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The Zamboni: Making Ice Nice Again
Keeping the ice fresh at the arena is a task that only the beloved Zamboni can handle. Check out Groupon’s guide to this indispensible invention.
Frank J. Zamboni felt impatient. He wasn’t happy with the inefficient methods his crews had to use to resurface the ice at his California ice rink. First, they had to shave off a top layer of ice and scoop away the snow, then rinse the underlying ice and remove the dirty water. Only then could they apply the thin layer of clean water that freezes into fresh, skateable ice. All told, the painstaking process required up to four people and took nearly an hour to perform—hardly conducive to the marching bands that play on the ice during hockey intermissions. It was then, in 1949, that Frank—an inventor who already had several patents to his name—set out to find a better solution and eventually arrived on a machine that’s since become synonymous with hockey—the Zamboni.
Early versions of what would become the Zamboni ice resurfacer were made of a mishmash of automotive and other mechanical parts, including a Jeep chassis—which remained the vehicle’s base until 1964. Modern Zambonis are battery-operated and perform a slew of actions all at once to efficiently replenish ice surfaces. As a driver maneuvers the vehicle, an extremely sharp, flat blade shaves the top layer of ice while rotating augers gather the shavings and propel them into a tank for storage. Then a pipe sprays water onto the ice to clean it before a vacuum recycles it back into the wash-water tank. To complete the process, a towel and squeegee soaked in fresh water trails behind the machine, evening out the new surface in a fraction of the time it took before. Though there are other brands of ice resurfacing machines, the Zamboni brand remains the most popular option among arenas and fans. Most of the machines are still made in California as well as at another facility in Brantford, Ontario—the birthplace of another of hockey’s great engineering marvels, Wayne Gretzky himself.