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'Zamboni Zamboni Zamboni Zam'

Updated on December 15, 2019
John MacNab profile image

John MacNab was a professional driving instructor (Approved Driving Instructor, ADI).


Is it a type of Koala Bear?

Could a Zamboni be a fluffy, furry Koala Bear cousin? Think of yourself with a chilled beer, lying on an Australian beach looking our over the Great Barrier Reef, being nuzzled and licked by an adoring Koala - I said 'Koala', not blonde!!!

Is it an Ice-Scraper?

Or could Zamboni be an ice scraping machine; a cold, cold instrument for scraping ice off ice rinks? Picture yourself shivering in a hockey arena, all wrapped up against the chill air, with a cold beer in your frozen hand, as you watch it refurbishing the ice surface

Is it a Pizza?

Zzzzammmboni – say it slooooowly and imagine your mouth watering as you inhale the aroma of Italy’s latest, and most delicious pizza. Close your eyes and picture yourself sitting back on your porch, chilled beer in one hand, as you sink your teeth into the crisp crust of the succulent pizza.

Zamboni?   A type of Koala?
Zamboni? A type of Koala? | Source
Zamboni?   A Pizza??
Zamboni? A Pizza?? | Source


If you chose the ice scraper, give yourself a pat on the back – unless you’re a hockey fanatic, that is. If you don’t know anything about ice hockey, the sight of your first Zamboni will flabbergast you. Never will your flabber be so gasted.

To let you understand, ice hockey (from here on called ‘hockey.’) is a strange game played on ice. It is the fastest and one of the most vicious games in the world of sport, and to be perfectly frank, I don’t know why it is still known as a sport, instead of ‘aggravated assault.’ If you ever decide to take up a sporting hobby, leave hockey off your bucket list.

The game is played over 3 periods of 20 minutes. There is a 1st period of 20 minutes and then a 20 minute break; then there is another 20 minute playing period and after that another break of 20 minutes – and so on. Altogether the playing time is 1 hour and the break time, 40 minutes.

Halfway through each period there is a break; called an advertising break on TV, and if you are watching on television all you will see are adverts. If you are at the arena, that break is used for nubile young girls wearing practically nothing (as in most sports) to skate around the rink’s perimeter with shovels and brushes to clear away some of the churned up ice. Whether they are employed to actually shovel ice, or are employed to get the fans’ attention via their eye-popping cleavages, bare legs and nearly-naked butts, I don’t know, but I’ll bet those butts and boobs are freezing after they’re finished. Not that I’ve noticed any of this, you understand, I’m only interested in the hockey!

I digress - so obviously the girls do a good job. The girls only do a partial job of clearing the ice away, which is where the Zamboni comes into play.

During the breaks, the Zamboni comes out onto the ice. The shape of the Zamboni is a registered trade mark, but it is hard to describe that shape; perhaps a golf cart on steroids, or an obese airport baggage puller? It looks so out of place on ice, and the first time you see one you’re going to think the driver has lost his way, and you’ll wonder why the people around you aren’t screaming at him to stop, or at least check his GPS.

The Zamboni’s job is to clear the churned up ice, and make more ice. The original concept was invented by Frank Joseph Zamboni, the son of Italian immigrants, who patented it in 1953. Other firms now make ice scraping machines but everybody knows all them by the generic name of Zamboni – by the same principle as any vehicle that looks like a Jeep, is called a Jeep, no matter what firm or country manufactures the G.P. vehicle.

Once you know what the machine is for, you can look at it and think ‘right, now I understand; the machine is full of water,’ and you’d be completely wrong. Everyone assumes that the top tank (the white tank that takes up the top half of the machine; the one with advertisements on it) is full of water, (hot water, as it freezes faster than cold water and bonds more easily with the ice already on the rink). But the tank is actually full of snow. Snow in this instance is the description given to the ice that is scraped up from the rink. It is scraped up by a very sharp blade, and an auger transfers it into the top snow tank.

Taking the scrapings off the surface doesn’t completely clean the surface. There is always ingrained dirt and deep slices cut into the ice by skates. Those cuts hold even more grit, so the Zamboni power-jets water into these areas and then vacuums the water up (the water is held in the blue tanks immediately in front of the driver). Even more ingenious is the fact that it cleans and filters that water for further use. And, the last thing it does is the only thing that is visible to you, the fan – from the rear of the Zamboni, warm water is spread to form more ice and fill in any crevices.

Don’t tell anyone, but in some instances, watching the Zamboni is the most exciting part of the game.

What is a Zamboni?

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The whole process only takes a few minutes, and then the Zamboni leaves the rink to dump the snow. The Zamboni has headlights because it may have to be driven along roads and it must conform to traffic regulations; apart from that, it may have to go outside to dump the snow.

As you can see, the Zamboni in the photographs is fuelled by propane, although some ice scrapers are driven by internal combustion engines. Both of these propulsion methods mean the emission of noxious fumes. As you watch the Zamboni in amazement, ask yourself when you last drove your car indoors. Propane & gas engines are potentially dangerous when used in an enclosed area, and there have been cases of players and spectators having breathing problems.

The safest method of driving the Zamboni is by battery power. This is an ideal answer to the pollution problem on smaller ice rinks, and Zamboni's latest 560AC model should have the battery power to last long enough for larger rinks.

So – you have a choice; your breath can be taken away by the ice scrapers or nubile young women. Decisions! Decisions!

Enjoy the game.


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