Two years back, Mike Lindemer and Tom Monaghan—the duo behind Seeley Lake's annual pond hockey tournament—grew fed up with flooding their rinks with warm water to create smooth, skateable ice. The process was labor intensive and temperature sensitive. So they went about building their own Zamboni, enlisting the help of several business owners to mount six high-pressure jets and two propane tanks on a box about the size of a shipping pallet.
"It makes the ice liquid as we pass over it," Lindemer explains, "and then it freezes again."
Lindemer calls the $3,000 machine the "Samboni." It's made ice maintenance easier not just for the tournament but also for the popular public pond at Clearwater Park, where the Seeley Lake Lions Club has labored for years with a flooding technique of their own.
Last month, the Missoula County Parks and Trails program awarded the Seeley Lake Lions Club a $2,000 matching grant for improvements to a small equipment shed at Clearwater Park. That grant comes on the heels of another $4,000 commitment from the county last spring. The goal of the project is to make more space for skates and hockey equipment that the Lions makes available for free to the public. But club member Jason Ayers is hopeful there will be room for a Samboni too.
The Lions began borrowing Lindemer's Samboni for ice maintenance at Clearwater Park last season. Prior to that, Ayers says, the club was simply flooding the pond with a 55-gallon drum of hot water on the back of a Polaris Ranger. The club has since considered investing in its own Samboni, though Ayers thinks it could be a few years before they take that leap.
"It'd be nice to eventually have our own, that way typically once a week we could get down there and surface the ice," Ayers says.
But the Lions might not need to wait long. The pond hockey tournament exploded from 29 teams last year to 48 this weekend, and from three rinks to four. Lindemer responded with a second Samboni, both of which he only needs for two weeks each season. He sees no reason why the Lions can't store one at Clearwater Park the rest of the time.
"It's for the kids," Lindemer says. "That's why we're willing to loan it to the Lions park. They just have to buy their own propane."