Faces of Carnival: Brad Nedrow, Ice Bowling Shepherd

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

Brad Nedrow, on-ice coordinator for human ice bowling, gives instructions at Dee Stadium.
Brad Nedrow, on-ice coordinator for human ice bowling, gives instructions at Dee Stadium.

Brad Nedrow spent a late night at Dee Stadium, herding Huskies into position to ice bowl, just one of several frenetic duties.

The third-year biological sciences major from Wolverine Lake, Mich., exhibited much patience and decision-making abilities, as he dashed around the ice on skates, coordinating the thirteen student organizations assembling to compete.

“I was chosen,” was his modest explanation of how he ended up at the Dee this windy, frigid night. The Blue Key Honor Society member was new to his tasks, but he didn’t look like a newbie as he deposited a hockey bag full of helmets outside the rink.

First, he explained the rules: “Everyone wears a helmet, and you have to stay behind the green line when throwing your ball.” 

In ice bowling, the “ball” is a Tech student hunched down on a plastic snow saucer, waiting to be slid toward giant wooden pins that line the width of the hockey rink.

“Anything outside the blue line is a gutter ball, same with anything short or hitting the boards,” Nedrow continued. “The 'ball' needs to keep arms and legs tucked in. You get six frames; it’s scored like regular bowling, and if you knock the pins off the [spray-painted] green dots, they count as knocked down.”

Next, he raced to where the pins were set up and checked the huge red, foam bumpers on the boards behind the pins. In the stands were two scorekeepers. There were also two pinsetters. A sixth Blue Key member was in the Dee lobby, registering the competing students. 

Organized chaos is a good description.

The first two matches featured the Dawgs (Pep Band) vs. Concordia Lutheran and InterVarsity Christian Athletes vs. the Baseball Club.

All of the initial practice “throws” kept coming up short, so Nedrow decided to move the lines up.

“The ice is really good,” he said, “so I don’t know why they can’t make the distance.” The Zamboni had just finished smoothing the surface after a high school hockey game.

With a new launching point some five feet closer, the bowlers managed to send their 'balls' spinning into the pins, and the sound of wood hitting ice ensued. There were even some chunks of wood scattered on the ice after a few frames. Serious ice bowling.

“The pin didn’t come all the way off the dot,” Nedrow shouted to the InterVarsity team, which thought it had a strike.

Usually a lighter member of the teams was chosen to be the ball and slide in slowly rotating circles on the saucers ($9.99 at Dunham’s).

“What’s the score?” Nedrow asked one of the scorers. Then he dashed back across the ice to tell the Baseball Club.

Shouts of joy broke out when the teams finally perfected their technique and scored some strikes and spares. The Dawgs were the loudest, as you’d expect from the Pep Band.

Nedrow, red-faced with his jacket open, followed the results, reporting them to the students on the ice and those now assembling in the stands for the later matches. He also skated back to help set up the pins when he could.

Green Day, U2, and Daughtry provided the background music as Nedrow made his 45-foot dashes across the ice. He also slid to the corner near the lobby to inform the assembling students of the progress of the event and other insights.

There were no arguments to settle in these matches, and the Concordia team even corrected themselves before a toss, moving back so they released their “ball” behind the green line. Their self-discipline was rewarded with a strike.

The Baseball Club and Dawgs were victorious, and as it approached 10:30 p.m., the next four teams were beginning to warm up. Nedrow began the same rules speech for the groups on the ice.

“I’ll be here until one,” he said. “And then I do it again Wednesday, Thursday, and Tuesday nights for four hours each night, at least, for the women’s groups, residence halls and fraternities.”

Will he do it again next year?

“Probably.” Nedrow smiled, turned and dashed back to his ice bowlers and their fans. 

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.