By bassman2112 23 Comments
First off, I'd really like to thank everyone who read my previous blog post, it was incredibly interesting to read how many different people have been affected by depression in some way and the support was so very appreciated. Thank you.
Anyways, more importantly.
If you've been to any event that's taken place at an arena (save for Curling), you've likely seen one. (Or an Olympia, another brand of Ice Resurfacer) They are big, they are cute and they are mesmerizing. Seeing dirty, white ice transform into clean, reflective ice has a hypnotic quality to it.
As a Canadian, it wasn't uncommon when you were a kid to sit around at your local rink during a minor league hockey game and spend the intermissions pressing your face against the glass to watch the whole procedure - it seemed magical. As an Olympic level Speed Skater (short story: qualified for Olympic trials, didn't want to give up 150% of my free time), I'd even spend some of my warm-up and down time watching the thing. I think it's safe to say that anyone who's experienced this euphoric effect has wanted the opportunity to drive one of these mythical mechanical beasts.
I've spent the past year (and a bit) working in order to help afford my education for fall 2011 onward. I ended up getting a job working for the city I live in as a maintenance person as well as 'manager' of the local outdoor stage they own. (I have lots of sound/music background, that's what I'm continuing my education in) This was a pretty cool gig! I spent my whole summer outdoors working with musicians (and some actors for a while, but we don't speak of thespians) and enjoying the fresh air. Below this text was a picture of where I was working.
It was picturesque, beautiful and a perfect job for summer.
But... Being Canadian....
So much for the cushy, outdoor stage job.
Seeing as the stage is not heated and that it wasn't going to be used for the 10 months of winter we have, (exaggeration, just so you know. Barely...) I had to be relocated until next season. I was scared of ending up doing too much outdoor work now! Thankfully, it finally got decided (plus, you already know where I'm going with this) - I was to be 'stationed' in the arenas until the grass came back out.
At first it didn't settle in. "arenas, huh? Cool, so I'll be picking up garbage after games, cleaning dressing rooms..."
"Ready for your training on the machine?"
It took about an afternoon's worth of learning to get the basics, but I could essentially start driving a Zamboni! I let loose with the thing in the empty arena, got it up to top speed and felt the cool air running through my hair (it can go pretty quick!) before turning in for my first few practice floods. Sure, my ice didn't look perfect the first few times; but after a few weeks it was starting to get consistent! Now, having done it for around a year, I can do pretty good ice fairly consistently (not perfect though, it takes a ton of experience to nail it every time - I'll touch on that in a second) but the controls are no longer an issue; it's simply the gauging of how much water to leave, how much ice to take off, etc.
Let's talk about how a Zamboni works.
People see these machines all the time, but unless you play these sports or are maintaining the ice, you rarely think about what the thing is actually doing. The Zamboni is essentially performing two tasks:
1) Slicing off a thin layer of ice with an extremely (read: EXTREMELY, ARM SEVERINGLY) sharp blade, and the snow that is produced is taken via a horizontal and then vertical auger into the hopper (The big blue part in the picture provided earlier [our machine's hopper was white]).
2) Spreading water behind it with a skirt which acts as a giant squeegee.
This is simplifying it to its extremes, but these are the basic principles of the Zamboni.
There is also a very specific path which is followed, I have attempted to draw it out. (Sorry I suck at drawing)
As you can see, we start with the edges then work to the middle, then start a series of loops which are the exact same size around whilst overlapping at the ends. The tricky part comes from knowing how to balance your water at the ends (if you don't leave enough, it'll look dry and crappy. If you use too much, it'll build up and start melting that ice [we use hot water]) as well as adjusting your blade (you're going over the same spot over and over again, if you leave your blade down you'll wear it down).
You do get used to that though, haha. Allow me to show you the controls =)
This is taken from the seat of the Zamboni. From right to left:
1) This is the control for the blade. It controls the incline as well as the height, so it is not just a simple up-and-down motion.
2) This controls the water. When away from you (as it is here) the water is off, and towards you the water is fully on.
3) This controls the smaller water tank (see the number 708? It's located on that tank) that is used for, well, more water.
4) The plunger. That helps clear up the bottom of the vertical auger in case ice/snow is building up.
All the while, this is being controlled via a hydrostatic (constant RPM) motor. The significance of this motor means that the auger is constantly moving at the same speed and you can go as fast or as slow as you want - your speed will have no effect on the auger. (The aforementioned Olympia machines run on a regular motor, so you have to watch your RPMs in the corners)
This thing also runs on natural gas, in case you were interested. That's why we can run it indoors for a long time with minimal amounts of ventilation, seeing as natural gas burns fairly clean =)
Lastly, I'd like to show a view from behind the driver's seat during a flood.
This was during my last flood of the season, 2 weeks ago, before the ice came out =)
We're now doing summer maintenance in this arena, and my first time back at the stage will be this Sunday! Hoorah =)
Feel free to ask any questions! I'd love to take some.
Hope you guys found this somewhat interesting =)