Cincinnati has been home to numerous minor league hockey teams and even one major league team, but probably the best known, and currently the only pro hockey team in town, is the Cincinnati Cyclones. While the current Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) are not the original franchise from 1990, this incarnation of the team recently won their leagues championship, the Kelly Cup, in 2008 and call the US Bank Arena downtown their home.
While reading up on the "Hockey Wars" that dominated Cincinnati in the late 90's/early 2000's when the city had two competing minor league hockey teams, I came across a blog called "the Cyclones Insider." After reading for a little bit, it became apparent that the blogs author, "Guido," was the zamboni driver for the Cyclones at US Bank Arena. This reminded me of a toy I had gotten from a Cyclones game as a kid:
What's a zamboni? Well for those who aren't hockey savy, here's a quick lesson: A zamboni is a machine that was developed by Frank Zamboni in 1953 for the purpose of resurfacing the ice. Today you can see them in use between periods at hockey games and the person behind the zamboni at the Cyclones games is the "Cyclones Insider" himself, Guido aka Mike Bianch.
After reading post after post on Mike's blog about the ice making process and his views on hockey, I thought it be cool to hang out with him and show what he does. Mike's "day job" is a police officer, but you can catch him between periods at the Cyclones game, riding the zamboni and sporting his trademark cap.
"...that [the hat] is in tribute to the original Cincinnati Stingers zamboni driver, Oliver Willis, nickname was "speedy." He always wore a hat like this." says Mike. "Old "Speedy" would always wave at us kids gathered around the glass when he came by, so I make it a point now to smile and wave at the kids when I can because it made such an impression on me."
For Mike, the job is more than just resurfacing the ice in-between periods, it's an art. Mike comes in early, well before the first puck drops, and takes great care when preparing the playing surface. He says many visiting teams have commented on how much they like the ice at the US Bank Arena.
Mike was nice enough to not only let me hang out with him for the entire game, but he even let me ride on the zamboni during one of his pre-game cuts, something I always wanted to do as a kid.
I interviewed Mike during the "Throwback Night" held on Nov. 9th. Over 10,300 fans packed the US Bank Arena that evening. The same arena where Mike had watched the Cincinnati Stingers as a kid. With the recent championship in 2008 and the recent attendance increase, it seems hockey is alive and well in Cincinnati.
Check out the audio interview with Mike and more pictures in this new multimedia piece:
And make sure to check out Mike's blog: The Cyclones Insider.