“There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire and a Zamboni clearing the ice.”
-- “Peanuts’ “ Charlie Brown
CAN YOU NAME where the famed Zamboni machine was invented?
If you said, “Iceland,” you’re absolutely right. ...
Unless you meant the country.
The Zamboni, that ever-present sight at hockey matches and figure-skating competitions the globe over, was invented more than 60 years ago in — of all places — Southern California, in the Los Angeles harbor area now known as Paramount.
“Iceland” is the name of the rink owned and operated by the Zamboni family, which in the ‘40s went into the skating business as electrical refrigeration units were becoming popularized — eventually rendering the Zamboni block-ice business less and less of a going concern.
Frank Zamboni, who earlier worked as a mechanic in his brother’s auto repair shop, spent much of that decade working on his game-changing creation. And in 1949, Zamboni invented the world’s first self-propelled ice-resurfacing machine — cutting to mere minutes a job that before required an hour-and-a-half and at least several shovelers.
Today, on what would have been Frank Zamboni’s 112th birthday, Google honors the hall-of-fame inventor with a fittingly interactive Doodle on its home-page: You drive the Zamboni through increasingly more difficult game levels, trying to resurface the ice while avoiding banana peels and other pitfalls.
And as a way to pay tribute ourselves, Comic Riffs brings to center-ice our Top Eight Things You Didn’t Know About the Zamboni:
1. The Zamboni family did not build its Iceland Skating Rink to accommodate hockey, a sport that was permitted there only nearly a half-century later to maintain the rink’s viability. Yet Frank’s machine would become so crucially efficient and ubiquitous at hockey matches that it became the National Hockey League’s official resurfacing machine. Last year, the Zamboni company’s 10,000th machine was sold to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
2. Frank Zamboni — a Utah native who moved to California with his family in the ‘20s and worked in electrical supply — obtained a patent in 1946 for running pipes through refrigerated ice, providing for a more level, non-rippled surface.
3. Zamboni built his ice-resurfacing machine by attaching a blade to a tractor, then later using a Jeep chassis. He secured his patent for the machine in 1953. His invention made an international splash at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.
4. Many top figure skaters have trained at the Zamboni family’s Iceland rink (often with famed coach John Nicks), including Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming, silver medalists Sasha Cohen and Dianne DeLeeuw, and Olympians JoJo Starbuck and Kenneth Shelley. In 2006, Zamboni was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
[LET IT SNOW, GOOGLE: Falling for the “Easter egg” trick]
5. The Zamboni company continued to develop cutting-edge resurfacing machines that promised a tight turning radius and a “perfect sheet of ice.” The company boasts: “Nothing else is even close.”
6. The Zamboni has been featured frequently in pop culture, from “Peanuts” specials (creator Charles Schulz was an avid hockey player and California ice-rink owner) to the NBC comedy “Cheers,” in which hockey player-turned-ice-show-performer Eddie LeBec (Jay Thomas) dies in a freak Zamboni accident while dressed as a penguin.
7. In 2009, Zamboni was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame — one of the few inductees who never played the game competitively.
[SNOWFLAKE DOODLE: World-record largest snowflake drops in on Google logo]
8. In 2007, Zamboni was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, nearly 20 years after he died.
And now, in animated tribute to Frank Zamboni’s smooth legacy: Game on!