronic."
“I don’t get it,” she said. “Why would you waste energy heating an entire cavern, just to skate on it?”