Clear it and they will come: Do-it-yourself 'mini Zamboni' a hit on Calgary rinks

A Calgary man is clearing the way for some smooth outdoor rink fun with a machine he created to level ice bumps.

'This year we had a slow start, but now it is picking up and I have been busy, busy'

DIY 'mini Zamboni' a hit on Calgary outdoor rinks

6 years ago
Duration 0:55
Chris Yenna saw a demand and filled it

This story was originally published on Jan. 9.

A Calgary man is clearing the way for some smooth outdoor rink fun with his hand-built "mini Zamboni."

Chris Yenna, originally from Florida, said he saw a way to make outdoor skating on small community rinks a little easier.

And Porta Ice Ltd. was born.

"I saw a big demand here in Canada for a portable ice resurfacing unit, so I created this machine," Yenna told CBC News.

"It has been very successful and it's been a lot of fun."

Chris Yenna says he didn't see a lot of competition for his idea and Porta Ice Ltd. was born. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

Yenna said the business is really picking up steam this year. 

"I had a couple of communities that were involved," he said.

"It started snowballing. This year we had a slow start but now it is picking up and I have been busy, busy."

Lucas Ramage, a volunteer with the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill Community Association, said a friend shot him an email about Yenna's service.

"I was intrigued," Ramage recalls.

Lucas Ramage of the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill Community Association says Chris Yenna's service gets a lot of people interested in the community rink. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

"I called him. He came out and gave us a little demonstration. Ever since we have had him working on our ice."

Yenna said there doesn't appear to be a lot of competition for clearing community rinks.

"I always dreamed of it. I volunteered for a couple of community rinks here in the city and saw the demand and saw what their concerns were. I woke up one day and I was like, 'I have a solution for this,'" he said. 

"I got to work and tinkered away in my garage, countless hours involved and I finally created this machine."

A point-of-view shot from Chris Yenna's perspective as he clears the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill community ice skating rink with his mini ice resurfacer. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

He says the process is pretty straight forward.

"I do a dry cut to clear the snow and all the loose debris off, and then I go around and do a flood afterwards and make it look nice."

Calvin Mast, who uses the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill rink, loves the idea of properly surfacing the ice.

"I did see it going around, I thought it was quite awesome," Mast said of the tiny ice resurfacer.

Rink user Calvin Mast says the ice is now a lot smoother, more like an indoor rink. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

"It looks quite compact and it looks like it does a great job. It was very cool to watch."

It makes the rink more comparable to an indoor surface, he added.

"It is awesome. The other ones kind of have a lot of bumps and this one is quite smooth so we enjoy it," Mast said.

Yenna's ice resurfacer is an electric model.

Chris Yenna's steady hand guides his mini ice resurfacer over the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill community rink. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

"I think electric is possibly the future and I kind of wanted to be green for my first unit to maybe stand out a little bit more," he said. 

For his business to be sustainable, all he needs is cold weather.

"It seems to keep warming up for me," he said with a laugh.

"I guess being from Florida I can't complain about the warmth, but from a business side of things, it slows you down for sure."

Ramage says Yenna's service is creating buzz in the neighbourhood.

Chris Yenna had an idea about a year ago. He's now keeping busy clearing community outdoor rinks in Calgary with his mini ice resurfacer. All he needs is some nice, cold weather. (Jocelyn Boissonneault/Radio-Canada)

"He has been great to work with and every time he pulls out what people call the mini Zamboni, it attracts a lot of questions and interest and attention," Ramage said.

"It has been a lot of fun."

Beyond fun, Yenna says he is aiming high for future expansion.

"Being the biggest guy in the market," Yenna said of his ambitions. "As long as it keeps growing, I am willing to chase it for sure."


  • The people interviewed for this story referred to the ice resurfacer as a "mini Zamboni" but the device is not manufactured by the Zamboni Company, which contacted CBC News to request that be clarified. Quotes referring to the "mini Zamboni" have remained in place but references to a "mini Zamboni" outside of direct quotations have been changed to refer to the ice resurfacer generically.
    Jan 09, 2017 2:47 PM MT

With files from Jean-Charles Lanciault and Jocelyn Boissonneault