What effort, what showmanship, what precision, what execution. I know you’re asking yourself how he didn’t fall and the answer is quite simple: He’s a pros pro. Cliff even made it to the big time when he was interviewed by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, back in 2004.
It is the dream job.
Cliff Abraham and Bill Riedman are living that dream. Of course, neither Riedman nor Abraham say they aspired to one day become the “Zam Man.”
It’s not easy work.
For four 10-hour shifts a week, they clean and resurface the inch-and-a-half of ice at the Garden until it’s polished crystal. A busy day means as much as 15 runs to resurface the ice for everything from figure skating practice in the early mornings to the Icedogs games.
The hours can be brutal.
“It was just a job for me for about eight or nine months until I realized what was going on,” Abraham said. “Like every one else in this valley, anything about an ice rink or hockey was fairly new.”
Abraham and Riedman are proof that the job takes all kinds.
“We all kinda have our own deal,” Abraham said of himself and the three part-timers who also drive “the Zam.”
Abraham is the hockey nut.
Originally from Fargo, N.D., he carries a life-long obsession with the sport. He has worked at the Garden in various capacities since its opening in 1997.
While earning a degree in physical education health from Montana State, he was an assistant coach of the Icedogs from 1997-99. He has also coached at several age-levels for the youth leagues and still presides over the Quick Shot Hockey Camp during the summers at the Garden.
He plays in the adult men’s league and referees several games a week.
“This is a passion. I’ve fallen into really enjoying being behind the scenes,” he said, relishing the chance to talk shop about the technical aspects of running the $66,000 machine.
“I take it pretty seriously.”
Much more than a lawn-mower, the ice resurfacer skims the rink’s ice with a long blade and shuttles the snow through a system of augers to a container near the controls.
While all that takes place, Abraham plays the veteran showman.
“People come to be entertained by the hockey,” he said. “Why does that have to stop at intermission?”
Abraham’s signature move is the Swinging Zamboni Driver, in which he Tarzan-swings from the railing above the Zamboni’s garage, lands on his feet and slides the length of the ice. He then grabs hold of a taut bungie cord that whips him back across to the garage.
The trick was made nationally famous when it was aired on Fox Sports and ESPN’s Plays of the Week. The trick has been shelved since Abraham underwent two knee surgeries.
Has he recuperated enough for an encore?
“My wife can’t hear me right now, so I think it will be returning,” he said.
This guy is a legend. Did you see that hat throw at the end? He’s done this routine more times than you’ve hit your juul or watched the Bachelor combined. Do you own a belt buckle? Probably not but Cliff sure as hell does. Theres a one thousand percent chance that he’s lighting a marb red as soon as he exits the rink to his Chevy Silverado 3500HD with truck nuts hanging from the trailer hitch. What a specimen. So when you guys get out of work tonight, live life like our boy Cliff. Of course his names Cliff. Fuck, this is perfect.