Updated: Mar 30
Port Huron officials are mulling over ways to restore a decades-old Zamboni that once glided across the arena ice at McMorran Place. It was previously stored at the old Chicory plant, along with another vehicle, officials said, but has been housed in a city office outside Lakeside Cemetery since a June 2018 warehouse fire. City Manager James Freed called the early-model Zamboni “an iconic piece of McMorran history.”
It wasn’t clear the age of the equipment. McMorran manager Rob Churchill said it may be a late ‘70s or early ‘80s model, while Freed said it likely dates back much closer to the origin of McMorran Arena itself, which was built in 1960.
Either way, they said the mostly red and blue Zamboni could be a source of fond memories for some residents and the city’s hockey community.
“I think a lot people that are in their 40s and 50-years-old would remember it as a kid on the ice,” Churchill said. “That’s what interests people. It brings back their youth I guess.”
Finding a way to restore it
Officials said nothing official had been figured out about how to restore the old Zamboni. Freed posted about it on social media early last week, including a picture when it still had a Saffee’s restaurant logo etched on the side. The city manager said he’s gotten a lot of feedback and hopes to restore it back to the way it once was, including the Saffee’s part. “We’ll
probably be reaching out to some members of the community for parts and pieces,” Freed said. “People have reached out to us already. I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me who are willing to donate parts to it to restore it. So, that’s what we’re going to work on.”
Churchill said McMorran has previously been approached about the Zamboni before with an inquiry for a display from the Hockey Hall of Fame before the institution ultimately went with another community’s model. He added it was prior to his being at McMorran. With or without the recognition, though, both Freed and Churchill said they know how special the Zamboni is. “There’s not very many of that style left,” Churchill said. “We’ve got some interest amongst the public that either want to donate or contribute to refurnish that one,” he added. “… We’re going to follow up on that and see how serious people are.”
Not getting rid of it
Both Churchill and Freed talked about how different newer Zamboni's are. They’re quicker, they leave the ice in a different condition, and the technology is more evolved than on the one the city has in storage. “The actual blade and auger systems on the new ones pick up so much more efficient than that one did,” Churchill said. Currently, McMorran has two vehicles in the arena — one in regular use and one left as back up. Still, Freed said they don't want to get rid of the old unit — to “throw away a piece of history.” It just may be a while finding a way to breathe life back into it.
Churchill said at one time McMorran likely had “three different ones like that at one time,” and the one still in storage was operated until the early ‘90s. Officials said once restored, they’d find a way to exhibit the old Zamboni. “It’ll probably be on display someplace and probably used for parades and special events,” Freed said. “Maybe, we’ll cruise it around the McMorran ice every once in a while. It’d be kind of cool.”