Whitehorse man’s homemade zamboni keeps hockey rink alive

One of the best ice surfaces in the territory can be found on a small outdoor rink in the heart of the Hillcrest subdivision, far away from the road and nestled among spruce trees.

One of the best ice surfaces in the territory can be found on a small outdoor rink in the heart of the Hillcrest subdivision, far away from the road and nestled among spruce trees.

Three or four mornings a week, Buster Clare wheels his homemade barrel zamboni to the rink and gets to work.

He spends about 15 minutes walking around the surface, making sure every inch is covered with just the right amount of water.

Clare built his zamboni over the Christmas holidays, using parts he bought from Home Hardware and Canadian Tire.

He got the idea one day while surfing the Internet, when he came across the story of a guy in Saskatoon, Sask. who had built his own.

It’s also similar to the hand flooders that were often used before the invention of the mechanized ice resurfacer in the late 1940s.

So Clare went out and bought a cart with wheels, a 45-gallon drum and some plumbing parts. He enlisted the help of a friend, Dan Norwood, “who can fix or build anything.”

“I told him my vision and he told me what parts to get,” Clare said.

“After that it only took about an hour to put together.”

Altogether, it cost him about $200 to build.

Clare explained how his zamboni works. He fills up the drum with water and uses a valve to regulate how much comes out through a PVC pipe onto a blanket.

Using warm water is the key, he explains, as it makes the ice harder and prevents it from becoming brittle. That’s because warm water slightly melts the layer of ice below it, forming a stronger bond when frozen. The towel ensures a smooth, controlled distribution of water.

It took him a few times to figure out just the right amount of water, he said.

“The first time I did it there were a lot of lumps on the ice because I went too fast,” he said.

“I hadn’t figured out that I needed to go nice and slow.”

Growing up in Dawson City, Clare remembers seeing a similar zamboni being used to flood the local rink, except it was on a sled.

Clare works seasonally and has the winters off. He said the main reason he became so involved with taking care of the ice is his seven and nine-year-old grandsons, who are “die-hard hockey players.”

“And I also get a good sense of satisfaction when I see a nice sheet of ice out there.”

Ray Marnoch, another Hillcrest resident, wrote about Buster’s story on Facebook last Friday. Since then, it’s been shared over 150 times.

“Everyone is super happy and we’re really proud of him,” Marnoch said. “It’s the best ice we’ve ever had here and I’ve lived in Hillcrest since 1983.”

Marnoch said the number of players and skaters on the rink has increased dramatically over the past few months.

In the past, only a handful of people would show up at the rink on the weekend to play shinny. But last Saturday, over 20 kids showed up with their parents, Marnoch said.

Clare maintains the ice “like it’s his baby,” he added.

“We now have people coming from all over town to skate on our rink. He deserves a lot of credit.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at


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