Zamboni Driver Is the Master of the Ice

He is a master of the ice, a curator of all things cold, he is a Zamboni driver—and his name is Don Fernandez.

"Are we ready? OK," Fernandez said, as he opened the gate to the rink at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch.

He prepares the ice for skaters of all skill levels. It's a job that he said he fell into after working as a hockey official.

"Somebody asked me, 'Hey, you want a part-time job running the Zamboni?'" Fernandez recalled. "So I thought it'd be a fun, fun thing to do."

He resurfaces the rink by cutting, shaving and creating new ice.

"What does it feel like to have perfect ice?" asked NBC 5's Kristin Dickerson.

"You can tell when you have a perfect sheet, because it looks like a frozen pond," Fernandez said.

Don Fernandez prepares the ice for skaters of all skill levels at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch. It's a task that has its challenges, which NBC 5's Kristin Dickerson learned first hand.

Each sport that uses the ice in Farmers Branch has specific ice needs.

"Well, with the figure skaters, they like a little smoother, a little softer surface," Fernandez said.

The warmer ice helps their toe picks grip the ice for their jumps.

And for curling, players like it smooth with a matte surface—not shiny.

"But I think we should get you on this Zamboni and let you just drive around in circles and feel how big and bulky it is, and how difficult it is actually to come up with a good surface," Fernandez said to Dickerson.

"What if I wreck?" Dickerson asked.

"You won't wreck, I promise, you won't wreck," Fernandez said.

"We're gonna let you drive around," Fernandez said. "The unique thing about Zambonis is they do not have brakes. There are no brakes whatsoever."

The additional challenges of driving a Zamboni were quickly learned, including, from the driver's seat it's difficult to see anything on the side or in front of the Zamboni.

A small button is pushed to release a brush on the left side.

"That board brush is how you judge how close you are to the wall," Fernandez said, because Zamboni drivers always circle the ice to the right.

Driving a Zamboni brings a new appreciation of a smooth sheet of freshly re-surfaced ice. Fortunately for the skaters at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch, Don Fernandez is the one in charge of their surface.

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