As the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning head into this month’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Bradenton’s Ali Murdock has been keeping the team on firm footing. This season the 26-year-old Lakewood Ranch High School grad has been the only woman driving a Zamboni for an NHL team.
A lifelong Lightning fan, Murdock began skating at Ellenton Ice and Sports at age 6 and played competitive travel ice hockey through high school.
“I always knew I wanted to work for the Lightning,” she says.
In 2015, she attended a Lightning hockey camp and turned heads with her skating ability. A staffer offered her a job on Tampa’s Amalie Arena Ice Crew shoveling snow during commercial breaks at Lightning games.
Murdock immersed herself in the intricacies of NHL ice maintenance. “Bad ice conditions put players at risk,” she says. The job is especially tough in hot, humid Florida, and gets even tougher during the early summer playoff runs.
As part of the Ice Crew’s complicated game-day system, two Zambonis (brand-name ice-resurfacing machines) are driven in choreographed laps during intermissions to prepare the ice for the upcoming period.
After practicing for three years, Murdock made her home-game Zamboni-driving debut during last year’s NHL playoffs, in front of more than 20,000 screaming fans. “I was extremely nervous,” she admits, but credits her bosses and her crewmates for supporting her.
This season, she’s been a regular fixture behind the wheel. A March ESPN.com article lauded her as the league’s only female Zam driver, though Murdock isn’t too wrapped up in the distinction. “It’s a dream job for a lot of people—including myself,” she says.