A Day in the Life of: Geneseo zamboni drivers

As exciting as the Geneseo Ice Knights' hockey games are, the crowd tends to be the loudest in between periods - when the Zamboni drivers take the spotlight.

Contrary to what one may think, driving the ice resurfacers famously known as Zambonis is no easy task. The workers who do this job play a crucial role in the upkeep of the Wilson Ice Arena. Without their hard work and dedication, students would not be able to enjoy a Geneseo hockey game, go ice-skating or engage in broomball battles.

The Zamboni drivers work from October to mid-March, while the ice arena is open. They drive the machine every day during this period and also work nights and weekends.

Donna Recktenwald has been driving the Zamboni here at Geneseo for over 20 years. She retired in 1997, but the school hired her back a week later to work weekends. The 75 year old is finished working for the season, but plans on coming back in October as long as she's healthy. "I like keeping busy," she said.

The job certainly gives her plenty to do. "The first thing I do is come in at 7 o'clock in the morning and unlock the doors to the arena," she said. "I fill up the Zamboni with water, and I have to do the ice every 50 minutes or whatever the schedule says for that day."

Recktenwald said sticking to the schedule is crucial. "We have 10 minutes to go out on the ice, wash it, shave it, lay down more water, get off the ice, raise the conditioner up, shovel off the snow left underneath and turn the curfew clock on," she said. "You have to do it all in that 10 -minute period because if you run late, it throws you off for the whole day."

Jack Benedict, who drives Sunday through Wednesday nights, said he has wanted to be a Zamboni driver since the arena opened in the '70s.

"I've been coming here since the first hockey game was played here," he said. "It's what I've always wanted to do." Benedict said he is a big hockey fan and loves being able to watch the games for free.

Richard Vanbuskirk drives the machine three nights per week and said there's nothing he dislikes about his job.

"It's a very good job. The students are all trying to get it from me," he said with a laugh. He has driven during hockey games for the past 11 seasons, which caused him to become much more interested in the sport.

Recktenwald, Benedict, and Vanbuskirk all said that the best thing about their job is getting to interact with Geneseo students, faculty and other members of the community.

"You get to meet lots of good people," said Vanbuskirk. "It's a great job, and I'm lucky to be able to do it."