Retired Ice Rink Manager Recalls Days Of Horse-Led Zambonis

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ST. PAUL, MN—Fondly describing the throngs of children that would gather at the edge of the rink to watch the majestic animals smooth the ice, retired hockey rink manager Richard Erickson recalled Friday the early days of horse-led Zambonis. “When I first started working here, every one of our Zambonis needed a two-horse team to pull it across the ice,” said Erickson, who recounted the process of strapping the horses to the 400-pound coal-fired ice resurfacer that required a three-man buggy whip team to steer and operate before games and during intermissions. “Some of my favorite memories are the mornings I would get to the rink stables early to feed Coconut and Mary Lou before throwing on their leather Zamboni harness and taking them out to freshen up the ice. They would spend almost half an hour pulling that Zamboni in circles around the rink, and they just loved it when people would lean over the glass and feed them apples. Those really were the days.” Erickson did add that he didn’t miss the difficult and often dangerous task each morning of fitting the horses with skates.