Hockey 101: The Zamboni

Devils-Zamboni

Each week we will be taking a look at the rules and regulations of this great game that we call hockey.

The Zamboni

Today we take a look at a part of the game that happens between the periods … the Zamboni.

Prior to the Zamboni, it would take a crew of five men nearly 90 minutes to clean and resurface an ice rink. The Zamboni changed all that. But what of its history?

Frank ZamboniFrank Zamboni grew in Pocatello, ID and moved with his family to the harbor district of Los Angeles when he was 19. After attending trade school, Zamboni and his brother opened an electrical supply business. In 1927 they added an ice-making plant to their business ventures in order to get in on the block ice trade. However, in 1939, after the invention of the electrically operated refrigeration units, they realized that the block ice industry had no future, and used their excess refrigeration equipment to open an ice rink nearby.

It was in 1949, at age 48, that Zamboni first debuted his no trademark invention. The initial machine included a hydraulic cylinder from an A-20 attack plane, a chassis from an oil derrick, a Jeep engine, a wooden bin to catch the shavings, and a series of pulleys. Zamboni had no intention of marketing the machine, but soon after seeing it, Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie ordered two and the Chicago Blackhawks ordered one as well. With the popularity of his new machine, Zamboni received a patent in 1953 and set up Frank J. Zamboni & Co. in Paramount to build and sell his creation.

First ZamboniThe machine shaves ice off the surface, collects the shavings, washes the ice, and spreads a thin coat of fresh water onto the surface. In the early 1950s, Zamboni built them on top of Jeep CJ-3Bs, then on stripped Jeep chassis from 1956 through 1964. Demand for the machine proved great enough that his company added a second plant in Brantford, Ontario and a branch office in Switzerland.

In the 1970s, he invented machines to remove water from outdoor artificial turf surfaces, remove paint stripes from the same surfaces, and roll up and lay down artificial turf in domed stadiums. His final invention, in 1983, was an automatic edger to remove ice buildup from the edges of rinks.

The Zamboni Company has sold more than 10,000 units. In fact, the 10,000th machine was delivered to the Montreal Canadiens in April 2012 for use at the Bell Centre. The company is still owned and operated by the Zamboni family, including Frank’s son and grandson.

Zamboni was inducted into the Ice Skating Institute’s Hall of Fame in 1965, the North East Ice Skating Managers Hall of Fame in 1988, the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000, the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2006, the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2007, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 and into the United States Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 2013.

Zamboni passed away in 1988 at the age of 87, but his contribution to the sport, as well as all ice sports, will ensure his name will live on forever.

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