Rarely does hockey capture the attention of major media outlets in the United States, but today is a different story. While it may not be the NHL, or a team in general, the Google homepage today is an interactive doodle featuring a pair of hockey players, a bundled-up skater, and a bespectacled Zamboni driver. When users click on the doodle it launches a game in which you must clean scrapes and scratches off of the ice before your fuel gauge is empty.
Paying tribute to Frank Zamboni, google is recognizing the inventor of the four-wheeled ice resurfacer that bears his name. While not all ice resurfacers are Zamboni’s, they do all get called his name as the average person recognizes that name above all others, much like Kleenex. Born 112 years ago, on Jan. 16, 1901, to Italian immigrants, Zamboni was raised in Eureka, Utah, and worked from a young age as a mechanic. In 1920, Frank’s brother, George, opened a garage in Southern California, and Frank followed him there.
Frank and his other brother, Lawrence, would later go into business under the aegis of Service Electric, later known as the Zamboni Bros. Company. The company specialized in drilling, but managed to also open an ice making company which would sell large blocks of ice to other companies.
In 1940, Frank Zamboni opened an indoor rink called Iceland, in Paramount, California. With ice skating beginning to grow in popularity, Iceland was a success. Frank Zamboni did notice though that there was one major flaw of his rink, it was hard to keep the ice clean and fresh.
It took five men 90 minutes each night to lay down a new sheet of ice. [Frank] Zamboni devoted the next eight years to replacing those five men and, when he did, it was with a machine only its mother could love. The awkward Model A Ice Resurfacer No. 1 sat on two old Dodge front ends and was powered by a war surplus jeep engine. A wooden bin caught the ice shavings. Despite its appearance, it resurfaced the ice in 15 minutes after scraping it, gathering up the shavings, washing the surface and then laying down a coat of fresh hot water that was spread by a towel.
In modern NHL arenas across North America and the rest of the world, the old “Model A Ice Resurfacer No. 1″ is more typically referred to simply as a “Zamboni.” It was in 1953 that the patent would first be issued to Zamboni, and within about 10 years, Frank Zamboni was selling machines to rinks and NHL franchises across the country.
Starting in the 1970’s, the Zamboni resurfacer has been upgraded to the 500 series, which includes a liquid-cooled engine, but that model may be on its last leg as well as the company now offers a new electric model which has zero emissions.
Google’s doodle is posted today to celebrate Frank Zamboni’s 112 birthday.
St. Louis Blues fans and hockey fans alike all owe a great deal of thanks to Frank Zamboni for innovating the game without ever playing in the game. That is all for now Blues fans, as always, LET’S GO BLUES!