Frank Zamboni would have been proud of those northern Minnesota kids. Frank Zamboni automated ice rink cleaning for the well-off, but hockey crazed 'Iron Range' kids smoothed their town's rink themselves.
When growing up in central Minnesota, we didn’t have a Frank Zamboni machine to clear the ice on our hockey rinks. I used to be a Zamboni with a garden hose.
We had to do everything ourselves – flood the rinks, build the sideboards, even create our own goals, which usually took the form of stringing anything we could find, from gill nets to gunny sacks, across a series of artistically welded pipes to corral the puck.
It shouldn’t have been this way. Hockey is to small-town Minnesota what intransigence is to Washington. It’s just part of the culture. Many towns in the region had hockey programs in the schools. That means they had mechanized ways to clean their ice. We didn’t, at least not always.
Town fathers (and at that time they were all fathers) decided that the community didn’t have enough money to support three winter sports. Basketball and wrestling were well enshrined. Hockey was a recreational afterthought – something you could do on your own, including helping maintain the rink.