Electrify This…Zambonis

The rank sweat of teenagers mixed with the fumes of a fossil-fueled Zamboni is the stuff Saturday mornings are made of. Whether you’re supposed to be skating or freezing in the stands, Canadians from coast to coast have set their alarms for those dreadfully early ice times and forced ourselves out the door. The truth is hockey rinks will and forever be a source of Canadian pride and joy for players and spectator’s alike.

If you choose to indulge in this regular Saturday morning activity, I must warn you, there is an evil that lurks in the cold shadows of ice rinks across the world. Don’t be fooled by the friendly driver and captivating flooding, the Zamboni travels close to 2,000 miles every year, guzzling propane along the way.

Canada has approximately 3300 indoor ice rinks, and with those rinks, we need Zambonis to resurface the ice quickly and efficiently. Canada is home to the world’s largest Zamboni fleet in the world. Now, I’m not saying we need to drop the keys and pick-up shovels and grab the hoses. Did you know that some cities like Summerside in PEI, and the district of Summerland have procured electric Zambonis? Yup- electric! Now you can breathe in that teenage rancid biogas at your local rink during your kid’s hockey games knowing fossil fuel particulates aren’t in the mix.

It’s not just the East Coast who’ve got it right. The Alberta Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities Program knows the importance of keeping arena air clean. That program, introduced in 2019 provides rebates for Alberta municipalities on a wide range of EVs — including ice re-surfacers, which qualify for up to a $30,000 rebate per vehicle. All thanks to some forward-thinking municipal planners and politicians.

Just thinking about it, an electric Zamboni or ice re-surfacer in every Canadian rink gives me the chills – and not from the ice. The possibility of clean air and reducing admissions is a win-win.

Maybe, starting one province and territory at a time is how we attack this Zamboni problem. By adding electric ice-re-surfacers to electric vehicle rebate programs across the country, arena managers could be convinced to choose a cleaner ice cleaner. Think about the environmental impact it could make on large hockey tournaments with multiple games back-to-back on multiple ice pads? Maybe even the winter Olympics?

A smart person once told me that a Zamboni will use up 120 litres of propane a season, so if we have 3300 indoor ice rinks and burn 120 litres of propane you’re looking at reducing emissions by over 1.6 million lbs of C02. Every little bit counts! I personally prefer my Saturday mornings smelling like teen sweat and a nice Tim Horton’s coffee as opposed to propane. Couldn’t you?