Are the Zamboni’s Days Numbered?

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Think of the thing that comes out in between periods at your local hockey rink, what’s it called? Chances are, you said it’s a Zamboni, and technically you’d be correct.

Zamboni is the common vernacular for the behemoth driving around on the ice.  It’s actually an ice resurfacer. Commonly, tissues get called Kleenex, but Kleenex is a brand, not the actual object.  It’s the same for Zamboni.

The Zamboni company has an internationally registered trademark that has vaulted them from a product producing company, to their own word in the dictionary. Since 1950 the Zamboni company has had a stranglehold on the ice resurfacing market, because lets face it “I wanna drive the ice resurfacer” doesn’t exactly carry the tune.

There’s a new company that’s coming in to challenge Zamboni’s dominance on the ice resurfacing market. In Grand Blanc, Mich. the machine known as the Icecat looks to be the new standard of ice surface maintenance all across the globe.

“Our tagline is ‘built like a sports car, shaves like a razor’ because of it’s premium features and aerodynamic design” said Tyler Moncreiff, Sales and Brand manager for Icecat North America. The Icecat is the product of UKKO a manufacturing company based in Finland. Moncreiff says that the move to sell in North America was to gain prominence in the biggest ice resurfacer market in the world.

So what makes the Icecat so innovative that it’s going to take on an international icon like Zamboni? It’s electric. Yes, you have your hybrid and electric cell fueled cars, and now electric resurfacers may be the new standard for rinks everywhere. Why do people buy Prius’ and Volt’s? To save money on gas, among other reasons.  Does a Zamboni actually cost that much in fuel consumption? Surprisingly that answer is yes.

“We try to keep the focus on the long-term savings of operating with our electric unit. The average savings of operating with our electrical unit is near $45,000 due to many factors. The largest in which is reduction of energy costs” Moncreiff said.


Comparison of Icecat to Zamboni, and other competitors.

Of course the biggest number has to be the one attached to the dollar sign. The Icecat is currently being sold for around  $140,000, while the Zamboni can cost in the $200,000 range. At $60,000 less and accumulating substantial fuel savings over the life of the vehicle, the numbers don’t lie, the Icecat is a more affordable and greener alternative. If hybrid cars were 30% cheaper than their counterparts on the automobile market you can be sure gas stations would be disappearing. So why doesn’t every arena just jump on board and get one or two of these machines on order right now?

When you currently have a running Zamboni, it’s tough to justify buying a brand new ice resurfacer.  The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of mentality which you find in a still struggling economy will makes sales a little tough, but not impossible.

Icecat has currently been sold to arenas in two different countries, France and Russia, and an ABC12 report says an arena in Canada has been kicking the tires on an Icecat of their own. “We expect to sell between 5-10 machines this season as the market is leaning toward electric ice resurfacers” Moncreiff says.

So, there’s a movement to electric ice resurfacers but it might be a slow movement. However, it only takes one snowflake to start an avalanche and it would appear that the avalanche may be coming in the near future.

“I would predict that the majority of the rinks in North America will all be electric within the next decade. Minnesota has already passed laws which are making it difficult for rinks to operate with propane powered units” Moncreiff added. The Icecat has been making a tour of sorts at arenas all around the state of Michigan. Demonstrations of the machine have gone on at Optimist Ice Arena in Jackson, Mich. and Michigan State University in the last month and another is scheduled for Griff’s Icehouse in Grand Rapids, Mich. on October 30.

The Icecat looks to be a serious contender to displace Zamboni from the vocabulary of the hockey world. If Moncreiff and Icecat have their way, they’ll be in your local ice arena. Who knows, maybe they will even have their own folk songs in hockey culture…

If you’d like to learn more about the Icecat you can visit their official website or check out their Facebook page, for updates and events for demo days in more arenas coming soon.

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