Ask a Zamboni Driver

Photo: Cassandra Rose Tannenbaum

You claim to be the only female Zamboni driver in New York.
I certainly don’t know of any other women who drive. People at the rink will make jokes about how I shouldn’t put my lipstick on while I’m driving.

What’s the typical routine like?
We open at 6:30 a.m., so the Zamboni driver has to get here at 5 a.m. We’re 30,000 square feet, but it still only takes about a half-hour to cover all of it. The trickiest part is the shape: On a round rink, the Zamboni does two passes around the outside, then cuts up the middle; but ours is shaped like a triangle, so that pattern gets a little more convoluted. I’ve definitely bumped into the walls a few times. I usually stand up while I’m driving so I can see better.

What happens to all the ice you scrape up?
I drive the Zamboni onto a platform over that little pond across from the Plaza. When I dump the ice in the pond, I can feel the weight of the tank tipping forward, and there’s always a moment when I think I’m going to end up in the water.

Any strange encounters with pond wildlife?
One time we had a whole family of ducks mistake our rink for the pond. The mom very confidently walked all of her ducklings around the edge, then realized she’d made a wrong turn somewhere.

Luckily you didn’t drive over them with the Zamboni!
Yes. Every once in a while you’ll drive over a hockey puck, and the machine gets damaged. But the very worst was the time the Zamboni ate an engagement ring. A guy had just proposed on one knee in the middle of the rink, in front of a thousand people, and later, after we had already cleared the ice for the Zamboni, the fiancée realized that the ring had slipped off her finger. It was probably sucked into the conveyor belt, because it made this rattling sound. We had all of the skate guards digging through snow shavings, but we never found it.

Ask a Zamboni Driver