Young hockey fans everywhere grow up dreaming of driving the Zamboni. It slides effortlessly across the ice, drawing the attention of the crowd.
Kevin Bushey was one of those kids.
“When you’re 10, you think ‘Wow, if only I could get a discount on frozen Cokes and nachos – and ride the Zamboni,” he said.
Bushey is one of four full-time drivers who operate Yost Ice Arena’s two Zamboni ice resurfacers.
Bushey landed the driver job at Yost after substitute-teaching learn-to-skate lessons on weekends at the arena while a student at Washtenaw Community College. He started as a part-time driver on Saturday nights. When a full-time opening arose, he grabbed it.
Bushey works at Yost five days a week, driving the Zamboni and doing maintenance around the rink.
He said it took him about three years experience before he felt at ease driving the Zamboni.
He said all drivers fear running out of fuel, hitting the boards or sliding out of control. An average Zamboni tops out at 9 miles an hour.
“I take driving the Zam so serious that it’s all business to me,” Bushey said.
He said he especially enjoys being chosen to work varsity hockey games. Bushey said he loves helping the Wolverines any way he can.
“If there’s anything I can do to help them prevail through the NCAA, it’s something I’m happy to do and am excited about,” he said.
Bushey is particular about the arena’s conditions.
The ice’s surface temperature is strictly kept at between 19 and 21 degrees. It varies slightly depending on outside weather conditions.
“I really do put my nose to the grindstone when it comes to making ice,” he said.
Bushey said he shares a connection with the other Zamboni drivers.
“We share a common want and need for Michigan to do well and we all contribute in some way or another,” he said. “That’s how we bond.”
After almost five years of driving, Bushey’s favorite part of his job is being around hockey legends like Head Coach Red Berenson and the different players each year.
“It’s quite a privilege to be around them,” he said.
Bushey said he will continue to enjoy his job because of his interest in the arena’s traditions and the detailed work of maintaining the ice’s condition and the tradition of the arena overall.
The Zamboni seems to have a magnetic property for people.
“There’s very few things in life that people will stare at,” he said. “One of them is the Zamboni.”
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