Thursday, February 23, 2012

22 Years (Zamboni!)

Last re-printed story in the MY WIFE chronicles. There will be new ones soon enough, I'm sure. We're headed out of town for our anniversary, so this will be the last posting until at least March 5th, perhaps longer. Here's hoping your coming days are filled with as much love as I expect ours to be.


Yesterday, I rode the Zamboni.

If you're from a foreign country, such as New Zealand or Alabama, that may sound like a euphemism for some sort of salacious act, but it's not. A Zamboni is the machine used to clean and re-surface the ice between periods of a hockey game. Here's a picture of a couple of them in action before a game.

How did I get to ride the Zamboni? Good question. Allow me to explain.


My birthday was Monday. I was - and am currently - fifty-two. MY WIFE, marvelous creature that she is, wanted to do something wonderful and different for my birthday. So, when I awoke on Monday, she greeted me with a Ring Ding into which a candle had been stuck. That was certainly peculiar at 7 o'clock in the morning, but more was ahead.

She then handed me a gift bag. I reached in to get whatever was there. My hands found a coffee mug with a Boston Bruins logo on it. Inside of the mug were two tickets to the game versus Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Very nice, if a bit puzzling. I'm a fan of all sports, so hockey is among them, but it isn't my favorite sport among the "major four" North American sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) and MY WIFE knows this. As great a game as it can sometimes be, I'd have to say that hockey finishes fourth out of four on a fairly regular basis. When I was younger, it was sometimes higher, but so was I.

Anyway, I expressed my honest thanks for the mug and the tickets. The Bruins are hot stuff again, in first place in their division. They have a real chance to win the Stanley Cup, which would be the first time in over 35 years. The seats were in the loge, fairly costly. It would be a fun evening, for sure.

MY WIFE then said, "If you went to a hockey game, what would you like to do most of all?"

I knew something was up, but I couldn't imagine what. I thought about an answer to the question, but I was drawing a blank. I had just awakened, hadn't had any coffee, and also needed to take a whiz. She saw the vacant look in my eyes and re-phrased the question.

"What do they have at hockey games?"

I thought about it for a moment.


"Well, yes, but what else?"


"And what do they use to clean the ice?", she said, as though prompting a not-particularly-bright four-year-old.

"A Zamboni?"


The light was still a ways off from dawning on Marblehead.

She exclaimed, "You're going to ride the Zamboni!"

To say I was dumbfounded would be an extreme understatement. I was not only dumbfounded, I was bemused, flummoxed, befuddled, wondering, confounded, puzzled, astonished, and also totally excited. I had no idea how this was going to happen, but if she said I was going to ride the Zamboni, I knew it was the truth. When MY WIFE wants to make something incredible and fun take place, she will make it happen. She had previously shanghaied me, by the dictionary definition, and we spent a couple of days aboard a boat named The Golden Slipper in Boston Harbor. Not once, but twice, she had pulled off major surprise parties for my birthday without me having even the faintest idea of what was about to happen. If she said I was riding the Zamboni, then riding the Zamboni I would be.

I had woken up five minutes ago and now I knew I was going to be gliding over the ice at TD Banknorth Garden in front of more than 17,000 people tomorrow night. Life is exceedingly strange some mornings. I kissed her, then went to take that whiz.

After I returned from the bathroom, MY WIFE explained that she had previously attempted to do this for me, as a Christmas present, but wasn't able to make it happen at that time. However, she had kept at it and found out that the day after my birthday was a game night, and that the slot for riding the Zamboni that evening was open. Apparently, the Bruins sell rides on the Zamboni every night during the season. In order to ride it, you need to make a contribution to the Boston Bruins Foundation, a charitable organization run by the team. MY WIFE made a donation, so I was going to be the lucky fan who got to ride the Zamboni between the first and second periods on Tuesday evening.

Oh, I guess I left you hanging at one point. If any of you were wondering why MY WIFE put a candle in a Ring Ding, it's because it looks like a hockey puck. See?

MY WIFE is unique, and I love her dearly.


We had to be at The Garden by 6pm for instructions. The game was scheduled for a 7:00 start. MY WIFE met me at the west entrance to The Garden at 5:45. We entered and went upstairs to level four. We had been instructed to meet Liz Serpico of the Boston Bruins Foundation, at their table near the entrance to the loge seats.

After introducing ourselves, she explained that we had to be back at her post with approximately 10 minutes remaining in the first period, at which time we would be taken into the “backstage” area of the arena to await my ride. She had me complete a waiver form absolving the Bruins from any lawsuits should I somehow fall off of the Zamboni, get sucked underneath it, and become part of the ice surface for the second period. Then we went to our seats.

We sat in Loge 6, which is a section more-or-less behind one of the goals. They were great seats for a hockey game. We were high up enough to have a magnificent view of the entire ice surface, but also close enough to actually hear some of the sounds of the game, such as that made by skates shaving ice when a player put on the brakes before hitting the boards.

I had been to Bruins games before, of course, but not for a few years. And this was MY WIFE's very first professional hockey game. I had forgotten what an intimate game hockey can be. What I mean is that, unlike some other sports, a hockey game continually brings the action close to the spectator. The physics of the game, and the construction of the rink, tend to make much of the action happen on the edges of the playing area, near to the fans. When players chase after the puck, their faces often are right up against the glass partitions that serve as a barrier, and fans in the first row often pound on the glass at that point, usually when an unlucky opposing player is trapped there. Fans probably feel more a part of the action in hockey than, say, basketball. Rarely does a Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce get physically interacted with by the rabid crowd.

As we watched the game unfold, I had one eye on the clock. Stoppages in a hockey game are usually fewer than in most sports, so the game clock tends to move rather quickly. I wanted to be sure we made it to our designated spot at the appointed time. When a whistle blew at the 12-minute mark, we said, “Excuse me” to the other folks in our row and left. I assume they wondered why we were apparently leaving the game with only 8 minutes having elapsed.

Back at the charity’s table, we were met by a young woman named Stephanie. She would be taking us downstairs to the Zamboni. We had to wait for the other lucky rider to show up. There are actually two Zamboni machines used during each intermission, and I would be riding one, he the other.

To my delight, the other guy turned out to be a grown-up, too. I was somewhat worried that a little kid might be the other rider, in which case I would look somewhat goofy by comparison. Well, goofier than usual, anyway. He was also there with his wife. In addition, they had brought their three-month-old son to the game, dressed in a baby bruin costume. Too cute. Here’s a picture.

Stephanie now led us down into the bowels of The Garden, and a fascinating quick tour was given. She pointed out where the opposing team bus parks, and brought us past various locker rooms, food prep areas, and storage spaces. The Garden is used for multiple sports, of course, and when the rink is not in use, the famous parquet floor of the Boston Celtics has to be laid down for basketball games. We were shown where they kept it stacked, and it was quite odd to see and recognize various parts of it in its unconnected fashion.

With the backboards down, MY WIFE took the opportunity to slam one through the rim.

And then, the Zambonis!

I was told that I would ride the orange Zamboni, with the other fellow on the yellow one. As it neared intermission, they rolled out into position and we climbed on-board with the drivers. My driver was a real personable guy named Paul, a Zamboni operator at The Garden for the past 14 years. Here he is.

I asked him how he got the job. So far as I knew, there wasn't some sort of Zamboni school you graduated from with job placement services as part of the deal. He explained that he had been part of the "bull crew" (the guys who change the playing surface from ice rink to basketball parquet, and vice-versa) for a few years when one of the Zamboni operators retired. He, and 12 or 13 other guys, applied for the position, and were taken to a skating rink in the North End of Boston to see how they'd do on the machine. Paul had never driven one before, but he was a natural. He got the job. As he confided to me while chuckling, he doesn't even skate, so he figured my being in his care, while out on the ice, was like someone who doesn't swim taking me out to sea.

Here's the view, from under the stands, as we prepared to make our entrance.

The Zamboni machine is about 10 feet long and 5 feet wide (my best guess) and the seat I rode in was perhaps 7 feet up from the ice surface. As we entered the arena, I felt somewhat like a pageant queen riding in a parade. I wondered if I should be waving at the crowd. I decided not to. Another thing I decided was to take our camera out onto the ice with me, rather than have MY WIFE shoot pictures of me riding. I figured a birds-eye view of the proceedings would be interesting.

Here are a few shots showing what I saw as I rode.

I've got to tell you, it was a total blast being out there. I felt surprisingly at home being in the center of the arena with 17,000+ staring down at me. My ego is even bigger than I previously thought.

As I rode around, other folks were taking snapshots. Then, they announced my name and showed me on the Jumbotron. I got this self-portrait.

Well, all good things must come to an end. After about 7 minutes of tooling around the ice at a blazing 8 mph, the ride was over. Paul drove our Zamboni back under the stands and I disembarked. MY WIFE was waiting for me. I hugged and kissed her, thanking her profusely for one of the most wonderful birthday presents I had ever received. She said that I didn't stop smiling a single moment while I was out there. I believe her.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(Some of you may be interested in learning more about the Zamboni ice re-surfacing machine. Here is the story of The Man Behind The Machine.)


The Broad said...

You know, I just love your posts! I was smiling all through reading it! What a great imagination your wife has!

Craig said...

Sully, that is unutterably cool! YOUR WIFE is an amazing woman! (Way too good for you, I'm sure, but I won't tell her. . .) And she gets some pretty amazing air, too - I mean, shoulders level with the rim!

As you always seem to do, you poked my brain for a couple stories that I've not yet told, so I must be off to put them into electrons. . .

(And, the waiver form, "should [you] somehow fall off of the Zamboni, get sucked underneath it, and become part of the ice surface for the second period". . . How do you suppose the red line got to be red in the first place? Hmmmmmm???)

messymimi said...

Wishing you many happy returns of the day, and of your anniversary, too.

stephen Hayes said...

Great story. I've never been to a hockey game but I've no doubt that you out there smoothing the ice would be the best part. Happy Anniversary.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I'm pretty sure hockey's number four on my list, too. Or maybe basketball is. Indoor team sports don't rank as high as the outdoor ones. If we were to throw soccer and rugby into the mix, they'd probably rank ahead of hockey, too.
That said, I'd rather attend a hockey game in person for those very reasons you gave and I've never sat anywhere but behind one of the goals.

And now a question:
Didn't you once say something about posting pictures of YOUR WIFE?

Jackie said...

Great story!!
I hope that you and your wife have a wonderful anniversary week together.

Suldog said...

Uncle Skip - MY WIFE prefers not to be shown, but she hasn't absolutely forbidden it. When the photos are those she considers good (which are rare, but these probably qualify) then it isn't a bone of contention. Her real name, though... THAT she will not tolerate.

notactuallygod said...

Best line: When I was younger, it was sometimes higher, but so was I.

Nice turn of phrase, you old phrase turner you.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I remember reading this one before...and just like the last time I was smiling this time too! Such a cool experience and not everyone gets to say they've been to the bowels of The Garden and have it mean something utterly cool.

Must go & read the few I've missed since co-ed naked snow running (or some such similar title that has now escaped me!)

lime said...

i remember this story and loved it then and love it still. just a totally unique gift and so much fun. YOUR WIFE rocks. and i don't know which picture makes me giggle more, her slam dunking or your self portrait. just too fun.

have a great trip!

Craig said...

So. . . what's on the license plate that you and YOUR WIFE are pointing to? I can't read anything. . .

Michelle H. said...

I love a good hockey story. This one ranks as awesome!

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Hey, Craig. I bet it isn't bugs on the license plate

So, Jim, did you get any special deal from Floors Direct for them using your name?

Suldog said...

Craig - Nothing special. It was just some sort of actual MA license that the machines had to have. I think we were just trying to point more-or-less at the machines themselves and it looks like we're specifically pointing at the plate.

IT - Nah. Nor did they sue me for disgracing their name with my image, so we're even.

Buck said...

Of all yer re-runs this is my fave. Yeah, it IS the hockey connection. I'd have given my right one to ride the Zamboni at The Joe. As a s'matter o' fact... BEIN' a Zamboni driver at The Joe has always been in my "A" rank of desired professional positions. ;-)

silly rabbit said...

Ha! Your WIFE is a master at surprises! I've always wanted to ride a Zamboni, but there are no rinks around here. (Life just isn't fair.)
Cheers to your anniversary! I hope you both enjoy it to the fullest.

Ami said...

AWESOME! What a great gift!!
I think YOUR WIFE is amazing.

Anonymous said...

YOUR WIFE is a gem! What a great present! I'm feeling terribly inadequate and uncreative right now...
But never mind me. Y'all have a great time!!

Sueann said...

Wowzers!!! Your wife done good!! What a fabulous present!!

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Hmmmm... depending upon how it's said. "Ride the Zamboni," can be taken either as an insult, a sensual thrill ride, or a metaphor, as in, "I gonna go home and ride the Zamboni."

Craig said...

Yeah, 'Zamboni' does sorta sound like 'salami', doesn't it?


Three Hundred Sixty Five said...

You have a real jewel there, Sully. I know that you know....the important thing is to make sure she knows!

"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."
Winston Churchill

CiCi said...

Your wife is one of my heroes. In fact, she is inspiration for all women. This is an awesome story and fun to read. You are a wise man to know you are truly blessed.

Mich said...

Haha that's amazing!! I wish I'd been there to see that.

Shammickite said...

Absolutely Fabulous! I'd LOVE to go for a ride on the Zamboni! You lucky so-and-so. I hope you gave your Wife lots of hugs for that treat. I've never been centre stage on a hockey rink, but I have danced on the field at the Rogers Centre (formerly The SkyDome) before a Blue Jays game, and have also walked across the baseball diamond at the Rogers Centre in front of a MLB capacity crowd with my elderly uncle when he was unable to walk up the stairs and had to be escorted to an elevator behind the pitchers cage.

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Sandi McBride said...

My granddaughter loves Hockey and Roller Derby. I hope she doesn't have a career opp in either!

Clare Dunn said...

YOUR WIFE is one truly amazing woman. No wonder you have had so many Happy Anniversaries!

Add my Congratulations to all the others. And enjoy your vacation!

xoxoxo, cd

Ruby said...

Your wife is awesome!! Happy anniversary to you and your beloved, Suldog! xoxo Ruby

SarcasticTestGuy said...

Awesome...Just stopped in to say "Happy Anniversary".

I wish you many more, as well.

flutterby said...

"My ego is even bigger than I previously thought."

This made me laugh.

I think that's a pretty special lady you got there. Makes me think I oughta pull up my socks for my hubby's next bday and plan something cool.

flutterby said...

I will also mention that, should you think hockey an intimate spectator sport, then roller derby will blow your mind!

If you sit in the suicide seats, you will likely be sweat on, fallen on and fanned by the breeze of racing derby girls. A little stinky, but tons of fun. :)

I've been hit (and hit others) many a time right into the crowd. My teamie tells a story of coming to a sliding stop with her eyeball just millimeters away from some gents' shoe. Good times, those. :)

Kat said...

That is one heck of a wifey you have there! So, congratulations to you on marrying such a wonderful women (or in other words, Happy Anniversary!).
What a birthday! Sounds perfect! I was pretty sad that your wife didn't have the camera to get a shot of you on the zamboni but the Jumbotron pic trumps any other possible pic anyway. So good!!!
Happy Birthday to you, and many more!