Canadian athletes are sharpening their skates, taping up their hockey sticks, and getting in last minute training sessions as they head to Pyeonchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Olympics are a time when Canadians set aside their differences and come together to cheer on Team Canada. From figure skating to hockey to snowboarding, there is a sport for everyone, but this year’s Olympics is bigger than just the sports.
London native and Facility Equipment Operator at Nichols Arena, Art Johnston, is one of eight North American Zamboni drivers heading to South Korea to take part behind the scenes at the world’s stage. From Zamboni driving at the Vancouver Olympics, Art is preparing for another once in a lifetime experience.
“It’s a unique experience to go to one and now to go to a second one, I mean, not many people can say that and that’s something that I’m very proud of,” Art says.
Zamboni driving is more work than one may think, and Art is a seasoned vet at it. Getting his start at a young age, Art’s co-worker and friend of over 20 years, Bruce Matthews, jokes about how Art learned his craft. “I taught him everything he knows. No, I’m just kidding. I’m really excited for him. It’s a great opportunity and I’ll be setting my DVR.”
With the Olympics starting February 9th, Art is preparing for 22 days of busy work, “I don’t know what my schedule’s going to be like yet in Korea. I know in Vancouver we were working anywhere from 6 to 12-hour days and we were responsible for the entire ice surface, you know boards, glass, things like that so if a piece of glass broke, we had to respond, if there was a problem with the ice, we had to respond, so it’s more than just driving in circles.”
Many say that Zamboni driving is an art form and it has leant Art many memorable moments in his lifetime, but there’s one moment in Canadian history that he will never forget. “Working the gold medal game. You know being in the building when Crosby scored the overtime goal. I mean that was just, it’s something that stuck with me ever since then. Sometimes it’s still hard to talk about it because it’s so much feelings.”
From witnessing history to the thrill of the drive, Art says that the spark for this career comes from seeing the excitement on children’s faces when the Zamboni driver comes out every day and remembers exactly what it was like when he was a kid.
“There’s no feeling quite like it.”