A home game of Geneseo hockey is never short of fast-paced, high-octane energy between the fans and players. But between periods, the Wilson Ice Arena is treated to an extra bit of flavor, when the players enter the locker room and zamboni driver Richard Vanbuskirk enters the rink.
Vanbuskirk is a laid-back man with a casual attitude towards life. He has lived in the area for decades, and met his spouse in town while she was attending Geneseo. His brothers also live in the region, and he considers them "good friends." Vanbuskirk and his wife have one son, who lives in North Carolina with his family. Vanbuskirk gets a chance to visit his son a couple times a year. Vanbuskirk enjoys hobbies such as hunting and fishing, but most of his free time is spent just hanging out with people. "What more is there to do?" he said.
A few years ago, Vanbuskirk was skimming through the classifieds when he found a job opening for driving a zamboni. Most of his experience is in heating and electric, for which he is currently self-employed and working full-time. But having some knowledge of trucks and larger vehicles, Vanbuskirk pursued the opportunity with enthusiasm and no expectations. Learning to operate the machine came with little difficulty, and getting the job done, he said, was even more automatic. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, he drives around the ice between and after practice sessions or between periods in a game. He works for about 15 minutes at a time, and spends the time between his shifts watching the players in action and talking to people off the ice.
The zamboni itself is a complex machine that smooths the ice that has been scraped up. A thin, sharp blade removes the top layer of ice, and then cold water is applied to clean it. The cold water is too brittle when it freezes, so another layer of warm water is then applied to replace the ice.
Vanbuskirk, on the other hand, considers himself a simple kind of man. He approaches life with a simple, straightforward demeanor and disposition. He enjoys the simple pleasures of family, friends and the people he meets every day. Likewise, he has a simple, enjoyable approach to his work.
He suspects he will work for as long as he can, just for the sake of keeping busy, but he considers himself semi-retired. Vanbuskirk says that zamboni driving is as much fun as it is work. He doesn't take himself too seriously and enjoys the company of others. He has become close with the players and fans, especially as they get older. "Usually I don't get to know the freshmen in their first semester, but by the time they're juniors and seniors I get pretty close with some of them." Even alumni who return to watch the games get back in touch with him. Vanbuskirk also noted the friendly spirit of the coach and faculty. In fact, he said his favorite part of working at Geneseo has been "the people I've met."
Vanbuskirk's sociability reflects in the fans on game-night. When he goes on the ice, most of the people in the stands show their support in cheers. "I get a kick out of it, of course," he said. And it is clear that the people he meets get a kick out of him, as well.