Driving Stafford Ice Arena Zamboni Dream Come True for SUNY Plattsburgh President
Ever since growing up in Ontario, Canada, SUNY Plattsburgh’s President Alexander Enyedi has wanted to sit at the controls of a Zamboni.
Last year, he got his wish.
It’s not as easy as it looks,” said the licensed airplane pilot. “I kept telling myself, ‘Just don’t hit the boards.’”
But his turn at the wheel wasn’t on just any Zamboni. This one is practically mint-in-the-box new, purchased last hockey season thanks to a $100K gift by longtime SUNY Plattsburgh supporter UFirst Federal Credit Union.
The former machine was badly in need of replacing.
When Enyedi climbed aboard the new behemoth in the Stafford Ice Arena for the first time, taking directions from Brady Burleigh, head of athletic facilities and operations, he got a chance to see firsthand how the new machine glides across the ice.
Always Wanted to Try
“It reminds me of cutting the lawn,” he said as he rounded the curve of the boards. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to try.”
To Enyedi, the name Zamboni wasn’t just familiar because he grew up in hockey country in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Or the fact that Brantford is birthplace of contemporary Wayne Gretzky. It’s the place where the machine, synonymous with hockey, is manufactured.
“It’s in our blood,” Enyedi said. “Being the Zamboni driver is the plumb position on the ice.”
And having the new machine make its debut at Stafford last year wasn’t lost on the president. The new Zamboni debuted not long after COVID kept the house dark and then later, close to empty.
“It’s tremendous to have this beautiful new machine on the ice after coming out of the pandemic when the rules for attending home games were stricter,” he said. That 2022-2023 season was the first since 2019 that the university was able to have a house full of Cardinal fans. That’s not so long ago.
But having the new Cardinal machine, decked out in its UFirst wrap, cut the Stafford ice benefits the community as much as it does the university. The Stafford Ice Arena is home to Beekmantown High School hockey and all Section VII playoff games. Scores of North Country children learned to skate there during regular open skate sessions, skating and hockey clubs and Plattsburgh Youth Hockey. Burleigh’s field house team prepares the ice for all these activities.
And now the university’s president, who grew up playing hockey himself, climbed aboard and took a turn at the wheel.
“It felt great,” Enyedi said. “And Brady’s a great instructor, explaining all the technology. It’s complicated, with augers and water, sprayers and the wheel. Plus you need to watch where you’re going and not hit the boards.
“The accelerator is really sensitive, but I got the hang and feel of it, understanding when to control the speed and when to begin to make the turn, realizing there’s no visibility on the right side of the machine. You want to be efficient,” he said. “You only get a certain amount of minutes between (hockey) periods to clean the ice; you don’t want to miss any area.”
It’s true that Enyedi’s spin on the Zamboni fulfilled a childhood dream, but it might not stop there.
“Who knows,” he said. “Maybe you’ll see me out there cutting the ice during Cardinal hockey games.”
As for the Cardinals, both No. 2 Cardinal women’s and No. 4 Cardinal men’s ice hockey teams have two games left in regular-season play. Visit https://gocardinalsports.com/index.aspx for team schedules and SUNYAC tournament play.
— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs