The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 18, 2009

Puck drops for Chiefs' season

What’s not to like about the Chiefs season opener Saturday night: Brawler Dave Hanson signing autographs. Mascot Tom E. Hawk riling up the fans on a chilly fall night. Mark Richardson firmly at the controls.

Aside from a Wal-Mart greeter, Richardson has perhaps the most enviable job in the American economy. He’s the Zamboni driver for hockey night in Johnstown.

“People wish they could drive a Zamboni,” the city resident said while waiting his turn in the limelight before the puck dropped. “It’s one of the highlights of the hockey game.”

He said one of the rewards of the job is seeing the smiles on all the faces as his machine glides by.

The four-year Zamboni driver said there’s really not much to it. It all comes down to one handle, labeled “DEFCON 1.” Actually, it’s labeled “conditioner.”

That sets the whirlygig in motion, moving the whatchamacallit, which cleans the ice.

In reality, an auger scrapes up the snow and ice chips, moves them to a blade that pushes them onto the elevator that deposits them into the holding bin. All the while, hot water is sprayed to form the new surface.

The bin is dumped outside the War Memorial once Richardson is done with his joyride.

Richardson won’t say what he’s paid but, heck, most people would pay the team to sweep the ice for a game. He fell into the job by hanging around the arena when his son played hockey there.

“They needed somebody,” the former construction worker said simply. Besides, hockey is his favorite sport.

Hockey also is the fave of hundreds and hundreds of fans who showed up for the game against the Cincinnati Cyclones.

Randy Maluchnik – a county commissioner in Carver County, Minn. – was among them.

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