SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - If you’ve ever been to a Mudbugs hockey game, you know just how exciting it can be — but to get that winning shot, it takes teamwork, dedication and smooth ice.
Zach Hammons has been keeping the ice nice and smooth for players to skate on since the team’s return in 2016. From September to April, Zach is constantly at George’s Pond inside the Hirsch Coliseum driving an ice resurfacing machine five to ten times a day.
Along with Mudbug games and practices, Zach also smooths the ice for figure skating, youth hockey, and public skating at the Hirsch Coliseum.
Before Zach gets the machine out on the ice he’ll check the blades that will cut the ice. He’ll also load the hopper with 150 to 200 gallons of hot water.
Once that’s done it’s time to hit the ice — with me in the driver’s seat.
As I drive, Zach lowers the conditioner that holds the blades, and turns on the auger system. During our first lap we stayed close to the boards to pick up any loose ice.
The machine’s speed stays between ten to 15 miles per hour. It can’t go too slow because it will put down too much ice, but it also can’t go too fast, because then it won’t make smooth ice.
But as I continued to drive I learned there’s a lot going on with this machine that many don’t know. The blade Zach showed me earlier is cutting the ice while a squeegee with cold water is behind the blade washing away any dirt that gets caught in it.
The ice we are cutting is being picked up by the auger system and stored inside the hopper.
But before Zach was on the ice, he was playing with fire.
“I thought I’d be welding my whole life," he said. "I got out of the Marine Corps and started commercial diving and welding.”
He eventually started playing ball hockey with the owner when they announced they were bringing the team back.
“I started volunteering, helping out, renovating the building and they said you know we’re going to need a Zamboni driver and an ice maintenance guy, and I said I can do it," he said.
But Zach had no idea how to drive this machine when he volunteered.
“It was nerve wracking, but I had a determination that I was going to do it and I was going to be the best at it," he said.
For Zach driving this machine is something he truly loves to do.
“It’s peaceful, it’s calm," he said. "The result of what I do, just getting off the ice and looking at the result of having smooth clean ice is….it’s all about being perfect. I just love seeing something perfect.”
And it’s something his kids love too.
“Every single one of them wants to drive,” he said. "Every time they come up here.”
But even though Zach loved working with fire, ice just always seemed to be a little bit better.
“I would have never thought that I would be driving the Zamboni when I was playing pond hockey," he said. " I never thought it.”