A hockey stick and a puck on ice
Corporate Culture

Clearing the Ice: Creating a Mental Wellbeing Zamboni

Cal Beyer
Cal Beyer
Holmes Murphy

At the end of a long workday or week, I enjoy watching a fast-paced and hard-hitting hockey game. This is especially true after days of grueling deadlines and other pressures and stress. It is even more true when it is time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Wow, still months away, and my heart is fluttering in anticipation.

For me, hockey has always been therapeutic. I remember growing up in simpler times in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and walking 2 blocks to the outdoor neighborhood ice rink and lacing up my skates. My dad had me up on skates at an early age.

I remember when I played on the youth hockey team and got to regularly skate indoors at a community rink. I was mesmerized by the Zamboni — the magical ice cleaning and resurfacing machine. I usually found myself outdoors at the side door of the arena marveling at the huge heaping pile of snow cone grade ice shavings cleaned from the ice. When the Zamboni finishes its work, a fresh glistening sheet of clean ice remains. The clarity of the fresh sheet is an image I sometimes lock in my head when I use a self-created stress relief hack to restore my wellbeing mindset.

Restoring My Wellbeing Mindset

When I’m starting to feel stress grow in my body, I intentionally increase the depth of my breathing. Then, whenever possible, I close my eyes and take increasingly deeper breathes with longer and slower exhales. When my pulse starts to regulate to a more normal resting heart rate, I close my eyes again. Then, I mentally summons the imaginary Zamboni in my head to clear away the excess buildup of debris to leave me a clean sheet of mental ice for my next challenge ahead.

On an ice rink, the buildup of icy debris starts to slow down the smooth movement of the puck on the surface. It risks player safety too by affecting the skaters’ ability to smoothly corner and cleanly cut in pursuit of the puck. The Zamboni restores the natural order to the ice rink.

Likewise, in our personal lives, an excess build-up of stress and pressure can create unnecessary clutter and debris that interferes with clear thinking and proper choices.

This exercise frequently makes me chuckle because I’ve used it for many years. It seems so simple, yet that is why it is so effective for me. It is by far my best life hack for destressing. I encourage you to try it if you find yourself in a stressful or anxious state. Controlling your breathing to help clear your mind may be just what you need!

The Importance of Maintaining Mental Wellbeing

As I’ve aged, I’m continually learning the importance of developing, maintaining, and sustaining positive health and wellbeing habits to keep stress in check. When I’m out of balance I can feel the misalignment. Wellbeing demands daily commitment and discipline. I find by keeping a clean sheet of ice in my head, I’m more resilient in confronting the inevitable challenges that await with each day of work and life adventure.

So, knowing all of this and the season in which we’re in with multiple deadlines employees are facing, how are you creating a “clean sheet of ice” environment for your employees? What about for yourself? What do you do in times of stress or when you realize you need to create a better wellbeing ‘space’ for yourself or your employees? I’ve love to hear about it!

P.S. In case you’re interested in learning more about the Zamboni, I thought it’d be fun to share some fun facts:

  • The first Zamboni ice resurfacing machine first debuted in 1949.
  • When the machine resurfaces the ice, it is capable of removing close to 2,500 pounds of compacted snow, while it can leave behind about 1,500 pounds of water.
  • In 2000, the Zamboni machine was immortalized as an authentic Monopoly® board game token in the NHL version of the game.


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