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Whether you know much about the sport or not, even casual hockey fans have probably dreamt of driving a Zamboni across the ice. For Jake Magdzas, that childhood dream became his everyday reality when he was hired on to the ice department at the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center) to keep the ice in pristine condition for every game and event. We were lucky enough to catch up with him to hear all about how he got here and what he loves about his gig.
What’s your Duluth story? (Did you grow up in Duluth? Move to the area?)
I grew up in Superior, Wisconsin – just across the bridge from Duluth. My passion and love for the game of hockey started at 5 years old. I have been skating ever since and it is something I always look forward to. I was so excited when I was given the opportunity to join the ice department at the DECC and live out one of my childhood dreams – driving the Zamboni. It is hard to believe I get to do what I do for a living some days and I feel so fortunate to be in my position.
What is your title?
I am the Maintenance Foreman at the DECC.
What does your job entail? What does a typical day look like?
Every day varies. During the hockey season, I can be found maintaining the ice sheet for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Men’s and Women’s hockey programs, youth hockey or figure skating. Off the ice, I can be found plowing snow, converting the arena for a concert or doing any other building maintenance tasks.
During the summer months I oversee all groundskeeping operations around the DECC, maintenance operations on the William A. Irvin, design and build operations for the William A. Irvin Haunted Ship or setting up for events in Bayfront Festival Park.
How did you get your start in this job?
I started at the DECC when I was 16 years old, working as an usher at the Omnimax theater. Then I transitioned into working concessions and the box office, and at 18 I became a manager and projectionist. In the summer months after the Omnimax closed, I worked on the William A. Irvin and operated the Minnesota Slip Bridge. After that I transitioned to working maintenance for the DECC and the Irvin. At 21 I was asked to join the ice department, and at 23 I was promoted to Ice/Grounds Maintenance Foreman – and the rest is history.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love hearing the roar of the crowd and the goal horn at a Bulldogs hockey game.
When you are not on the ice, what do you like to do in Duluth?
There are a wide variety of outdoor activities I enjoy, like fishing on Lake Superior, hunting, mountain biking any of Duluth’s off-road trails, or working on projects at home.
What makes Duluth a great city for hockey players/fans?
There is truly no place like the State of Hockey. There is such a passion for the sport and it truly becomes part of a lifestyle. Growing up skating at the outdoor rinks is one of the fondest memories I have. Everyone from school would be out there playing, too. It did not matter if you played basketball, baseball or ran track – everyone would get a pair of skates and a stick and go play pick-up games all winter long.
Anything else you’d like to add?