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What is a Zamboni?

A Zamboni allows hockey players to play on a smooth, clean and level surface.
A zamboni is used between periods at a hockey game to smooth out the ice for the players.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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A Zamboni is a machine used in ice skating rinks to smooth and clean the ice surface. While Zamboni® is a registered trade name, the generic term being "ice resurfacer," the term is typically used to describe any such machine, much like Band-Aid for an adhesive bandage. The first ice resurfacer was created in 1949 by Frank J. Zamboni.

As people skate in an ice rink, the surface becomes rough and more difficult to skate on, so regular resurfacing can keep the ice rink at its best. The most important part of the Zamboni® is called a conditioner and dragged behind the vehicle. It consists of a large blade that scrapes the surface of the ice, and two augers that collect the shavings and transport them into the machine.

After scraping down the surface, the conditioner sprays wash water over the ice, recirculating it through a vacuum hose. Finally, the Zamboni® applies clean water with a cloth towel to make the surface smooth. Typically, purified hot water is used for this step, as it serves to melt the surface and refreeze, making for increased smoothness.

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The weakness of a Zamboni® is that it is not ideal for cleaning up and smoothing the ice at the very edges of the rink, as it can be dangerous to drive the machine right up against the rink walls. An ice edger is an additional tool uses to clear excess ice from the edges of the rink and make the surface smooth. Some resurfacers also feature a board brush, which extends to clear away loose ice below the dasher board surrounding the rink. An ice edger may still be used after a Zamboni® with a board brush, but its job will be much easier. Newer models have an additional blade attached to the conditioner to clean the edges of the rink along with the main surface.

There are newer, more sophisticated ice resurfacing technologies as well, but they are not widely used due to their expense and the adequate design of the original machine. These added features include a misting spray as the final resurfacing step, replacing the water and cloth, and a laser-guided blade.

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