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I wanna drive the Zamboni

News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring warms up the Zamboni machine at McMillen Park Ice Arena before trying to make his escape. (Photo by Perry Ehresman for The News-Sentinel)
News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring warms up the Zamboni machine at McMillen Park Ice Arena before trying to make his escape. (Photo by Perry Ehresman for The News-Sentinel)

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For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Reporter tries out machine before making bid at auction

Friday, June 21, 2013 12:01 am
Well, Judge, the story starts like this…When I read that the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department was auctioning off equipment from McMillen Park Ice Arena, I knew exactly what I wanted to bid on. Like the song says, "I wanna drive the Zamboni!"

There are three of them up for bid June 28, so of course I wanted the newest one, a 2000 model with about 4,500 hours of usage. That means it's only resurfaced a complete ice surface about 6,027 times. (Hey, I do research on what I'm buying!) It's practically brand new for a middle-aged vehicle, and believe me, I am intimately acquainted with middle age.

First, I had to see what I was bidding on, so I asked Parks Department Director of Leisure Services Perry Ehresman to show me around, and it's not really his fault that he turned his head at the wrong time. It was a natural reaction when the rock I threw landed in a far dark corner. While Ehresman tried to figure out where the sound came from, probably fearing some large critter or maybe thinking about lunch, I did what every prospective owner does with a new vehicle – I took it for a test drive.

Let me tell you, this baby can really hum. Slamming the pedal to the floor, I pushed that fine-tuned engine up to 9.7 miles an hour. Look out, Dario Franchitti! I might have gotten even more speed out of it if I hadn't made my break across the McMillen Park grass. A Zamboni does not do well as a mower, though it does cut the time in half with the wide swath.

I picked up momentum when I hit the golf course, steered into the tailwind and leaned forward. I looked like Motley Crue's drummer trying to push a little more oomph out of my ride. Without the hair, of course. Or the hot lady.

Figuring I might need a few tips, I pulled out my cellphone to call expert Zamboni drivers Paul Hollabaugh and Jeff Alcox from Memorial Coliseum.

"Hypothetically, Paul, what's the best way to gain some extra speed on a Zamboni?"

Hollabaugh said a Zamboni is not built for speed, so I hung up and called Alcox. Spoilsport!

Alcox didn't have any tips, either, and right then I needed more speed: I'd been spotted by a police cruiser that pulled up beside me.

"What are you doing?" the exasperated officer asked.

"Trying to figure out how I'll mark this down on my expense report," I said. Oh, and working on a new marketing campaign.

I'm thinking I can make some money off this by selling advertising for the sides. Everyone in the city will be staring at it and expressing awe when I'm driving through town. I figure all those hand gestures and exclamations will make this baby a huge talking point. Yes, sir, I agree, my Zamboni is indeed No. 1!

At the very least, anyone unfortunate enough to get caught behind it will have plenty of time to look at the advertising.

I also think I could rent the machine out to clean up homemade rinks in backyards, ponds or on cul-de-sacs where kids will be holding games during the winter. I might have to start driving to the locations a few days before appointment times, though.

It would also be perfect for parades, kids' birthday parties and to pop the lid so Icy D. Eagle can emerge as a surprise. A Zamboni could also be used to walk a hoard of dogs, but you'd need extra-long leashes. It could be the ultimate pooper scooper.

Somehow, the police officer wasn't buying it. No, I wanted to buy it.

It didn't help my case when he left his car to walk alongside the Zamboni. I might have gotten away if I had cut back more often on the side streets. Unfortunately, that would have meant going against the wind.

One thing about driving such a unique machine is that it doesn't blend in very well with the rest of traffic unless you manage to draft with a fire truck. There's an idea! The Zamboni could become the official mascot of the fire department! That old spotted dog has nothing on a Zamboni.

But then the police officer got tired of chasing me. It didn't help that I tried to hide in a drive-through and got stuck.

Anyway, that's my story, Judge. I tried calling Hollabaugh to raise bail, but he just hung up.

More Information

Online

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

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