Lauren Russell carries on her family’s icy tradition




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For 11 years, there has been at least one Russell driving the Zamboni at RIT.

Lauren Russell, fourth-year photojournalism major, and her older brothers, Brian Russell ’10 (mechanical engineering) and Colin Russell ’13 (criminal justice), have all been Zamboni student drivers at the Frank Ritter Ice Arena.

Almost every weekend Lauren can be found cutting the ice for open skate and intramural hockey games but she will be ending the sibling tradition when she graduates this spring.

Her passion for hockey started at a young age. As a Long Island native, she grew up rooting for the New York Islanders and playing field hockey.

Coming from a family that loved hockey, working at an ice arena was a good fit. Brian, her oldest brother, started the tradition when he got a job at Ritter Arena his freshmen year.

“Being a Zamboni driver at RIT is definitely a much higher level of attention to detail job and requires 100 percent every shift,” Brian said.

Four years later, Colin came to RIT and was hired at the arena.

“I always was hearing crazy stories about whatever happened at work that day and it sounded like a lot of fun,” Lauren said.

Although Lauren thought it would be cool to be one of the five Zamboni drivers at RIT, she wanted to be the rebel in the family and attend a different college. Her mindset quickly changed after she discovered the university offered a top-ranked photography program.

When Lauren arrived on campus in Fall 2012, she asked Colin to put in a good word for her at the arena and started working as a rink guard and cashier. During the spring semester of her sophomore year, she began Zamboni driver training. For six weeks, she got up every morning at 7 and went to work with the rink supervisors to learn how to edge, chip and cut the ice.

She is the first female Zamboni driver at RIT in 15 years.

“At first I was afraid I would be criticized for being a female, but everyone has been great,” Lauren said. “I’m treated like one of the guys.”

During an average night shift, she makes about five cuts between intramural games and supervises the rest of the staff. She also does maintenance work on the ice at the Gene Polisseni Center during the men’s and women’s games. The job is fast paced and requires moving nets and shoveling snow around the benches during TV timeouts.

“I like working at the games because I get paid to watch my favorite sport,” Lauren said. “I also love the people I work with. It really is like a family because we all have each others’ backs.”