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VGK Zamboni driver has hockey in his veins

Chris Cotsilis is giving back to the game he loves
Posted at 2:16 PM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 03:10:06-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — What we call a Zamboni, Chris Cotsilis calls a career. Growing up as a self-proclaimed rink rat in Chicago, Cotsilis was often the youngest member of his hockey squad.

"I was the only one who wasn't under the influence of adult beverages so I got thrown onto the zam and it kinda just started from there," Cotsilis said.

He told 13 Action News he always dreamt of playing pro hockey. But when dreams die, sometimes opportunities arise.

"Along the line, you can't play anymore, so you gotta give back and why not drive the thing that everybody loves?" said Cotsilis.

So, that's what he did - working his way up from rink to rink until he landed in Las Vegas.

"Vegas, I think, is a playoff atmosphere all the time, which is awesome," said Cotsilis.

Before Chris can hit the ice, he must make sure it's clear.

"You make sure that everything is off the ice. You don't want to run over any pucks or any sticks or any teeth or anything," said Chris with a smile.

With the ice clear, Chris follows the same perfect pattern, meticulously mapped out minute by minute.

"Between the blue lines, I like to make it eight seconds, between blue line to blue line," said Chris as he timed out his routine.

As Cotsilis makes his rounds on the rink, he becomes one with the Zamboni, brushing the boards, shaving off a light layer of ice and filling in the cracks with a combination of cold and hot water.

"We are literally cutting the ice. So, in this bucket, you will see at the end, it will be filled with snow," said Cotsilis. "You start with the cold water, so that goes in the cracks of the ice. Then, you start with the hot water, so then that lays last and makes the ice nice and shiny."

Plus, he has to do his job while tuning out the crowd and making sure he doesn't miss a single spot.

"When 18,000 people are staring at you, it's a little nerve-wracking. Once you get going, you're kind of in a zone. As you can see, I did miss a little sliver over there. See it? So, I gotta go back and pick it up," said Cotsilis, pointing out a sliver of ice still needing to be resurfaced.
Like the ice he leaves behind, Cotsilis' style is smooth.

"It's kinda a nice break in between the players hitting and checking and everything. It's very soothing for fans. It's soothing for me too because I can just drive and make a nice product," he said.

Cotsilis has driven every day to provide a perfect playing surface for the players, even if he has to skate at a slightly slower pace.

"We talk to players all the time because that's their main concern is how they feel out there. I'm very passionate about hockey. I always have been, always will be. And it's just the reward. You work hard, you give a good product, and people see that and recognize it and makes you feel good and want to get up and come to work every day," said Cotsilis.

Driving the Zamboni runs in the Cotsilis family. Chris' brother, Nick, drives the Zamboni for the Chicago Blackhawks. No word on which team jersey their parents wear when the Golden Knights and the Blackhawks face off.