Zamboni, also known as ice resurfacer, is a fascinating sight to see when you’re watching ice hockey. The drivers and their unusual machines certainly are mysteries because they appear, get the job done, and disappear as quickly as they came.
In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about Zamboni drivers, including how it works, how much it costs, driver salaries, and much more! First, let’s start with the answer of what is Zamboni driver in the first place.
What Is A Zamboni Driver?
A Zamboni driver is the resurfacer of an ice rink. There are three periods in hockey, and between each period, the Zamboni driver will circle the ice to wet and smoothen it, so it’ll be in perfect shape when the next period begins.
You see, the ice on the rink will get badly worn out by hockey players and their skates during the 20-minute periods. It’s one of the core reasons there are three periods in the first place, instead of the two halves there used to be.
At the end of each period, the hockey match will have 15-17 intermissions. During that time, the Zamboni driver will drive around the ice with the Zamboni starting from the boardside. The ice will be evenly resurfaced, and the next period will start from fresh ice when it’s done.
It’s not uncommon for Zamboni drivers to have other responsibilities in the hockey hall besides resurfacing the ice. To name a few, maintaining the cleanliness of locker rooms and stands, supervising the facility and the surrounding area, ice skate sharpening, collaborating with other staff, and even advising the general public.
I’ll go to the salary of Zamboni drivers below, but there are full-time, part-time, and shifts for Zamboni drivers. The nature of work can significantly vary depending on the contract.
How Does a Zamboni Work?
Considering the important task of Zamboni drivers and the fascinating nature of the job, it makes you wonder how do Zambonis work and are they difficult to operate?
A Zamboni is a large mechanical vehicle whose purpose is resurfacing the ice. It works by shaving the ice with a large blade and filling the grooves in the ice with water. During the process, excess water and snow are collected on the Zambonis tank so it can be used later to repeat the process.
After the operator has resurfaced the ice, leftover snow from the shaving in the Zambonis’ tank will be dumped. If you have spent time in hockey arenas, you will spot small snow piles outside the hall, even in summer. That’s a snow dump made by the Zamboni.
Anyways, the mechanics of a Zamboni is quite simple, although the machines often look quite old and complicated. See the video below if you want an even better idea of operating a Zamboni.
How Much Does a Zamboni Cost?
Zambonis are vehicles you can drive on ice, has many features, and are big and chunky. Naturally, such things are expensive, but the question is, how expensive?
A Zamboni can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000, depending on its model, features, machinery, and other specifications.
Thinks such as how often one would use a Zamboni, ice resurfacing ice, power requirements, and speed requirements affect what type of Zamboni hockey halls will choose to invest in. Naturally, NHL teams have the most sophisticated Zambonis with all the treats, whereas local hockey halls don’t require advanced features to get the job done.
Now, let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular Zamboni models and their prices and features.
The model 100 Zamboni is a small tractor-pulled machine that is fuel-powered. They are great for smaller ice surfaces in small local hockey halls where time or style isn’t as important as in professional games. They are quite rarely seen and cost the least, approximately $10,000.
However, you can also get full-sized model 100 Zambonis that aren’t tractor-pulled. These Zambonis can cost close to $100,000, depending on the exact Zamboni.
Model 700 Zambonis are superior to Model 100, costing anywhere between $100,000 to $200,000.
They feature wider blades and more sophisticated ice-making mechanisms better suited for bigger ice surfaces and work amounts.
Zamboni 552 differs from models 100 and 700 as it features a lead acid battery. This is seen in the price, from $160,000 to $250,000 or more! They are made for even more demanding workspaces.
This model is also environmentally sustainable because it doesn’t run on fuel and also packs power that can be driven at 60mph (96kph), getting the job done in time, even in the professional leagues.
The Olympia Zamboni is similar to the model 552. However, they are even wider and bigger, which comes at the cost of speed. Still, you can resurface ice even faster with this model than with any other out there. Of course, they are the most expensive model costing from $200,000 to $250,000.
For quick information, see the data table below about Zamboni models and their price ranges.
|Model 700||$100,000 – $200,000|
|Zamboni 552||$160,000 – $250,000|
|Olympia Zamboni||$200,000 – $250,000|
Zamboni Driver Salary
The average salary for a Zamboni driver in the United States is $30,221 annually. The reported salary ranges vary between $20,647 for the bottom 10% of Zamboni drivers to 45,448 for the top 10% of earners. Top Zamboni drivers have reported earning over $66,292 annually.
The thing is, each salary reporting site gives slightly different numbers because the Zamboni drivers that have reported their salaries aren’t the same for each site.
Let’s break the average annual salary into smaller bits to give you a better idea of the earnings.
|Time||Average Salary||Salary Range|
|Per Hour||$14.77||Low $11.17 – High $19.53|
|Per Day||$153||Low $116 – High $202|
|Per Week||$629||Low $476 – High $832|
|Per Month||$2,436||Low $1,842 – High $3,221|
|Per Year||$34,403||Low $26,019 – High $45,448|
So is the average salary of a Zamboni driver good? Well, according to Indeed, only 17% of Zamboni drivers think that the salary is enough for the cost of living in their area. Therefore, the salary isn’t good if you ask most people.
Note that many things affect the salary. As you saw from the data table, the earning differences between Zamboni drivers depending on the employer, location, and the league can vary drastically.
For example, an NHL Zamboni driver with 20 years of experience who has negotiated his salary earns significantly more than a young part-time Zamboni driver who accepted the first pay and resurfaces ice for small local ice rinks.
How To Become a Zamboni Driver?
Even when the salary of a Zamboni driver isn’t the best you can achieve, the job looks fascinating and fun with many benefits other than money. How can you become one in real life if you are charmed by the job?
You can become a Zamboni driver if you are 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Some employers require previous work experience, whereas others will train you for the job. To find job announcements, upload your resume on job sites and search for jobs. Also, you can call local ice rinks.
There are more needs or at least advantages for Zamboni drivers In addition to the minimum qualifications of being 18 years old and a valid driver’s license, such as;
- High school diploma or equivalent.
- General knowledge of ice arena operations
- Ability to work in cold air
- Flexibility in shifts
- Ability to follow instructions
- Physical strength for occasional tasks
- Great vision
- Communication skills
- Ability to pass a possible background check
The requirements are quite basic, so no fancy diplomas or natural talents are needed. Regular life skills are usually enough, depending on whether or not previous work experience is required.
To point you in the right direction, you can find job positions for Zamboni drivers on LinkedIn. Also, you can browse dozens of open positions from Indeed, apply for a job, see estimated salaries, full job descriptions, and everything between.
After quick browsing, I can see full-time, part-time, and even shift Zamboni drivers are needed all over the United States! Remember to search in your area, and you will find a job as an ice resurfacer!
Why Was Red Wings Zamboni Driver Fired?
Last but not least, the most famous Zamboni driver incident is related to one who was fired from the Red Wings. This is a topic usually heard when talking anything about Zamboni drivers, so who was he, and why was he fired?
Al Sobotka, The Zamboni driver of Detroit Red Wings, was fired on February 17th, 2020, after 51 with the organization because he urinated in a drain while working. He later sued the Red Wings invoking his diagnosis of prostatic hypertrophy, which caused frequent and uncontrollable need to urinate.
After Al Sobotka was let go of the Red Wings, he explained that the nearest toilet was a public restroom 60-70 feet away, and given his condition; he had to urinate sooner than later. Thus, he decided to urinate in a pit inside the Zambonis garage, where ice is unloaded and drained.
What makes this incident outrageous for Al Sobotka is that a fellow employee turned him in for the management and was given the new Zamboni driver position. Naturally, this infuriated Al, and a lawsuit was made.
Did Al deserve to be fired from the Red Wings? In my opinion, definitely not, given his extremely long and clean history with the organization, his proven medical condition, and the fact that the act didn’t harm anybody, nor did anyone other than the other employee see it. What do you think?