My fond farewell to Leaside’s Zamboni

The smell of sweat made cold by the icy air; the walk from the change room to the rink made awkward by the blades of skates against rubber mats; the sound of ice being scraped from the surface as those on the rink come to a grinding halt.

These are some of the memories that come to mind when I think of the skating rink at the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens. Despite the fact the arena has undergone many changes since its opening in 1951, the sense of community it provides has remained as strong as ever.

I can vividly recall visiting the skating arena every Friday night in my early teenage years to skate with friends. Those nights were truly coming-of-age experiences. We were craving independence, and the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens provided that without sending us too far away from our nearby homes. After skating for a while, our legs would get sore, so we would retreat to the stands and watch as the Zamboni entered the rink to clean up the ice.

As the machine did its rounds, I would watch in awe as the surface of the ice became glossy and clear. There was something endearing about the way the blade methodically wiped the surface clean.

Did you know that the lifespan of a Zamboni is 10 years? That means the current Zamboni, which was sponsored by Longo’s in 2012, is due for a replacement. After all, maintaining a Zamboni requires a lot of work! The arena has a mechanic on staff for oil changes and minor repairs, but an outside company is hired for major fixes. The drivers are responsible for filling the propane tank and changing the blade, which must be replaced every 100 hours. That sounds like a long time, but in reality, that is once or twice per week! Our arena’s maintenance has certainly come a long way since the ‘barrel flooding’ days, where between 1950 and the mid-80s, the ice had to be cleared with a shovel.

Let us all say thank you to the Zamboni that has kept our ice clean for the past several years, and thank you to the Longo family for sponsoring it. The old machine will be going up for auction, and we eagerly await the arrival of our new Zamboni that will undoubtedly provide immense joy for years to come.

This article was contributed by Hilary Hardie.