Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday March 28, 2008

We need to take a break from "Zen and the Art of Zamboni" for an installment of "MURPHY'S LAW and the Art of Zamboni."

If you were one of the 9,215 awesome fans at last night's game, first of all, THANK YOU. The Cyclones appreciate your support. More on that for another post. Also a big thanks go out to Lance McAllister & everyone who came with the Homer Outing!!!

Now, if you were there you may have noticed I had an issue during the first intermission resurfacing. Curious what happened? Read on...

During my pre-game check of the Zamboni, I noticed that one propane tank was getting low. No big deal, the other was full. When the first one dies, I simply turn a valve to switch to the other tank. During the first intermission resurfacing, I felt the RPM's start to drop, so I reached over and switched tanks. RPM's came back up like they are supposed to. All is well.

Or not. After half a lap, it started to chug again like it was starved for fuel. YIKES! Once in a while we get a bad tank that, for whatever reason, won't deliver fuel well. Making the turn at the Zamboni tunnel end, I yelled to one of the maintenance guys to go get me another tank. Then I reached over and closed the tank valve & reopened it, just in case something was stuck or frozen. It didn't seem to help.

So I switched back to the original tank to take whatever vapor it may have had left and then I raised the conditioner off the ice. I did this because if the motor stalls while it is down, our problems are compounded becuase we can't tow the machine with the conditioner down. Operations Manager Brandon was in the Cyclones bench and saw I had problems, so he dashed back to the "Chitty" the back-up Zamboni started. It was full of water and ready to go, as it always is during games.

I lowered the throttle to burn less propane, since I was not in resurfacing operation, and reached over and gave an extra turn to the fitting where the hose from the machine connects to the tank and closed the tank valve & reopened it again. I switched back over and got power back, everything seemed OK. I figured whatever was stuck or whatever had been fixed, so I resumed operation and waved off Brandon on Chitty.

Well, that didn't last long. I lost power again. This time I wasn't taking any chances and I immediately got the conditioner raised up and lowered the RPM's to save fuel and get off the ice ASAP. Brandon came out on Chitty and finished the job.

I made it to the Zamboni Garage on low power. After getting off the machines and checking the tanks, I saw that the full tank had a layer frost all over the hose fitting and it was starting to become an ice ball. What happened is that the fitting was not seated all the way and it developed a small lead. The escaping vapor was forming frost around the fitting. This meant that full fuel was not going to the engine and it was freezing up inside, further limiting fuel.

It was enough to barely keep the engine running at a few hundred RPM to get off the ice, THANKFULLY, but not enough to fuel the engine at operating range of 2500-2700 RPM.

If it stalled completely, we would have simply had to run out the extra tank that the maintenance guy had at the ready, but being stalled completely on the ice is horrible. Even in turning off all the water, some still drips down possibly going through to the concrete or turning the collected snow into a giant ball of ice.

I failed to do something in the pre-game ice maintenance that could have averted this. I mentioned above that sometimes we get a bad tank. After seeing the one tank was low, I should have done my pre-game stuff on the new tank, just to be sure it runs OK, and then switched back to the old tank until it runs out - having confidence that the new tank was fully functional.

I usually do that. It is the "best practice." That night I took it for granted, in front of 9000 fans. But at least we got back, avoided disaster, and kept it at merely inconvenience. Such is life in the wacky world of ice making.

Peace Out!

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