You’re not imagining it — a “Zambroni” has been popping up in town

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

[Note: This story has been updated at the request of Zamboni Company USA to remove trademarked references to their brand.]

If you had to do a double take to make sure you saw what you saw, yes there has been a “zambroni” driving around Fort Frances.

The blue and white ice resurfacer, which is technically not of the Zamboni brand but rather Olympia, took up residence in the north end of Fort Frances this spring after Josh Jean and a group of friends entered a blind-bid auction at the town of Red Rock. The group of friends have dubbed the machine Zambroni.

Jean is originally from the town of Red Rock, an hour and a half east of Thunder Bay. He was in his garage one night when he received a message on Facebook that the old machine was going up for sale. They bid $500.

“We decided that we would put a small bid on it,” Jean said. “My wife was on board with it at the time, then a week later I got an email from Red Rock that we had won. So then I had to break it to my wife. I made sure everybody was in the garage before I told her and she wasn’t too impressed.”

The Jean garage is a regular hangout spot for a group of friends and now a big piece of the garage is taken up in the storage of the machine.

They were given all of the records for the machine which tell them it was delivered to Red Rock on October 15, 1979. The machine runs a 350 Chevrolet engine fueled by propane. Despite its age, it only has about 2,000 hours of run time on it.

“I grew up playing hockey so this was the [Zambroni] that cleaned up after me,” Jean said. “Being from Red Rock and having a little piece of the history is cool.”

Another member of the group, John Homer, was in Red Rock with Jean for a fishing tournament a few weeks ago. Homer says everyone was curious what was going on with the old machine.

“Everybody at the trout derby, like 150-200 people in the fish and game club was asking ‘what are you doing with the [Zambroni]?’ Nobody cared about trout, all they cared about was what the heck he was doing with the [Zambroni].”

Since bringing it back from Red Rock the friend group has given the machine a life of its own. A fresh coat of paint, in Toronto Maple Leafs blue and white, and Facebook and Instagram pages under the names Zambroni and Zambroni79 respectively.

The group took to driving it around the north end neighborhood during the Maple Leafs’ playoff run, although it failed to help the team very much.

The odd looking vehicle has also been to the Beer Store as well as to its first event. It was available as a photo op at Point Park ahead of Fort Frances High School’s prom.

Group member Patrick Briere says driving it through the Portage Ave. underpass was quite the experience. Vehicles made for driving on flat ice don’t exactly have a great suspension.

They are hoping to make the machine more visible around town. They’re hoping to attach a trailer hitch to it so it can tow things like parade floats, or even boats and make a few other modifications to the machine like potentially adding a second seat.

“I think it’s going to the Canada Day parade,” Jean said. “I think the Flint House is going to use it to tow a float. We’re hoping that we can get somebody in the bass tournament in the top 10 parade to tow their boat behind the [Zambroni].”

The vehicle may not be strictly “street legal,” but they’ve kept it away from main roads and are planning to put a reflective triangle on the back as well.

Members of the group who have been working on the Zambroni. From left, Josh Jean, Pat- rick Briere, John Homer and Randy Seguin. You can follow the adventures of the Zambroni on Facebook at “Zambroni,” or on Instagram “@Zambroni79.” –Allan Bradbury photo