Al Sobotka drives a zamboni before a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes.
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Zamboni Drivers Don't Make Nearly Enough For Their 15 Minutes of Fame

Zamboni drivers are a necessary part of every NHL game, but they aren't compensated nearly as much as players and referees are.

For all the attention NHL players and coaches get, some members of the ice hockey community don't receive their fair share of praise. We're not talking about referees or general managers, either.

We're talking about those heroic Zamboni drivers.

Who doesn't love the satisfaction of watching the ice maintenance team cruise a mini tank onto the ice rink and get to work? But while the guys who skate in the ice arena make a pretty penny, as do the NHL referees, Zamboni drivers aren't being compensated anywhere near that.

So, how much money does a Zamboni driver actually make?

How Much Do Zamboni Drivers Make?

Chris Cotsilis drives a Zamboni during the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

Ethan Miller via Getty Images

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The Zamboni is an ice resurfacing machine invented by Frank Zamboni in 1949 that revolutionized the process from a five-man, 90-minute job to a one-man, 15-minute job. How the Zamboni came to be in the NHL is actually a very interesting story that took a little help from a famous figure skater.

Landing a job in ice resurfacing and driving a Zamboni doesn't sound too difficult. Typically, no formal education is required, meaning it could be a solid part-time, entry-level job for a high school or college student, and even a full-time gig for others.

According to reported salary estimates on job posting sites, the average Zamboni driver salary is around $13 per hour, or $26,500 (USD) annually. Top earners, such as NHL Zamboni drivers, earn a salary range from $29,000-$31,000, per ZipRecruiter. That isn't a whole lot considering players make millions and NHL referees make hundreds of thousands of dollars to skate on the ice the Zamboni drivers keep perfect.

Zamboni drivers with multiple years of experience tend to make more than those less familiar with ice surface maintenance. All one needs to do to land the job title of an ice resurfacer is to become a licensed Zamboni operator, as well as have a valid driver's license.

This, of course, suggests the job is only suitable for anyone older than 16 years of age.

According to Indeed, however, only 17% of Zamboni drivers feel their base salary is enough to offset their cost of living.

A Zamboni driver's job description isn't limited to working on the ice and as an edger, however. Some are required to do related jobs such as cleaning the stands and locker rooms, as well as help set up the protective glass around the rink.

So while it may seem like your local ice rink is just letting anybody drive the Zamboni in between periods, there's a lot more that goes into resurfacing the ice. But for hockey fans who want to take the next step in their fandom, there's nothing stopping you from taking joyriding to a new level. 

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