‘Homeless’ Zamboni from 1980s Olympics rescued
Firm to restore machine used during 1980 Olympics
ALBANY After winning the Stanley Cup last summer, the Los Angeles Kings chipped up the ice and gave it, melted, to their season-ticket holders this year.
A visit to any sport’s hall of fame museum reveals how every important moment in sports these days is deconstructed, portioned and packaged for consumption.
Proof that this was not always the case sat in a cold and dirty corner of a parking garage beside the Times Union Center for years until Thursday, when it was hauled away to be restored by a new owner.
It was an old Zamboni that had, since it came to Albany in the mid-1990s, become a backup to the backup machine at the arena. A large decal on the side of the machine reads “Olympic Regional Development Authority.”
Lingering in obscurity, it collected dust until Jonathan Loree of Resurfix, a Zamboni repair and maintenance company based in New Jersey, decided to buy it and clean it up.
“I purchased it only because I’ve known the machine, and it’s been off the ice, sort of put out to pasture,” Loree said. “I’m sort of saving it from going to scrap. There was a homeless guy living on it. My thoughts are, let me bring it here, see if I can get it running, grease it, see how it functions. If no one has any interest in it for its historical significance, then it’ll just be a machine I own, maybe it will be a loaner.”
Loree has been servicing the machine since it came to Albany, and he said once he gets it cleaned up, he may get in touch with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame to see if it is interested in the Zamboni.
Model number 500, serial number 2846 was shipped on May 30, 1979, to Lake Placid in time for the 1980 Olympic Games, according to the records at Zamboni Co.
It remains uncertain whether this Zamboni, which was one of four used at the rinks during the games, was used Feb. 22, 1980 in one of the most celebrated American Olympic moments, the United States’ semifinal hockey win over the Soviet Union, but there is a fair chance it was.
Zamboni Regional Sales Manager Doug Peters said it was the first machine shipped to Lake Placid for the games, and it was purchased for the rinks there, not rented like some of the other Zambonis in service at the games.
It was the newest model. Production had just started in 1978 with serial number 2804.
Tony Kilburn, the head mechanic for the rinks in Lake Placid, is still working there. He said the machine Loree bought from Albany, having been so new when the games took place, would have been the one that got the most work in what was then known as the ’80 rink but has since been renamed Herb Brooks Arena.
“I never saw more than one machine out there,” Kilburn said. “The one main machine was a new one, and I believe we used that for almost everything.”
Peters, though, said he believes the Zambonis at the Lake Placid rinks, which included the rented 500s, were rotated for use in games and at the practice facility.
It is undeniably, though, a Zamboni used during the hockey tournament in which the U.S. won its second, and last, gold medal and defeated a powerful Soviet team in one of the cooler Cold War conflicts.
In either 1993 or ’94, Loree said, ORDA traded in the machine and it was resold to the Albany County Hockey Facility.
“The Pepsi Arena was also a county facility, and I believe it floated back and forth between them, depending on whoever needed it,” Loree said. “Then the county arena got a new machine, so this one ended up back at the Pepsi Arena.
“Before it was taken out of service, it was a backup to the backup. In September 2005, all I did to it was get it running during a regular service call.”
Parked in a garage
He said at that point, it had been put away in the parking garage. It stayed there until a Resurfix crew loaded it on a trailer last week.
“You wouldn’t believe the stuff we cleaned out of it,” Loree said the next afternoon. “There were razors, toothbrushes, liquor bottles. I could even tell you the guy’s name who was living in it. He left all his paperwork in there.”
The dump tank that holds the shaved ice (100 cubic feet when closed) had been left open while the Zamboni sat in the garage.
Loree had another unwelcome surprise as his business partner, Michael Sabo, told him Thursday he was sure the Zamboni used for the 1980 Olympics was black with “an orange swoop.” The machine they had just trucked down from Albany was red and white.
Peters confirmed that, saying it was black with three stripes that were goldenrod, orange and red.
Upon closer inspection Friday morning, though, Loree found the machine had been repainted a few times, and there is a base layer of black paint.
A little bit of work could get Loree’s Zamboni looking more like it did 33 years ago when it cruised the ice in Lake Placid during intermissions, and help it reclaim its status as a token of an iconic moment in American sports and culture.
The work should be mostly cosmetic, as mechanically, it still is in gold-medal form.
“It’s up and running now, we’ve been driving it around a little bit,” Loree said. “It runs like a champ.”