So long Zamboni? Minnesota man invents a Roomba for rinks


A Winona-area resident says he's created a machine that could help ice arenas cut costs and save time – and eventually replace the iconic Zamboni.

Paul Van Eijl calls it the "Ice Jet" and says multiple machines can resurface a hockey rink in about a minute using GPS coordinates, the Winona Daily News reports, as opposed to the traditional ice resurfacing machine that can take 10 to 15 minutes to do its job.

Think of it as hockey's version of the Roomba – the vacuuming robot, Sports Illustrated notes.

But Van Eijl knows it'll be tough to overcome the decades of tradition that come along with the Zamboni, which was first patented in 1949.

“The biggest challenge to the Ice Jet is the tradition of the ice resurfacing machine,” Van Eijl wrote in his business plan. “The machine has been a staple of the game of hockey for over 60 years.”

But he's confident that eventually his invention will catch on and one day replace one of the most famous names in hockey – the Zamboni. Van Eijl told the newspaper that because the Ice Jet saves time, arenas will be able to schedule ice time more efficiently. He also says the Ice Jet uses less water, which will also cut costs.

“Nostalgia only goes so far before cost savings take over," engineer Kevin Christ, who helped design the machine, told the Winona Daily News.

Although it's just a prototype, the Ice Jet has already caught the attention of the creators of "Shark Tank," a television show that features entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to a panel of potential investors.

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