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What Is the Machine That Cleans Ice in Hockey Rinks?

By Natalie Saar

During the course of a hockey game, the ice gets carved, cut and slashed, making it difficult for the players to skate. So between hockey periods, twice a game, a giant Zamboni machine enters the ice from one of the rink corners and essentially reglazes the ice.


Frank J. Zamboni moved to Southern California in 1920 and 20 years later, in 1940, opened an ice skating rink with his brother Lawrence and their cousin. To maintain the ice they used a tractor and pulled a scraper behind it. They would then hose down the ice, squeegee it, and wait for the ice to freeze again. Frank Zamboni wanted a way to speed up this process. In 1949, the first Zamboni machine, the Model A, was created.


Instead of having to go through the long process of scraping the ice, hosing and waiting for the ice to freeze again, Zamboni wanted to speed things up. His machine scrapes, hoses and refreezes the ice quickly.

How It Works

The blade in the front of the machine scrapes along the ice. The ice is collected and temporarily stored in the snow tank, the large area that makes up the back of the machine. Water rinses the ice, which is squeegeed to make it even, and the dirty water is collected vacuumed, and cleaned. Finally, clean water is sprayed onto the ice.


There are other companies besides Zamboni that make machines that clean and resurface ice rinks. One of these companies, and Zamboni's biggest competitor, is Resurfice Corp. But it is Zamboni's name that is associated with the ice cleaning machines, no matter who makes them. Christopher Donville, a writer for the Bloomberg Press, compares calling the ice machines Zambonis to the way people call all tissues Kleenex.

Zamboni and Hockey

Over the years the Zamboni design and efficiency improved. The provided machines for several different winter Olympic Games, including the 1960 games in Squaw Valley, Calif. In 1997 the Detroit Red Wings started using the machine to clean off their ice during games. This began Zamboni's recognition in the hockey rink. In 2002 Zamboni was recognized as The Official Ice Resurfacer of the NHL.

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