Saturday, October 10, 2009

Preseason Propane Nightmares

Good crowd tonight at US Bank Arena for the Cyclones vs. Toledo Walley pre-seson game. If you were there, you saw a couple of different things happening with the Zamboni. First- I wasn't driving; I was being chauferred by John, the new Operations Manager. Second, you saw a Zamboni malfunction during the second intermission. I'll explain.

John took over as the Operations Manager last year after Brandon moved on to greener pastures. John has show experience from working at Riverbend Music Center but he has never worked with ice. He is coming along and will be fine in the end, but he needs to build experience so he did all the pre-game prep and did the pre-game and first intermission cuts. I noticed some things that were easier to demonstrate than lecture about, so I took the second intermission cut with him riding and talked him through some of my techniques.

Then, "it" happened. The Zam started that familiar sound of losing power as it used the last of the propane in one tank. No problem, methinks to meself, as I flip the switch to the other propane tank and restore the Zamboni's full throttle power at 2500 RPM. Well, that should have happened. Instead I was treated to a very weak throttle, I could barely keep the Zam running at about 1000 RPM. Fortunately I was thinking fast and got all the water turned off and the conditioner raised off the ice. We had a carpet runner on the way to put under the conditioner and protect the ice if I completely stalled.

Fortunately it did not get that bad. I could keep it running at about 1200 RPM and drive gingerly, limping the machine just off the ice to get a new propane tank. We got the new tank on in place of the original empty and I was able to finish the cut. I think John was just glad I was driving for that little adventure.

This is a known glitch with these continuously reused propane bottles. They have a safety valve inside to prevent the gas from escaping if the valve is opened with nothing connected. That would just release propane out into the air and be dangerous. Hoses or devices that plug in to the bottles have a bar inside that pushes back the safety valve and releases the gas into the hose line or device.

Sometimes that freezes up and won't allow the propane to come through; or as in tonight's case, it was allowing a small amount to pass through but not the full amount. This was just enough gas getting to the engine to give me power to limp off the ice.

There is a way to prevent this from affecting a game cut by simply always using a brand new tank for 1 ice cut and then switching to the other tank and using it out until empty. This way you have some assurance that the other tank, when needed, will perform as it should. Then replace the other tank and do the same thing: run one cut on the new tank, then back to the other to run it out.

We failed to do that last night and we paid the price.

So that's my propane nightmare event. Actually there is an indie rock band called Pendulum with a song called "Propane Nightmares" that I'm reminded of. The song has nothing to do with Zamboni machines but the title is perfect.


Blogger Matthew said...

Thank you for posting about the interior operations of an arena. I worked at NKIC for 3 years and drove the Zam so I have experienced this same problem before!

7:45 AM  

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