Like many young hockey fans, 3-year-old Carter Stamkos is obsessed with the Zamboni machines that resurface the ice during games.
He expressed this sentiment in no uncertain terms when he attended the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas in support of his father, Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos. Sitting on his dad's lap during a postgame news conference, Carter kept repeating "I want to drive Zamboni please!" until the Lightning captain excused them from the proceedings to find the nearest ice resurfacing machine.
"He really likes the Zamboni," Steven Stamkos deadpanned.
Now, Carter Stamkos and other young fans can finally drive a Zamboni whenever they want. The Zamboni Company and the NHL have partnered with Kool Karz Playground to launch the world's first electric Zamboni ride-on toy, which is releasing this month.
The 22-pound rechargeable battery-powered vehicle, available through the NHL's online retail stores and the official sites for Zamboni and Kool Karz Playground, is designed for fans ages 3-8 and is delightfully authentic. It has the same horn sound as a Zamboni, a "snow collection tank" for storage, working LED headlights and even a media center with a speaker. It comes with an NHL shield and a complete set of logos for all 32 teams for customization.
"The Zamboni machine is like a mascot for kids," said Paula Coony, brand manager for Zamboni. "They know it's going to come out. It's a routine thing. It's also magical and mysterious. How is it doing what it's doing?"
Carter Stamkos' wish was finally granted. His father surprised him with one of the new Kool Karz Zambonis at the rink in Tampa recently. Father and son then took a trip around the ice:
Jim Haskins, NHL senior VP of consumer products licensing, said the ride-on Zamboni was already in the works when Carter Stamkos had his all-star moment.
"When we saw this, we were like, 'Oh my god, we might have something for this young child. So all the stars aligned. It was awesome," he said.
The ride-on Zamboni has been decades in the making, as both the NHL and Zamboni Company searched for the right partner.
"We knew that it needed to be safe. We also wanted it to be as authentic as possible and have all the accouterments in the toy that the actual machine has. From the headlights to the sounds to even a little storage unit that you can put some snow in," Haskins said.
Kool Karz Playground, the maker of ride-on replicas of everything from Mercedes-Benz cars to mini-ATVs, figured out some of the design elements that had plagued earlier versions. Coony said they took some welcome liberties with where the driver sits on the Zamboni -- rather than a seat in the back like the real machine, they straddle it like a ride-on mower.
The conditioner that resurfaces the ice, found in the back of the machine, has its own wheel. "Because some kid, while it has a sticker back there that says don't put your feet there, somebody's going to stand on that. And we didn't want it to break or be a safety thing," Coony said. "They engineered things into this that we never even would've imagined."
The Kool Karz Playground Zamboni ride-on toy is available for $349.