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Good Question: How Do Zambonis Work?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Wild has a brand new Zamboni – it’s first new ice resurfacer in 14 years. It’ll be a few weeks before the 8,620 pound machine is in “game shape,” but that had us wondering: how do Zambonis work?

According to Xcel Energy Center ice operations manager Travis Larson, the process starts by shaving 1/32nd of an inch of ice off the surface with a 77-inch blade that runs along the bottom of the machine.

“It’s a razor sharp blade,” Larson said.

The ice that’s shaved off becomes a slushy material that’s transferred into a dump box at the front of the Zamboni by an auger. How much ice ends up in the dump box depends on who had just been skating.

“If you had mites skating, you might take a couple of shovels out,” Larson said. “In between periods of a Wild game, two machines are taking out 100 cubic feet of snow.”

Once the blade passes over the ice, wash water is let out from the back of the Zamboni to clean the ice. The water is set to 150-160 degrees to make better ice.

“The hotter water holds less oxygen and doesn’t have as much air entrapped in the water,” he said.

The dirty ice – which can hold hair, spit, blood and a bunch of slush – is then squeegeed up before another round of water comes out of the back of the machine. That water lays down a new, smooth surface.

“That’s the water everyone sees coming out the of the back end of the resurfacer,” he said.

Larson has eight drivers at the Xcel Energy Center and all have more than 10 years of experience. It takes two machines travelling between 9-10 mph about 6 minutes to clean the ice between Wild periods.

And as for the pattern the drivers choose, Larson said, “Someone came up with that a long time before I did.”

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