In an earlier post I mentioned how working at a golf course was possibly the best summer job ever. Now in a fit of true Canadianity I’ll talk about the greatest winter job ever.
A Zamboni driver.
While I reserved golf course maintenance work for high school and college kids, I make no such constraints for working as a Zamboni driver. It is a great job for anyone – at any age.
I started working at my local rec centre when I was in high school. The Lake Bonavista Rec Centre houses a gym, a dance studio, a multi-purpose room, a stage, a regulation sized ice rink, as well as a rink dubbed the “small ice,” that is a small converted curling rink.
I started working there mostly out of convenience. It was blocks from my house. We had grown up playing a variety of sports there and were familiar with much of the staff. They were kind enough to hire me on to what would become one of the highlights of my working life.
I should start by saying I didn’t drive the Zamboni right away. I’m not even sure I drove it in my first year. While not a requirement, it’s usually a given that you need a driver’s license to get behind the wheel of a Zamboni.
Wielding those beasts of a machine is both easier and way more difficult than driving a car. First, if it’s not immediately obvious, you’re driving on ice. Despite the extra-super-duper-grippy tires, you can still slide all over the place if you’re not careful. Secondly, there is a blade that shaves off the top layer of ice. You need to adjust this as you drive. Set it too low and it’ll dig up too much ice and get you dangerously close to concrete, set it too high and you don’t do anything. As you make your turns each time you will continuously drive over the same spot, this can create low spots on the ice if you don’t constantly adjust the blade.
You also need to deal with managing the water levels, and making sure the hopper is clear of ice and snow.
At first, getting used to driving a Zamboni is quite difficult and while I was lucky enough to have older guys show me at the end of each night, that first time you head out in front of a packed house to clear the ice you’re incredibly nervous.
Once you get the hang of it, it is a blast. And during a night at the rec centre that was filled with ice times you really only worked for about 10 minutes every hour cleaning the ice. Not a bad job at all.
How to become a Zamboni driver
If you too want to become the embodiment of the Canadian dream all you have to do is apply. As I mentioned a driver’s license is likely a must.
If you dream of one day driving a Zamboni for your favourite NHL team, that process takes a bit more work can involve taking ice making classes at your local college or university. NHL Zamboni drivers are more than just drivers. They’re responsible for making sure the ice is consistent for every game, in every arena for every NHL team.