I’m a self-appointed “Beer League Hockey Star.” That means myself and others skate a couple times a week and take it way more seriously than our wives and significant others care for. Some of us even drag those friends and family members along to admire our out-of-shape, beer guts chase a black piece of rubber across a sheet of ice with some sticks. This isn’t just in Austin, TX, or Houghton, MI, or Middleton, WI. This is at hundreds of rinks around the country almost every night of the year. Regardless of the outcome, despite our dreams, none of us will ever play in the NHL, perhaps some beer leaguers have in their heyday, but the passion remains. Often that passion can be more about about the camaraderie and hanging out in the locker room recapping your highs and lows with cheap beer.
My family knows all too well that when I was little, my dream was to grow up to be a Zamboni driver. I had a toy Zamboni that I used to drive across the kitchen table, I used to care more about the intermissions at University of Wisconsin Hockey games, than I did about the players before me like Tony Granato, Sean Hill, or Curtis Joseph. I was more sad, and probably cried more than any other point in my life, than when my brother’s friend broke my toy Zamboni in our basement. You would have likely thought I broke all the bones in my body. I managed to create a small “ice rink” on our small, back patio by hauling bowls of water and letting it freeze, only so that I could skate on it, then “Zamboni” it. I’m sure my dad loved it in the winter when he went out to the grill and almost broke his tail bone. I’ve still never been able to drive a Zamboni and would jump at the opportunity in a heartbeat.
Please take a couple minutes now to watch this video clip from Viceland below and absorb it, I’ll wait, then scroll down… (side note: full episode can be found here)
However, I do play hockey now, even though it was the pond’s of my youth that drove me to finally be able to play organized hockey as an adult and not the well maintained rinks. When you start spending time at the rink, regardless of the level of play, there is one piece of conversation that will never go unnoticed by any rink manager. At the heart of it all, is the person that runs the “Zam” and that sheet of ice. They take what they do seriously and if they hear you speaking negatively of any aspect of the rink, they will take offense. They own that sheet and care for it like it is their child.
“The Zamboni, its like a woman, because you have to treat her like one.”
There are people like Ducky in rinks around the globe that take the pride and passion into creating the perfect sheet of ice. Like any artisan, they value the tools that help them do their job. For Ducky it is his Zamboni, for a chef it is his or her knives. They also take great pride in the job they do, because at every level, whether it is the little tykes learning to skate, or those fighting for the local prize, the Gibson Cup, he wants them to have the smoothest, most mirror-like ice.
Too often, people get caught up in the things that will make them the most money, escalate their career to the next level, or give them more power, when it is really the simple things in life that they really need to pay attention to. It is the little things, like that knick out of the ice that last night’s puck drop made, or the grooves from beginning skaters doing figure 8’s to learn edge control. Taking pride in what you do in the moment, what you do today, and being passionate about it is more important than worrying about how that will take you to the next place.
Locally in Houghton, MI (population 7,650), Ducky is the king of the barn. What he says goes, and no one can take that away from him. Perhaps this video will allow him to take his skills to the next level, but today, he takes pride in making sure the dozens or hundreds of skaters each day get to play on a flawless sheet of ice, while he treats his Zamboni like a woman, the tool of his trade.
Be like Ducky. Be passionate and take pride in the work that you do.