Monday, 16 December 2019

TBC: Zamboni

With Canada West hockey on its December exam and holiday break, it's time to dig into a little textual therapy as Teebz's Book Club makes an appearance! I like learning about stuff, and today's entry will certainly be a lesson in history on one piece of equipment that all hockey rinks must have if they're going to have people skate on their ice surfaces. That piece of equipment is an ice resurfacing machine, better known by its more commonly-used name in a Zamboni machine! If you wanted to know nearly everything about Zamboni machines, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice, written by Eric Dregni and published by Motorbooks. Author Dregni takes us through the humble beginnings of the Zamboni Company right through to today's battery-powered Zamboni machines and more! Get settled in as we go around the rink a few times while learning about Zamboni ice resurfacing machines!

Eric Dregni is a full-time associate professor of English and Journalism at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he spends a lot of his non-teaching time writing books! He grew up in Minnetonka, but developed a love for Italy during an exchange student program in his senior year of high school. He spent an entire year writing a book about St. Paul's sister city in Modena, Italy! Dregni has authored nearly twenty books on a variety of topics that include motor scooters, travel guidebooks for the American midwest, and travel in Europe. When he's not writing about these topics or Zamboni machines, Dregni spends his summers as dean of an Italian language summer camp for kids who want to learn to speak Italian! Eric lives in St. Paul with his wife, Katy, and his three children.

It's one of those underappreciated things at every rink mostly because when it's on the ice, players aren't. The Zamboni has long been held in contempt for what it means for players, but how much do you actually think about the science and the machinery that has gone into a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine over the years? Do you know how long the Zamboni Company has been around or how many models of Zamboni machines there have been over the history of the company? Before reading Zamboni, I'll be honest in saying that I never gave it much thought.

I'll say it here: give it some thought and pick up this book because the history of the Zamboni Company and the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine is fascinating!

Frank Zamboni was born in 1901 in Eureka, Utah, and he and his brother, Lawrence, would move to Paramount, California to found Zamboni Brothers Electric following Frank's graduation from a trade school where he learned electricity. In 1927, the brothers opened a refrigeration plant to make ice blocks for old-fashioned iceboxes in order to keep food refrigerated. However, over the next decade, refrigerators would become more prominent in American homes, and the brothers found their ice-block business falling on harder times. It was in 1940 that Frank, Lawrence, and their cousin, Pete, turned to using that plant machinery to test a new venture in making ice outdoors on a vacant lot which eventually became "Iceland", a huge outdoor skating rink!

While Frank Zamboni was inventing other things to improve his ice-making venture, the one thing that bothered him was the hour-long wait for the ice to be resurfaced when a new layer of ice was needed. It would take nine years from the opening of Iceland to seeing the first iteration of the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine, but May 16, 1949 saw Frank Zamboni's resurfacing machine take to the ice where the new layer of ice was applied in "record time" to the Iceland ice surface! While it wasn't officially a Zamboni by name yet, the first Zamboni ice resurfacing machine was born!

There are a pile of details that Dregni puts into the historical look at the Zamboni ice resurfacing machines that includes the importance of figure skating and traveling skating shows such as Ice Capades to push the innovation behind the Zamboni machines, how World War II jeeps and walnuts played a major roles in the improvements of the Zamboni machines, and how the upgrades and improvements have continued throughout the decades of the Zamboni Company's history to lead us to the Zamboni machines we see today. Honestly, the information and the amazing pictures in this section of Zamboni alone makes the book worth its value!

The second section of Zamboni goes over all the details of the Zamboni machines about which one likely never even thought. Driving a Zamboni machine can be done by anyone, but it takes years to master handling the big machine to make ice smoothly. For those that are curious, Zamboni machines have top speed of 9 mph or 14 km/hr, but Zamboni drivers have to be aware of what's happening on the ice - coins, buttons, and other minute debris can render a Zamboni machine useless if it drives over the debris! There's some info about what goes into making ice within the machine, how many kilometers are put on each machine annually on average, how much snow each machine makes to dump out when it's finished its run, a look at the actual Zamboni Company factory, and a number of other facts. There's even a snippet of information that the NCAA actually changed a rule - I won't say which one - because of a suggestion from the Zamboni Company!

The third section of Zamboni is all about the human devotion to the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine. From bands who have wrote songs about the Zamboni machine to parades featuring Zamboni machines and from souped-up, custom Zamboni machines to the introduction of two Zamboni machines on the same ice surface, the stories and history of the Zamboni machines is back on display as people take their love of the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine to new levels never seen before.

The fourth section of Zamboni is all about the popular culture and weird facts that one never considers when watching the Zamboni machines circle the ice. For example, did you know that out of 37 ice technicians at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, just one was a woman? That woman, Barbara Bogner, is from Colorado where she is the Assistant Director of Aquatics and the Ice Rink at the University of Colorado, and she was invited over to South Korea for the Olympics where she circled the ice on the Zamboni machines there!

Honestly, the writing that Eric Dregni did in Zamboni is top-notch, but you'll likely sit and flip through the pages just to read all the inserts and marvel at the photos that have been included. Again, Mr. Dregni did an amazing job writing the book, but he likely could have published Zamboni as a picture book, and I still would have given this book a thumbs-up. The photos are fantastic when reading about specific things Mr. Dregni is illustrating with words, and they make this book worth the price of admission.

Since I already mentioned it above, you likely know how I feel about Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice. Mr. Dregni's research into the Zamboni Company and the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine translated nicely into a well-written book, and the photos and inserts used in each chapter bring what Mr. Dregni wrote to life. If you've ever been curious about the Zamboni machines you see at the intermissions at hockey games, this book is entirely for you. Because of these the great writing, fantastic images, and the cool topic, Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice at your local bookstores and libraries, and it is suitable for hockey fans of all ages! It should be noted that nowhere in this review was the machine referred to as a "Zamboni". There's a very good reason for this as stated on the Zamboni Company's website.
If you hear your friends at the game talking about "the Zamboni," make sure you inform them of the machine's proper reference!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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