The Zamboni: A True Miracle on Ice
July 19, 2021
There’s a Keystone in every great invention.
Zambonis and Their Electronics
Hockey grows significantly in popularity in the United States with each passing decade, and currently is one of the best-attended live events in the country, rivaling national pastimes such as baseball and football. Many recent high-profile events have continued to fuel the U.S.’s enthusiasm for the greatest show on ice, from Florida breeding back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, to cities like Seattle housing the National Hockey League’s newest expansion team. But the sport’s popularity also is attributable to the efficiencies gained thorough technology. And while each technical advancement may have played a key role, only one has captured the hearts of fans and rink employees alike for more than seven decades: The Zamboni.
The Future is Icy
As the Roaring 20s yielded prosperity, modernity and excitement, Frank and Lorenzo Zamboni looked for a way to join the fun and leave behind their careers as ice block producers. Improvements in the food industry had rendered their jobs obsolete, prompting the brothers to open their own skating rink by the 1940s. The brothers quickly realized that the process of shaving the ice, hauling away the scrapings, squeegeeing the surface and spraying new water was too costly and time restrictive. Customers were often left with two choices: skate through the sludge and bad ice or wait 90 minutes for a smoother surface. Neither would help the Zambonis grow their business.
In seeking a solution to the problem, Frank first tried towing a scraping machine behind a tractor. When that proved ineffective, he used scrap parts from military surplus vehicles to fashion an all-in-one prototype that achieved shaving, washing, squeegeeing and resurfacing. Frank combined the spare parts with a Jeep chassis, transmissions, steering axles with adjustable blades, and individual tanks to carry snow shavings and water.
By 1954, Zamboni had created and patented five versions (Models A-E) of his machine and reduced the cleaning process to just 15 minutes. With each model, Frank aimed to make his machine more efficient and operator friendly. The Model E became the first standardized design for Zamboni and caught the eye of The National Hockey League.
It’s Game Time
The Boston Bruins were slated for a New Year’s Day faceoff against the New York Rangers in 1954, just hours after the Ice Capades theatrical skaters were to perform on the same ice. This situation typically required hours of labor and preparation in between events, and almost always resulted in uneven and bumpy surfaces. Game play would suffer as pucks were more likely to bounce and players would lose balance.
However, a member of the Ice Capades staff had his very own Model E Zamboni on hand and smoothed the ice with ease. Executives of the Boston Bruins were in such awe, they immediately ordered their very own machine and became the first NHL team to use a Zamboni.
Recipe for Success
Since its introduction into professional hockey, the Zamboni has become a staple in hockey rinks and arenas worldwide. The original Model E purchased by the Bruins in 1954 sits on display in the NHL Hall of Fame, as a salute to the innovation that changed the game and the league forever. To this day, the Zamboni Company, which is still owned by the Zambonis, remains the primary Zamboni manufacturer and supplier, continuing to tweak and perfect its product. From models with liquid-cooled engines to completely battery-powered machines, all Zambonis are built by hand to fit customer needs, just as Frank first did 70 years ago.
Today’s Zambonis are almost exclusively alternative fuel powered or electric powered, which feature lithium-ion battery technology drive trains. Modern enhancements include computer-controlled auger speeds, electronic water valves and blade control for improved ease of operation and a more consistent ice surface. A wide range of Keystone products can be found in Zamboni equipment including PCB Test Points &Terminals; Panel & Computer Hardware, Screws and Screw Terminals .