“State of Hockey” has Zamboni driver shortage
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — It’s a job that a lot of us think would be pretty cool – driving a Zamboni.
But the “State of Hockey” has a Zamboni driver shortage right now.
For Ray Haar, IV, there’s nothing like smoothing out a bumpy sheet of ice.
“I like it a lot. It’s probably one of the most satisfying things I do every day,” he said.
As a Zamboni driver at the Bloomington Ice Garden, he’s busy year-round. But lately, workers like him have been hard to come by.
“They just can’t keep up with having the quality of ice that they want with the drivers they are constantly shuffling around,” said Haar.
While the Ice Garden is close to full staff, other rinks haven’t been so lucky. Desperate for drivers, they’ll take applicants with no prior experience.
At some Minnesota ice arenas, if upper management knows how to drive a Zamboni then they’ve been stepping in to help the void.
“It’s been a struggle. Last winter was really, really difficult for us,” said Lenny Schmitz, who manages the Ice Garden.
He said, like so many other jobs, COVID-19 impacted the Zamboni workforce. It took him a year and a half to finally get his numbers up. Attracting drivers isn’t a problem, but retaining them is.
“For them to actually be efficient and effective at it, it can take months before they are really decent at it,” said Schmitz.
The job also entails cleaning the arena, skate rentals and customer service. With the high school hockey season right around the corner, Zamboni drivers will be stepping up their game. Schmitz just hopes they stick around for the long haul.
“In a moment’s notice you lose somebody or you have somebody graduate from college and then they are off to a full-time gig and not available anymore or as much,” he said.
A lot of rinks are looking for Zamboni drivers and arena workers right now. Schmitz said many of those shifts are during nights and weekends which also makes hiring a challenge.