New Brunswick

N.B. boy driving mini-Zamboni on backyard rink grabs NHL's attention

A New Brunswick boy has grabbed the attention of the NHL after its official Instagram page shared a video of him cleaning his backyard rink on a mini-Zamboni.

5-year-old Nicholas Allain loves to clean the ice, but loves to skate even more

Nicholas Allain, 5, cleans the ice with his mini-Zamboni. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

A five-year-old boy from Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., has been picked up by the big leagues.

A video of Nicholas Allain riding a mini-Zamboni on his backyard rink has been shared by the NHL on its Instagram page.

In the video, Nicholas is driving a battery-operated John Deere tractor made for kids that was modified to clean the backyard rink his dad, Marty, built for him.

It was Marty's first time making a backyard rink.

A Zamboni? He had no idea it was going to be such a hit right out of the gate.

"It was pretty cool," Marty said, adding that the NHL Instagram account contacted him in advance to ask permission to share his video.

Marty Allain fills the mini-Zamboni with water. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

The NHL's official account has 4.5-million followers. 

"A lot of my friends, and even people that I didn't talk to in a while, reached out and thought it was pretty cool," he said.

Marty originally posted the video online in a Facebook page for people who make outdoor rinks. Things just snowballed from there before catching the attention of the NHL.

He said his son may not realize how much the video has been shared because he's so young, but he said Nicholas was pretty excited to look at the post the NHL made showing him driving the Zamboni with the caption "FRESH SHEET ALERT."

"He watches hockey a little bit," said Marty. He said his son's favorite team is the Vegas Golden Knights because Lukas Cormier, who plays for the team, is also from Sainte-Marie-de-Kent.

Marty said he decided to make the rink this year because he was concerned that minor hockey, and access to the local arena, would be interrupted due to COVID-19, which turned out to be true.

He started planning in the fall and started building the pieces in the garage. 

"It was a lot of time," he laughed. "I didn't count my hours but a lot of Friday nights in the garage with a few cold pops."

The project turned out to be quite elaborate with rounded corners and boards painted to look like a professional rink, topped off with bright flood lights for practices at night. He's already planning to make the rink bigger next year.

"I wanted to do something special for my son," he said. "I wanted to do something where he could really practise his shot."

It didn't take Marty long to realize that he had the perfect opportunity to make a small Zamboni for his son to help care for the ice surface.

Marty rigged the machine with studded tires, a bucket, hose and a sheet of cloth to groom the ice. 

"He can actually manoeuvre around and get it all done if he wants to — if a five-year-old wants to," Marty laughed.

Marty said Nicholas would rather skate on the rink than clean it, even with his Zamboni.

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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