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The Zamboni machine has become one of many people's favorite parts of Ice Hockey. Technically this device is called an ice resurfacer, but everyone just calls it a "Zamboni" after the inventer.

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Frank Zamboni invented the machine over the period from 1942 to 1949 to help with the time-consuming task of resurfacing his ice rink.

I'm curious what came before this. The wikipedia page mentions ice being manually scraped and watered before, but also stresses how time-consuming this was. Presumably he could afford this as a business owner, but it was still enough of a hardship to motivate the hard work to develop the machine.

If it was really that bad, did a lot of people just not bother? Did hockey games not resurface at halftime (or ever?) If so, how was it typically done? Was there an earlier period where nobody bothered, but just let skaters deal with the ruts? I'd imagine a lot of skating was done on frozen lakes that would have been remote from unfrozen supplies of water.

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This question posted today in honor of Frank Zamboni's 112th birthday. –  T.E.D. Jan 16 '13 at 15:56
The questions should commemorate an average 34% productivity drop around the globe as people play today's Zamboni Google Doodle game –  DVK Jan 16 '13 at 16:53
I always have to smile when I see how grownups e.g. from Switzerland and Scotland achieve the (I think) same effect when they engage in curling (watch the brooms e.g. from 5'45" :) –  Drux Jan 16 '13 at 17:10

1 Answer 1

John Ceburn West, the late 19th century inventor of the Alligator http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligator_boat, the steam warping tug, also patented an invention that would carefully apply a layer of ice to roads.

It was very much like the modern Zamboni machine, with the minor variation of being horse-drawn and coal-fired.

It was never a success. Perhaps people disliked ice-covered roads?

But in much of Canada and in some of the northerly states, until the 1930's, when snow-plowing began to be common, in the rural countryside the only way for farmers in the winter to go to town was via sleigh or sledge or cutter, for which ice-covered roads were advantageous. Jingle Bells!

(I'm on road at the moment, hopefully not ice-covered, but will post details on the patent of West's invention shortly.)

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This may be interesting, but... it doesn't even attempt to answer the question... –  Lohoris Jan 17 '13 at 8:27
Hmm ... but wasn't the Alligator boat's purpose to travel across both land and water (and ice?), whereas the Zamboni machine is for smoothing the surface of ice e.g. before ice hockey games? –  Drux Jan 17 '13 at 9:22

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