22 March 2022
Reggie Krakowski’s job title with the Minnesota Wild is Facility Operations Lead. But the unspecified, really cool part of his job? He’s one of Xcel Energy Center’s Zamboni drivers.
What’s a Zamboni, you ask? Only arguably the greatest invention in the history of refrigerated ice surfaces. Crews use Zambonis (named for inventor Frank Zamboni) to smooth and clean the ice surface between periods of hockey games and during skating shows.
For the past four years, he’s been one of several people who help make the ice at the Wild’s home arena as smooth as glass.
The graduate of Minneapolis Roosevelt High School and Minnesota State University,Mankato first climbed aboard a Zamboni at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis 37 years ago — immediately earning the envy of countless hockey fans in this, the State of Hockey. Besides Wild games, Krakowski has worked the boys and girls state hockey tournaments and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
Eye On St. Paul recently talked to Krakowski about some of the slickest parts of the job of perfecting the ice at Xcel.
This interview was edited for length.
Q: OK, I’m a little psyched about this. Is it the best job ever?
A: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
Q: When did you start driving a Zamboni?
A: I’ve been with the Wild four years. I started with the team when the Tria Rink opened [The Wild’s practice facility in downtown St. Paul]. We have four full-time guys and a lot of part-time guys. I started 37 years ago at Parade Ice Arena.
Q: How long does it take to get good at it?
A: At least two to three years of a lot of driving. It’s really important to get the feel of the machine. It takes a few years.
Q: Is it fun?
A: A bunch.
Q: Zamboni drivers make it look easy. Is it?
A: It takes some skill. Anybody could drive it, but it’s the operation that is the hardest part — how much [ice] to shave, how much water to lay down. Shaving too much ice and you risk having the Zamboni get too full of snow. Or you could put too much water in the corners.
Q: What’s been your biggest mistake?
A: There have been a few instances when I put down too much water. But I haven’t crashed into the boards. Crashing into the boards… you might as well start walking and never come back.
Q: How long does it take to resurface the ice between periods?
A: We have two Zambonis for NHL games. It takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
Q: How big is a Zamboni?
A: A propane machine weighs about 6,500 pounds. An electric machine is about 10,000 pounds, empty. At Xcel, we have propane. At Tria, electric. [A machine is capable of removing close to 2,500 pounds of compacted snow; it can leave behind about 1,500 pounds of water.]
Q: How good is your team of drivers?
A: With the Wild, ice quality is one of the tops in the nation. The ice is consistently top five [in the NHL] every single season.