If necessity is the mother of invention, Frank J. Zamboni might be considered its father. This tireless inventor/entrepreneur never came across an obstacle he couldn’t tinker his way around.
Zamboni was born on January 16, 1901 in Eureka, Utah. Zamboni’s parents moved their family from Eureka to a farm in Idaho, where Frank developed his mechanical skills.
In 1920, Frank moved to Southern California with his brother Lawrence to join their older brother George in his auto repair business. After a short time tinkering on cars, the two younger Zambonis decided to open an electrical service business catering to the local dairy industry. The brothers installed many refrigerator units dairies used to keep their milk cool.
As refrigeration technology improved, demand for block ice began to shrink, and Frank and Lawrence started looking for other ways to capitalize on their expertise with ice. That opportunity came in the sport of ice skating. Popularity of the sport was growing, and the Zambonis built Iceland Skating Rink in Paramount. The rink still operates today just blocks from the Zamboni factory. At the time, resurfacing the ice meant pulling a scraper behind a tractor, shaving the surface. It wasn’t long before Frank attempted to develop a machine that would make the task of ice-resurfacing fast and efficient.
Over the next decade-plus, Zamboni took to perfecting his product and in 1953, the “Model A Zamboni Ice Resurfacer” patent was granted by the United States government. By then, Zamboni had already built models B, C and D. He even took Model C on a 450-mile trek along the coast of California. It was built on a complete Jeep after all.
It was the Boston Bruins that became the first NHL team to purchase a Zamboni machine before the rest of the league followed suit and made the Zamboni name synonymous with the sport of hockey. A member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Speed Skating Hall of Fame, Zamboni passed away in 1988 at age 87. His company has sold more than 10,000 units of his famous machine.