Zamboni driver would cherish a return to icy lanesWritten by Ryan Fowler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dale “Mugsy” Mugler’s trips to the East Side are few and far between these days.
When his car rumbles over the Martin Luther King Bridge, 17 years of memories wash over him.
He flashes back to his time on the job.
He begins to reminisce of the friends he made along the way.
He recalls the bright smiles on the children’s faces.
He remembers her.
Inside his west Toledo home, photographs in frames capture their time spent together.
But in these pictures, Mugsy isn’t standing next to his wife, but the other love of his life.
Mugsy was the last Zamboni driver at the old Toledo Sports Arena.
After working in a factory for more than two decades, Mugsy began his tenure at the old arena as a forklift operator in the early 1980s.
He worked concerts and tradeshows, helping set up and tear down.
That was until one day his boss asked him if he would like to learn how to drive the Zamboni.
Mugsy’s rookie season driving the “Z-train” was the final year of the Toledo Goaldiggers.
He followed it up with 16 dedicated years with the Toledo Storm.
As is the case with most Zamboni drivers, Mugsy became a hit with the fans, but the kids in the stands were always the most enthusiastic.
“Little kids were fascinated with the Zamboni,” he said. “I would give them high fives over the glass and hand out pucks to the kids.”
During his tenure as the ice man, Mugsy also received some very unique requests.
“Do you think we could put his ashes in the ice?”
The question was no joke. A hockey family, whose father had passed away, wanted their loved one buried in the ice.
Without thinking about it, Mugsy obliged. He drilled a hole in the ice and the ashes followed.
“These people were dressed up for the memorial service,” he said. “We took pictures and everything on the ice.”
Later came the 2006-07 season and the death of another loved one. It was announced that the Toledo Storm franchise would become defunct and the Toledo Sports Arena would be torn down following the season. It was an emotional last day on the job.
“The last time I went around the ice, I was honking the horn,” Mugsy said. “It kind of brought tears to my eyes.”
And to this day, Mugsy still remembers what Sports Arena general manager Gary Wyse told him at day’s end.
“All right guys, go turn out the lights.”
“All the memories, all the concerts,” Mugler said. “It was sad.”
But Mugsy admits the amount of money spent on maintenance at the old Sports Arena was proof that it was time to shut her down.
“It was sad to see her go, but I think it was her time,” he said.
So we fast-forward two years, the now 63-year-old Mugsy claims he’s staying retired.
But guess what? As I write this, the Toledo Walleye and new Lucas Country Arena do not have a Zamboni driver.
So is there a little Favre in the old Zamboni driver?
“I’ve never drove a new Zamboni,” Mugsy said. “I’ve always drove the ol’ girl.”
Mugsy does admit he would like to be involved with the new arena in some way this winter.
He wants to be part of the new chapter as he remembers the old.
One of the many reasons Mugsy tears up while driving over the MLK, gazing over to his left to where it all began.
“She served her time.”
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor at NBC24 and can be reached at email@example.com.