Pickford keeps his cool on legendary Zamboni
Imagine driving one of the world’s most iconic machines, and getting paid to do it.
No, it’s not a Ferrari.
It’s the humble, bulky Zamboni ice machine.
Warren Pickford, SAIT manager of Campus Centre administration and arena, has been doing this since 1993.
Pickford, a SAIT business graduate and former SAIT Trojan hockey player, remains one of the select few called to operate the Zamboni, or Boni – as it is affectionately called by the arena staff.
“Every day, somebody’s asking to sit on it, ride on it, or drive it. I’ve had people willing to pay me big money to go on it,” said Pickford.
Operating a Boni, or any other kind of ice machine (yes, there are other kinds) is not for klutzes.
“I had guys come in here that were really keen on the job but at the end of the day, they couldn’t drive the machine because they couldn’t multi-task. If you can’t multi-task, you can’t drive it,” said Pickford.
Then, there is the matter of steering the Boni around the ice, in a preset pattern, without hitting the boards.
“You have to crank the suicide wheel as soon as you hit the goal line,” said Pickford.
At SAIT, the rink is used a lot for hockey, so the ice temperature is kept at -5 C or -6 C. This temperature makes the ice hard and fast.
“The ice at SAIT is awesome,” said SAIT Trojan goalie Tehnille Gard.
“I love having home ice advantage because the ice really does make a huge difference in the game of hockey.”
NHL hockey teams even book ice time at the SAIT arena when the Scotiabank Saddledome is busy.
When that happens, the SAIT arena’s staff combined experience of 100 years is showcased.
“We get nothing but compliments from the NHL players and coaches about the ice at SAIT,” said SAIT arena attendant Jesse Juilfs.
After 18 years on the job, Pickford is just as passionate about his job as when he was first trained.
“It does not matter if it’s a Trojan game or a recreational game. I want the perfect flood each time. I really, truly want perfection,” said Pickford.