Hydro Racing

Chip Hanauer gets hands on Zamboni (w/ gallery)

KENNEWICK — If it has a motor, Chip Hanauer wants to drive it.

The legendary hydroplane driver was in the Tri-Cities on Sunday and he couldn't wait to get his hands on the Zamboni.

"Racing has afforded me many things," Hanauer said. "Flying with the Blue Angels, going on a nuclear submarine and now driving a Zamboni. I have friends in F1 racing and when I told them I was going to drive a Zamboni they were excited."

Hanauer, 55, got a few pointers from Ben Bolander of the Toyota Center Zamboni crew, then hopped up in the driver's seat and took the machine for a spin.

"Everything has technique to it; experience has to be respected," Hanauer said before his drive.

After a few laps around the rink, he was like a kid who had taken his dad's car for a joy ride. "It looks like a small car but drives like a Kenworth," he said.

In reality, there isn't much difference in weight between a hydroplane and a Zamboni. An unlimited hydroplane weighs about 6,000 pounds. The Zamboni, with 280 gallons of water aboard, weighs about 6,100 pounds.

Hanauer spent three decades racing hydroplanes and helped develop some of the safety features the drivers use now. There is no safety equipment needed to drive a Zamboni.

"Here, if the worst happened I wouldn't be under water waiting for divers to save me," he said. "They would just have to chip me off the ice."

Hanauer got a quick run down of what it takes to create ice, from running the blade to how much water gets laid down. He heard a tale of a Zamboni crew in Boise that drove the machine from the building and took it through a Burger King drive-thru. In the end, he was well informed.

"Warm water freezes faster than cold water -- who knew? -- and don't take the Zamboni off the premises," Hanauer said of his tutorial.

Hanauer's hockey day was courtesy of One Eighty Racing, which owns and operates Hawthorne Court, a retirement community in Kennewick.

"My association with the Tri-Cities goes back 35 years," Hanauer said. "It's been an important place for me. In Seattle, everything is different. In Tri-Cities, everything is relaxed."

And this was not his first Tri-City Americans game, but the first one since any player on the current Tri-City roster was born.

"I can't tell you when it was, but I was with Atlas Van Lines and we came over for a couple of games," Hanauer said. "I've always liked the culture of the outlying sports. I like the blue collar, hard-working side of hockey."

Hanauer's appreciation for hockey was reinforced with a trip to the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta.

"I went with my brother and a friend and ended up getting tickets to the gold medal game," he said. "We had tickets for the opening round, and I told my brother I'd do anything to have tickets for the medal round. Just as I said that, three tickets came over my shoulder. The lady behind us was a rep for Coca-Cola."

Hanauer dropped the ceremonial puck at Sunday night's game against Chilliwack and raced Styrofoam hydroplanes against fans between periods. He also got a tour of the Americans' locker room, signed autographs and hung out with the fans.

But there was one thing he did not get to do.

"I wanted to play goalie," said Hanauer, who is a couple years too old to play in the WHL. "If I couldn't race hydroplanes, I wanted to be a race car driver, a downhill skier or a hockey goalie. One of the most amazing things in sports is watching a goalie make a save and to see them deal with the pressure.

"Hockey goalies, in that position with that much gear, I can't believe there is anything harder to keep track of the puck and stop it," he added. "It's amazing. If I could put the gear on and have them shoot softballs at me, it would be a thrill."

Hanauer may not get to play goalie for the Americans, but he has an idea that would at least let him have his 15 minutes of fame on the ice

"I want to come back here by the end of the year, put on the gear and see if a 55-year-old neophyte goalie can stop pucks by the residents of Hawthorne Court," he said. "It would be a fair match. They get five shots — I think I can stop at least one."