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From Bend to Beijing, Zamboni drivers are crucial for creating Olympic-quality ice conditions

'I think everyone is a fan of the Zamboni'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Five of the 15 winter Olympic sports have two common dominators: The ice they share and the machine that takes care of it.

The Zamboni, a unique machine designed to clean and maintain ice, is a common sight, and a fan favorite for anyone who’s been to a rink.

“Yeah, I think everyone is a fan of the Zamboni, from little kids to adults. I think people love it,” Bend Pavilion supervisor Clare Gordon said recently. 

In 2018, the Olympic team of Zamboni drivers was the 22nd-largest team in PyeongChang.

Which is no surprise to Gordon.

“It makes sense to me they have a big team -- it requires a lot of time. So with the extent of the number of games, it makes sense they have a lot of drivers,” Gordon said. 

Gordon has been driving a Zamboni since the Bend rink opened in 2015, but she’s not sure if the Olympics is on her bucket list.

“It’s not personally a goal. That’s a lot of pressure, to drive in the Olympics,” Gordon said. 

Gordon is one of five drivers at The Pavilion, including 30-year Zamboni vet Donny Horn.

Horn didn’t want to do an interview, but had no problem showing off his experience.

Horn is the main driving instructor at The Pavilion, and has passed down all the zamming secrets.

“But yeah, he taught me everything I know,” Gordon said of Horn. 

But how does it work?

Gordon said the Zamboni scoops up the snow, fills in the divots left from the skates, and then smooths it out with hot water, creating that shiny finish.

“So the Zamboni both helps us keep the ice level, but also keeps the ice healthy, in terms of not chipping and not having divots in it,” Gordon said. 

Then, all the collected snow is dumped into a drain in the Zamboni garage.

Gordon recognizes how unique the Zamboni is, and the importance it has on the ice.

She thinks if asked, she might reconsider cleaning ice on the world's biggest stage.

“At the Olympics? I mean, sure -- we’d all give it a go, right?” Gordon said with a laugh.

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

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