‘Samboni’ makes for smooth skating in the Gatineau Hills

January 2, 2022
'Samboni' makes for smooth skating in the Gatineau Hills
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Every pond hockey hero knows a backyard ice surface can be treacherous due to various bumps and ruts.

Sam Seymour of Chelsea, Que., probably knows this more than anyone as he and his family have been maintaining a pond rink in a Gatineau Park clearing for the past 23 years.

But this past summer a 60-gallon hot water tank left out at the curb of his neighbour’s house gave Seymour an idea to make rink maintenance — and skating — a little easier.

“My wife thought I was crazy hauling down a hot water tank that was beside our house in August,” he said.

“I said ‘There’s a plan to it, so just be patient.'”

Seymour says his creation makes the surface of his pond hockey rink much smoother. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Collecting the tank turned out to be a smooth move come winter time. Seymour, with the help of some friends, converted the tank into a homemade Zamboni, or a “Samboni” as his friends started calling it.

Seymour fills the tank with water and uses a long extension cord to power the heating process. The tank is mounted on a wooden platform attached to a pair of old skis that allows for the tank to be dragged over the ice surface.

Using valves and PVC pipes that Seymour fitted to the tank, water is sprayed over the ice surface while old bath mats hung on the back of the rig spread the warm water out evenly.

“Sometimes it takes two bodies to get it in motion,” said Seymour. “But once it’s in motion it’s fine.”

Prior to making his homemade machine, Sam Seymour would flood his rink using the more traditional method of pumping cold water over the ice surface. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Prior to this year, Seymour used the more traditional method of flooding the pond by pumping cold water over the surface. But that process could leave the surface uneven, especially with snow residue frequently covering the ice.

“The cold water doesn’t melt the snow that’s there, so if there’s a little bit of snow — which there’s always a little bit of snow there — it freezes really lumpy.”

Not only does his new contraption melt most of the bumps and ruts, Seymour said it prevents puddling and takes less time.

“It would take hours and hours to freeze, like overnight to freeze. And sometimes it wouldn’t freeze properly. There’d be air bubbles in it. It was tricky” he said.

“This seems to be just a lot cleaner. It’s not as thick of a layer, but it melts the ice at the same time and melts all the imperfections.”

Seymour acknowledged that his “Samboni” is a far cry from the hulking machines that make indoor rinks a nearly ideal flat surface, but he still says it’s a solid improvement.

“It’s never perfect but it’s close. As close as we need to perfect.”

All in a Day6:12The Sam-boni

Sam Seymour and his friends say their low-buck hot-water tank zamboni may completely change the backyard rink forever 6:12

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