HERSHEY, Pa. — For nearly 40 years, when the gate at the Giant Center goes up, it is Tom Fortner's time to shine.
"The fun thing is making sure it is in good shape and the ice is good for the game that night," said Fortner.
Yes, fans come to see hockey, but deep down they have an obsession.
"Everybody wants to drive the zamboni, they are always asking me if they can," recalled Fortner.
The zamboni is like a unicorn, but Tom has a little secret.
"These are actually Olympia's. Its another company like Zamboni."
So technically, Tom drives an ice resurface. It may not have the ring to it, but shaving, smoothing and dumping ice gives Tom celebrity status.
"I have run into people in Hawaii and ran into people at Disney World. A guy came up and asked if I was the driver and I said 'Yes.' I wanted to get to my family. I didn't know who he was but he knew me."
Oval after oval, shave, smooth, and water is the life of this rink rat.
The coolest honor for Fortner was when his daughter was asked by a grade school teacher to name a vehicle that starts with the Letter 'Z.'
"Nobody could come up with anything and my daughter goes 'Zamboni,' and the teacher goes 'Zamboni?' 'Yea, that is what my dad drives.' She had no idea what it was she had to go and look it up."
It's a mystical four wheeled beast that hockey fans dream about and if you are the driver, there is a lot of pressure.
"They're always pointing saying, 'You missed that.'"
The ultimate seal of approval and appreciation comes from the Bears.
"When they are at practice and if you are standing at the zamboni door, they skate by and give a nod at you and know you are here. When they aren't complaining, you know it is good ice," said Fortner.
When Fortner's done, like any good gate keeper, it's one final check and then waiting for another skate.