Driving a Zamboni 

Thousands of people pack the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine to cheer on the Black Bears.But those games wouldn’t be possible without the folks who take care of the ice.In this edition of Take this Job and Love It. Sharon Pelletier found out exactly what it takes to keep that surface smooth.”It’ll open your eyes a little bit to our day to day operation for maintaining the ice.”That was the warning from Will Biberstein, Associate Athletic Director at the University of Maine. But at this point, I was just thinking of driving the Zamboni, not many people get to do that. Not even Will.But Scott White has done it thousands of times. He’s worked here for 16 years and is now the Operations Manager at the Alfond. He too warns me this is hard work but…”There’s a lot of fun times too. We get to watch hockey and basketball, very cool.”Now it’s time to get to work.First off use the edger to smooth the ice along the edges, all around the 17-thousand square foot surfaceThat was just the beginning, because after that’s done.You have to chip the ice off the boards.”You can see where there’s more build up in other places.”Typically Scott and one other person will go through all these steps.Scott gets to work each morning around seven. He typically works six days a week, and might have to stay until after a hockey game.Most weeks they refinish the ice a few times, except when the hockey teams have home games.”If we have ice hockey games on Friday and Saturday night we do it every day before the game”So I only got a quarter way around chipping ice, but Scott gave me a break and told me it was Zamboni time.”It shaves the ice and collects the snow, and then you apply hot water to the surface and that rebuilds the layer you just shaved off.”Scott backed up the beast onto the ice, and told me he’d handle the mechanical part of it. All I’d have to do is steer and step on the gas.It didn’t sound too hard until Scott informed me, I could ruin the ice.”I’m just a tad bit nervous right now, just a tad bit because I could mess things up.”Then the moment of truth, I get in the driver’s seat.My suspicions were confirmed, it is cool to drive a zamboni, especially one with a giant black bear on the front.Scott let me take a couple of passes on the ice, then it was time to drive it down the narrow hallway to park it. It was at that moment that Scott decided to tell me that the vehicle cost 104 thousand dollars…113, thousand will shipping. No pressure.I’m proud to say, that I made it through the narrow passage way, but with a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into preparing the ice.Then it’s time for my review.”I think you did a great job. My lines aren’t very straight though. That’s o.k. You’ll get used to it. It’s your first day. It takes lots of practice. And I didn’t crash the zamboni, that’s a good day, that was a bonus.”If you have an idea for our next, “Take This Job and Love It” segment, e-mail us at [email protected]