The Iceman Rolleth
Until a few weeks ago Jimmy (the Iceman) MacNeil was just a big Zamboni driver on a small pond—the Brantford (Ont.) Civic Centre. Now, after years of working before crowds of fewer than 200, he stands at the threshold of ice-resurfacing immortality. MacNeil, the 38-year-old son of a Zamboni repairman, leads balloting for Zamboni Driver of the Year at www.zamboni.com.
Through Monday, MacNeil had outpaced 23 other Zamboni pros as well as celebrity resurfacers Garth Brooks, Richard Petty and Bill Murray. His closest rival was Al Sobotka, who smooths the ice at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. MacNeil led Sobotka by about 2,000 votes and was at least 50,000 ahead of everyone else.
His legend began when he called in to a morning radio show in Hamilton, Ont. As soon as the hosts found out he was a Zamboni driver, MacNeil became a semiregular on their program. His fame snowballed, and now he might be the most celebrated Brantford resident since Wayne Gretzky. He has been profiled by The Toronto Star and on Canadian TV, and Walter Gretzky, the Great One's dad, has plugged MacNeil's candidacy on radio.
Voting ends on Dec. 1. The winner will work the ice at the Feb. 6 NHL All-Star Game in Toronto. It would be a dream come true for MacNeil, who followed his father into the family business and says of his job, "I like being in front of the crowd. I like the cold air on my face."