Zamboni Drives Into U.S. HHoF

“There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire and a Zamboni clearing the ice” – Charlie Brown

Ah yes..the Zamboni. The mystical machine that motors it’s way around the ice in between the three periods of a hockey game, magically smoothing the ice that was sliced and diced by the two teams during 20 minutes of play. We watch them go round and round while honored guests ride alongside of the operator.

The inventor of these motorized ice-resurfacing machines, Frank Zamboni, was recently added to the list of those who will be enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame this year. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised that Mr. Zamboni hasn’t already received the honor.

Frank Zamboni was born January 16, 1901 in Eureka, Utah… the son of Italian immigrants. He grew up near the town of Pocatello, Idaho where is parents bought a farm when young Frank was just a year old. It is on this farm that he developed certain mechanical skills that would benefit him later in life.

In 1920, he and his younger brother Lawrence relocated to the Los Angeles area where Frank’s older brother George owned an auto repair business. After a couple of years tinkering with cars, in 1922 Frank and Lawrence opened up an electrical supply company in the Los Angeles suburb of Hynes… now a part of Paramount. That business built and installed the large refrigerator units that local dairy industries used to keep their milk cold.

In 1923, Frank married and the couple went on to have three children.

As the demand for their cooling devices grew into the produce industry, the Zamboni brothers built a plant that produced block ice that was used to transport the product cross-country in rail cars. However, as the technology surrounding modern refrigeration improved, and demand for the block ice shrank, Frank and his brother Lawrence looked to other ways to make their expertise with ice pay off.

The brothers capitalized on the growing interest in ice-skating. The activity was very popular in southern California, but there were very few rinks. So in 1939 they, along with a cousin of theirs, built the Iceland Skating Rink in Paramount…which is still open and operated by the family today and the Zamboni factory is nearby.

Originally an open-air facility, it had 20,000 square feet of skating surface and could accommodate as much as 800 skaters. However, they soon came to learn that the California sun and the dry winds of the desert played havoc on the quality of the ice surface…so the rink was covered.

Over the next few years, Frank devised a process that eliminated the rippling effect on the ice caused by pipes that were implanted under the surface to keep the ice frozen. In 1946 he obtained a patent for that invention.

However, the biggest problem for the rink had to do with the amount of time and labor it took to resurface the ice. To do this job, a scraper needed to be pulled behind a tractor along the ice. Then, three or four workers would come behind and scoop away the shavings. Water was then sprayed over the ice surface, then the workers would squeegee it. Once the water was allowed time to freeze, it was ready for the next round of skaters. This process could take up to an hour and a half to complete.

The challenge the Zambonis were faced with was…how could this process be shortened so that more paying customers could enjoy time on the ice?

In 1949 Zamboni invented a device that completely revolutionized the entire ice resurfacing process. It took the 90-minute, three-man chore and reduced it to a 10-minute, one man job. That very same year he applied for a patent for the new machine and created Frank Zamboni & Company in Paramount in order to build and sell his new invention. He was granted the patent in 1953.

Zamboni’s ice resurfacing machines were first built on top of a Jeep CJ-3B. Then, between 1956 and 1964 they were built upon stripped Jeep chassis.

As demand grew for the “Zambonis”, a second factory was opened in Brantford, Ontario as well as a branch office in Switzerland. In the 1970’s Zamboni created machines that could remove water from outdoor artificial turf fields, remove the painted stripes from those surfaces and rolling up/laying down artificial turf in stadiums. His last invention came in 1983…an automatic edger that removes ice buildup from the edges of rinks.

Two years after his wife died, Frank Zamboni lost his battle with lung caner in 1988 at the age of 87. His Zamboni company is still owned and operated by his son and grandson.

Zamboni is the word used to describe any and all ice resurfacing machines… even though other companies manufacture other similar-type machines. And today, Zambonis are as much a part of ice rinks as open-iced check and double axles.

Hockey fans consider it a thrill to be able to ride the Zamboni during intermissions of games. In fact, last month when many of us gathered at TJ’s for the NHL draft Party…and many great prizes that were given away…none was more coveted and sought after than the prize package that include four tickets to a game plus a ride on the Zamboni between periods.

I was happy to see a 9-year old young as the winner! The look on her face…priceless!

So well done, Mr. Zamboni…I hope you enjoy watching the induction ceremonies from the great ice rink in the sky when you and your invention enter into the U.S. Hockey Hall of fame.

83 comments Add your comment

GaVaHokie

July 29th, 2009
12:14 pm

It’s amazing it took so long for Zamboni to get into the US Hockey Hall of Fame… I could maybe understand “the” Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but the United States?! What was the hold up? :)

World Be Free

July 29th, 2009
12:24 pm

The rink I played on as a kid was too cheap to buy a Zamboni. They still had the scraper to remove snow and a barrel on wheels with a rubber mat to resurface the ice.

Frozen ponds were fun too-the loser of the draw was sent out at the end of the day to poke hole in the ice to let the water up.

I prefer a Zamboni. Thanks Frank.

Smoothie

July 29th, 2009
1:10 pm

Really when you think about how important this machine is to the game of hockey played in any organized form, it is an absolute travesty that Mr. Zamboni wasn’t honored for his contributions to the world of hockey before he passed away in 1988. As my lovely co-conspiritor Punch Bunny would say, that is “RIDIC”!!

Jim

July 29th, 2009
1:12 pm

I drove one of the early Zambonis in Worcester, MA around 1968. It was a converted Jeep with a manual transmission that, for some reason, was mounted backwards. Along with several levers and wheels for controlling the depth of the cutting blade and water flow it was quite a machine.

English Teacher

July 29th, 2009
1:29 pm

I wanna ride the Zam-bo-ni!

Anne

July 29th, 2009
2:26 pm

Hi Rawhide! Greetings from Finland. Just booked my trip to Atlanta for next season….hopefully I see you then :) I cannot wait to season start…I’m going Florida-Chicago game beginning of October here in Helsinki. Finally we get real games here….not only those “practice” games :)

Wings fan in Ga.

July 29th, 2009
3:30 pm

It takes Mr. Zamboni this long to get into the US Hockey Hall of Fame, but only 11 years for the whole 1998 US Women’s Team? No offense to women’s team, but gosh.

Glovesave29

July 29th, 2009
3:55 pm

I always find it sad that there are so many similar stories floating around regarding posthumous honors such as this one. To award this to the man who almost singlehandedly changed an aspect of our sport almost 6 decades later is stupefying to me. I’d like to know the story behind why this took so long. It’s such an obvious honor to bestow upon him (them).

To anyone who has exited the locker room ready to play a game…only to see the figure skaters at the end of their practice standing around and digging huge gouges into the ice with the heel of their blade as they wait for their turn in the harness or to do their compulsory figures knows the true value of the Zamboni. Thanks Frank!

HookyBob

July 29th, 2009
7:06 pm

WBF: Those were the days my friend,…our town had a barrel,..but mounted on sled, with the rubber mat (or was it a piece of carpet?), and often pulled by a slew kids. Had to shovel then ice first,….then filled barrel with hot water as it would help melt any remaining loose stuff. The Zamboni is to hockey what air conditioning is to the south.

Also, recall when we finally got a used Zamboni,..built on the jeep frame (as noted above by Jim) and looked like a piece of farm equipment. Some friends took it out on the town streets late one night. They laid some slick, really slick, spots before returning. Perfect for hookybobbing.

So do any of you recall closing the rink’s doors so the ice wouldn’t crack from the cold?

Rawhide, great article. A fine story to fill in, refresh, the background and lore of our grand old game. So, who was Lord Stanley, Punch Imlach, Toe Blake, George Vezina, Billy Christian (ever see the bumper sticker “Take a Christian to the arena”?),.etc. It would be good to be reminded who are the Babes, Ty Cobbs, Wrigleys, O’Malleys, Robinsons, etc of Hockey. The next 6 weeks are the perfect time Hockey History 101. Carry on Professor Willy Tilly.

Come to think of it,…great job over the last two years.

Rawhide

July 29th, 2009
7:35 pm

WBF, Jim & HookyBob – Great stories! Oh, and thanks HB!

Anne – Look forward to seeing ya again! Enjoy the games.

The Earl of Bud

July 29th, 2009
8:58 pm

Rawhide, why don’t you just take the old conference and division names and give a HookyBob lesson on those? Then go to the awards names and have that be HookyBob lesson #2 although you will get Adams, Norris & Smythe again so maybe a different format is needed. Although World Be Free and Pam on Weck will want something on Punch Imlach.

World Be Free

July 29th, 2009
9:14 pm

EOB-Punch Imlach was one of the names on my change list-he was a great old guy with a bad heart.

HookyBob-WOW! You brought it back allright. As a kid, played at an indoor rink that was 3/4 outdoor (open) in Hamburg, NY at an old military base. The rink was 3 miles from Lake Erie. If you skated NW you got snow and wind chill in the face. We didn’t have visors back then, but it was so cold your hands would steam up when you took off your gloves on the bench. You are so correct-those were the days, my friend!

You could not skate on Lake Erie-too much wind, the ice never became flat and even enough to play, only ice fish. Enough of that stuff.

That’s why I moved to ATL!

thrashyou

July 30th, 2009
7:29 am

The Atlanta Thrashers have signed forward Josh Gratton and defenseman Michael Vernace to one-year deals.

five_hole

July 30th, 2009
7:37 am

A facinating story. Thanks Bill.

Sage of Blueland

July 30th, 2009
8:54 am

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Zamboni designed his first machine by following a well-formulated 5-year plan. Look how that turned out…

Suckers.

Toby

July 30th, 2009
8:55 am

Now all we need is the Brass Bonanza to be inducted!!!

Pam on Weck

July 30th, 2009
9:38 am

I don’t remember how they smoothed the ice at Allen Park Ice Rink in Jamestown, NY. That’s where I played as a kid. I wasn’t very good except at tripping, so I got to hang out at the blueline.

MOST WANTED

July 30th, 2009
10:30 am

Kovalchuk re-signing

J.B.

July 30th, 2009
10:59 am

How ’bout a source MOST WANTED?

The Earl of Bud

July 30th, 2009
11:06 am

“According to Wikipedia, Mr. Zamboni designed his first machine by following a well-formulated 5-year plan. Look how that turned out…

So what Sage of Blueland is trying to say is that one day Don Waddell will be long overdue for making the Hockey Hall of Fame but will ultimately get in no less. His fingerprint however will be left on the sport for all future generations to see and appreciate. Thank you for adding that Sage of Blueland. William Tiller VII will be writing about it.

World Be Free

July 30th, 2009
12:09 pm

Pam-the Swedish influence from Jamestown!

MOST WANTED

July 30th, 2009
12:11 pm

NO SOURCE, JUST WISHFUL THINKING.

Brendan

July 30th, 2009
12:22 pm

So, the Sage imposter is back.

Toby

July 30th, 2009
12:25 pm

How many are there?

GaVaHokie

July 30th, 2009
12:35 pm

Thrashyou… thanks for the headsup… found it on http://www.capgeek.com

Not seeing anything official on the Thrashers page.

Both are depth moves for Chicago… Josh Gratton you might see once in a blue moon. He’s a fighter… and not a very good one.

R. Stroz

July 30th, 2009
12:40 pm

GaVaHokie – Why not simply re-sign Hoffman instead of bringing in Gratton?

PUTTING ON THE FOIL

July 30th, 2009
12:42 pm

GaVaHokie- great link. Thanks

J.B.

July 30th, 2009
12:42 pm

his hand keeps breaking

Alan

July 30th, 2009
2:07 pm

Don’t know if anyone saw this yesterday. I’ve been a pretty infrequent poster lately.

NHL BoG unanimously approves Jerry Reinsdorf’s application to buy the Coyotes.

Glovesave29

July 30th, 2009
2:12 pm

Yeah, I saw that Alan. The Canadians are all up in arms about Balsille getting rejected. It’s makes for humorous reading! The NHL has every right to choose who their partners are. Balsille went public and spat in the face of the league, so he’s getting what he deserves. The only way the Yotes move to Canada is if its not BlackBerry Jim and its to Winnipeg.

GaVaHokie

July 30th, 2009
3:46 pm

Stroz… and everyone else, i suppose… Ben Wright has a pretty good write-up on Gratton and Vernace.

He touches briefly on the Hoffman issue and long-term comparisons with Boulton.

http://www.bluelandblog.com/

GaVaHokie

July 30th, 2009
3:53 pm

Vernace has some “wheels” too… he’s definitely an Anderson system guy… watch him join the rush on this play and get the shot off.

http://www.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?hlg=20082009,2,1217&fr=false

R. Stroz

July 30th, 2009
4:43 pm

GaVaHokie – Thanks for the link.

lee

July 30th, 2009
4:53 pm

nice blog rawhide! i do indeed wonder why it took so long for zaboni to get into the hockey hall of fame when so many other people took only a couple years.

lee

July 30th, 2009
9:14 pm

yeah, it seems like this gratton guy is gonna be good!

Glovesave29

July 30th, 2009
9:30 pm

Sergei Zubov just signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

Glovesave29

July 30th, 2009
9:32 pm

The KHL also registered the contract of Jiri Hudler, saying the absence of a transfer agreement pushed them to do it. Can we say blackmail?

R. Stroz

July 30th, 2009
10:52 pm

It’s time the NHL gives the KHL the finger.

If Waddell is still interested in Kiwi, the Thrashers should bring Kiwi back just to make a point. You piss on my bed and I’ll crap on yours.

Alan

July 31st, 2009
2:21 am

Honestly? I get the feeling I know the full plan behind Hudler’s departure, and I somehow doubt the “absense of a transfer agreement” pushed the KHL to do anything.

Confused? Perhaps. But you have to understand how Kenny Holland works in order to see where I’m going with this.

Sadtoseeitthisway

July 31st, 2009
4:00 am

Here`s a candidate(s) for the hall of fame. The twins in the pink sweaters in the movie “Slapshot”. Seeing them caused the Zamboni driver to be cited for failure to maintain his lane.

Sara

July 31st, 2009
7:27 am

Alan – Hudler leaving solves cap space issues but the reason the KHL is ratifying this contract is because other NHL teams are daring to try and sign their Russian draftees. Vancouver I believe is the one at the moment trying to get something done with one of their guys.

This whole thing is the most ridiculous p!ssing contest I’ve ever seen.

World Be Free

July 31st, 2009
7:57 am

Sad to see-only when they jumped up and down on a continual basis!
I am not so certain the sight would be so appealing 32 years later! Good one though, I forgot about Billy’s girls!

Glovesave29

July 31st, 2009
9:06 am

I am merely quoting Medvedev…if there are alterior motives and/or issues behind the scenes (which there inevitably are) then so be it. I am not going to read into this and try to dissect it using half truths, rumors and innuendo…that is Eklund’s job!

Alan

July 31st, 2009
9:51 am

Sara, how far does the rabbit hole really go? It’s a lot deeper than merely cap space. :)

Smoothie

July 31st, 2009
11:42 am

Wow, the month of August is really going to suck. The deadest, darkest, slowest time of the year…if only I had saved more Thrashers games on my DVR to get me through the hockey-less doldrums!!

Toby

July 31st, 2009
11:46 am

Maybe it’s the month we hear Kovy signed for 10 more years…

Glovesave29

July 31st, 2009
12:00 pm

Hudler now just signed with Detroit for 2yrs / $5M. WTF? Medvedev’s gonna blow a gasket

Alan

July 31st, 2009
12:11 pm

Glovesave29

July 31st, 2009
12:18 pm

I was wondering why he turned down $3M per year for up to 5 years, to sign with the KHL for $5M for 2 years…only to accept $2.5M for 2 years. Strange. And getting more so…

Smoothie

July 31st, 2009
1:46 pm

Holland knows he can’t afford Hudler and probably figures it is not worth the fight even if they have a valid beef. Sure would be nice if Bettman would at least step in and make a statement. I guess Daly has been the mouthpiece on this one, but Gary B needs to step up and take a stance or start working towards a transfer agreement that works for both sides.

Kiwi was under contract so he should have been untouchable, but the KHL is over-stepping their bounds registering a contract before the arbitration hearing has finished and a decision rendered. Hudler was sure to be a UFA by 8/3 when Holland walks away from the arbiter’s decision so I’m not so sure why the KHL team couldn’t wait…they’re offer of $5 M per is likely to not be matched by any NHL team.