Stuff You Should Know - Short Stuff: Zambonis!

Episode Date: May 15, 2024

Even the dullest hockey game is worth seeing when the Zamboni comes out to resurface the ice.See for privacy information....

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Starting point is 00:00:00 I'm Diosa. And I'm Mala. We're the creators of Locatora Radio, a radiophonic novela, which is a fancy way of saying a podcast. Welcome to Locatora Radio Season Nine, Love at First Listen. This season, we're falling in love with podcasting all over again with new segments, correspondence, and a new sound. Listen to Locatora Radio as part of the MyCultura podcast network, available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hey, and welcome to The Short Stuff. Where you been? Is that our new slogan?
Starting point is 00:00:42 I guess. Okay. I like it. Okay, let's move forward. Maybe they've been cutting ice. Yeah, maybe, riding around in a Zamboni, because that's what you call those things no matter what, right? That's true. An ice resurfacer, or a resurfacing machine,
Starting point is 00:01:00 it is a proprietary eponym, Zamboni, much like Band-Aid. It is the name of one company, but it seems like there are two big, big players among the ice resurfacing juggernaut. That is Zamboni and then the Olympia, which is made by the Resurface Corp. Corporation? Yeah, but they cleverly spelled resurface with an I instead of an A at the end, so resur-ice. Yeah. Love it. I love it. And Zamboni is named after a single visionary man,
Starting point is 00:01:34 technically three men, two I guess. Let's just go with Frank. Frank J. Zamboni is widely credited as the inventor of the Zamboni or the ice resurfacing machine. And the reason why is because he invented it. That's right. We go back to 1940 when Frank Zamboni and Lawrence Zamboni, his brother and their cousin said,
Starting point is 00:01:57 hey, let's open up an ice skating rink. We're in the ice business anyway. We have an ice and refrigeration plant, so we know how to make plenty of ice. Let's just spread that out over a floor and contain it and charge people to skate on it. Yeah, they said that's a really good idea. Apparently, it was extremely popular. The problem is, is when you have people skating on a rink of ice, it gets cut up pretty quickly. There's like divots and scratches and it's just, it looks terrible, it looks messy. So you want to make it look good again.
Starting point is 00:02:29 And you have to resurface it. And resurfacing is a process. It's actually what Zamboni's do as we'll see. But originally, before the Zamboni was invented, for the first couple of years that they owned the ice rink, Frank and Lawrence and the unnamed cousin had to do this by hand. So they would get a tractor that would drag like a blade that would kind of like shave the top of the ice.
Starting point is 00:02:51 Then you had people following in the tractor's wake, cleaning up ice shavings, wetting the ice again, and then tallying it up to make it smooth. And the whole thing would take like an hour and a half just for this one ring. Yeah, it's pretty bad. And I know you, I think you were joking when you said it looks terrible, so they need to make it look good.
Starting point is 00:03:10 The problem with chopped ice, of course, is you can't skate on it very well at all. Well, that too. Yeah. So yeah, taking way too long, too much human hours, too many hands involved. So Frank was like, hey, listen, I was born into a family that made and worked on farming equipment.
Starting point is 00:03:31 I know how to make stuff and fix stuff. And so I'm going to build a machine. And so Frank Zamboni built the Model A Zamboni ice resurfacer in 1949. Look up a picture of this thing when you get a chance. It's really cool looking. It looks like you would think a Model A Zamboni might look, which is to say kind of like an army Jeep with a big wooden bin on top of it. And it looks like a little mechanical ladder, I guess, that brought ICE up. Yes. So the reason it looked like a Jeep is because it was built on top of a Jeep chassis.
Starting point is 00:04:06 They basically just cut the top off and built the rest of the Zamboni on top of it. They also use parts from an oil derrick and the hydraulic cylinder from a Douglas aircraft fighter plane. And I don't know if we mentioned or not, but Frank J. Zamboni was a mechanical genius. Yeah, I did. Okay, good. Well, I second that.
Starting point is 00:04:25 So this was 1949. That was the first Zamboni. And what's interesting is the ads clearly show essentially what looked like would have been the prototype. So that's what the first Zambonis were like. So it took a few years to really catch on, but they had some pretty big customers because what they were doing was providing a solution that was way more widespread than you probably would have thought.
Starting point is 00:04:51 Anybody who made any kind of money from ice, skating on ice, really was facing all these same problems. So the idea of a machine that could do this in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the human hours, that was a big advancement in the field. Yeah. I know when people complain about machines taking over jobs that people did, sometimes it's a really good idea.
Starting point is 00:05:16 Yeah. No one was complaining about this one. No. Some of their early clients were the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, figure skater Sonia Hennie, of course. And in 1967, they said, things are going so well, we're going to open up a second factory in Ontario, because they were turning out those Zambonis at a pretty good clip, even though it's the kind of thing that requires a lot of maintenance, though.
Starting point is 00:05:45 It's usually the kind of thing you hope to buy once. Yeah, and one of the things that seems to have really kind of boosted the company's image is they were the official ice resurfacer for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. And that really, I think, kind of sealed the deal for everybody. And then they also were, they went to the Soviet Union with ice capades in 1967 too. So the sixties were a big decade for the Zamboni company. Should we take a break? Yeah, because we're going to come back because there's plenty of decades after the sixties.
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Starting point is 00:08:15 podcast network, iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. That's right. That's right. So since those early Zambonis, they've changed quite a bit. Ice resurfacers in general over the years just gotten better and better. They're still making improvements. There's one coming down the pike soon that's even more advanced than the last. Oh yeah? Oh sure, they're always trying to make these things a little bit better, run a little cleaner.
Starting point is 00:08:50 That's so Zamboni. So how these things actually work is exactly sort of how they did it by hand, but a machine is doing it. You're basically just giving the surface of the ice a shave with a blade. The blade is about 77 to 96 inches, depending on the size of the machine. And the NHL says, just give me a real close trim, like a 1.32 of an inch down.
Starting point is 00:09:18 You don't have to scrape too much. And the total ice from an NHL rink, let's say, that you would scrape off is about 60 cubic feet. Yes. And on either side of the blade are up to four comfort strips that give a close and comfortable shave. Not buying that one. So that's generally like the main thing that's going on.
Starting point is 00:09:45 You're trimming the ice. But the problem is when you trim ice, there's still little divots. It's not smooth necessarily. It's just uniform. So what the Zamboni does is it sprays water out in front of the blade. And that water's picked up by the Zamboni itself,
Starting point is 00:10:05 kind of mixed up, I think, with the water, or the snow that it picks up, or the ice it generates, you just call it snow. And then out of the rear, they put down new water, warm water, that remelts the ice, and then they have essentially a squeegee at the back that smooths the whole thing over. Which, if that sounds familiar, that is what humans did,
Starting point is 00:10:25 they just figured out how to put all those things into a machine. Yeah, and you know what? It's even better than that. Okay. Because that snow that they're picking up gets melted and goes into a tank and gets washed to be reused.
Starting point is 00:10:37 It's a beautifully elegant sort of closed loop system. That makes sense because it's, you're cleaning up the ice, you're collecting it as snow as ice shavings, and then you're laying down more water to refreeze, it would make sense to just make the whole thing as closed a system as possible. Yeah, and they're heavy.
Starting point is 00:10:56 If it's full of water, again, depending on the machine, you can go anywhere between 7,000 to 11,000 pounds total weight. And they hold anywhere from 210 or so to about 265 gallons of water. Yeah. One of the things you said that they are always kind of innovating, one of the things that's really
Starting point is 00:11:18 become a thing in ice resurfacing world is electric ice resurfacers, which is a really good step forward because most of the time they're resurfacing world is electric ice resurfacers. Which is a really good step forward because most of the time they're resurfacing ice in an enclosed ice rink. And if you've ever, have you ever been to like a skating rink when they're resurfacing the ice and it's not an electric Sam Boney?
Starting point is 00:11:36 Yeah. I played hockey for a couple of years. Okay. So, you know, the whole place stinks of, of car exhaust and somehow hot pretzels. I don't know how every single ice drink in the world smells like the hot pretzels that they sell. For some reason really carries.
Starting point is 00:11:55 It's a very distinct smell. I love it. Interesting. I never noticed that. Check it out next time. I'll bet you'll be like, oh my God, it really smells like hot pretzels in here. I haven't skated in a while.
Starting point is 00:12:06 I got pretty good for a little while, but it's been a minute. Did you? Yeah. We got into it locally here. Like a friend of mine worked at a rink and they had called it stick time, which is basically like after hours,
Starting point is 00:12:20 hockey players could pay like 10 bucks to go up there and just play like pickup games. Cool. And so we all kind of got into it and got gear and I was never any good at it, but I got to where I could skate Okay a little bit and move around a little bit. Yeah, it's very hard. I Was a shameful skater considering I grew up in Ohio where ponds just froze completely solid all the time. Yeah weak ankles, I guess So Zamboni we it being a proprietary eponym,
Starting point is 00:12:54 that kind of giveth and taketh away, because it's great when people just call any ice resurfacer a Zamboni. Not so great when you don't win the contract to the Winter Olympics, which is what happened in 2010 in Vancouver when those Olympia machines won the contract and those machines malfunctioned. And all over the news, they're talking about the fact that the Zamboni's aren't working.
Starting point is 00:13:16 Yeah, and Zamboni actually released a press release saying like, hey, those are not Zamboni brand machines. And in fact, Zamboni's got trucked in to finish the job after the Olympia machines just stopped working. I guess it was just a catastrophe. I read like an interview from the time and it was like, like this is, you're on the world stage and your stuff is not working well.
Starting point is 00:13:42 So the Olympics are on hold right now because your machine isn't doing the job. stuff is not working well, so the Olympics are on hold right now because your machine isn't doing the job. I was trying to picture a press conference instead of just a press release where they were like, you know, we've shut down now, we want to make it clear, these are not Zambonis, these are just ice resurfacers, they are not Zambonis. And the press is like, right, right, but what's actually wrong with the Zambonis? They're like, no, no, no, no, they aren't Zambonis. And the press is like, right, right, but what's actually wrong with the Zambonis?
Starting point is 00:14:05 They're like, no, no, no, no, they aren't Zambonis. Just over and over and over. And he gets so frustrated that his nose starts bleeding. He goes, somebody hand me a Kleenex. Oh my God, amazing. So Chuck, I say we wrap this whole one up, because we basically reached the end here, don't you think? Yeah, I mean, just we should mention price.
Starting point is 00:14:24 These things are very, very expensive. The cheapest one that you actually need a tractor to drag this thing around is about 10 grand. And I saw Zamboni say that they can go up above 500,000 sometimes. Wow. That's the gold plated one. If you look up Zamboni price,
Starting point is 00:14:44 there are a lot of articles from smaller towns, civic organizations, that are saying, do we have $165,000 to allocate toward a Zamboni for our city rank? That's a lot of money. It's a big expenditure. Yeah. Yeah. The most expensive one only functions with Avion that has been used to wash Shannon Dowardy's
Starting point is 00:15:07 hair. That's why it's so expensive. I'm not buying that either. So I say short stuff's out. What do you say? I say it's out. Stuff You Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts, my heart radio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts,
Starting point is 00:15:26 or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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