Known by fans as the zamboni driver, Nagel has many more tasks

Erik Nagel stands against the glass at the BGSU Ice Arena, waiting for students in an advanced hockey class to exit the ice so he can run the zamboni.

“You want to ride the Z?” he asks.

Nagel, the arena’s superintendent, has been around the rink once or twice, maybe more.

“After the first thousand or so times, it all starts to feel the same,” he said.

The Bowling Green native played hockey throughout the early part of his life, including a three-year stint on the Bowling Green High School Bobcat hockey team in the late 1980s.

He enrolled at the University and began part-time work as a student at the Ice Arena in 1991, early on in his college career. While he never received a diploma from the University, Nagel quickly earned a full-time job as superintendent.

And he’s been here ever since.

“I was paying my own way through school, so I needed a full time job,” Nagel said, noting his place of occupation keeps him quite busy. “It’s an old building, so something needs repaired every day.”

The BGSU Ice Arena was constructed in the mid-1960s, and with portions of the building’s infrastructure now quite outdated, many replacement parts can no longer be ordered.

But there are plenty of other daily tasks for Nagel and his staff during the week, and especially on days when the Falcon varsity team has games.

Such duties include cleaning the rink glass, ensuring lights on the scoreboards are functioning and generally prepping the arena for a Central Collegiate Hockey Association game.

“Game days are busy,” Nagel said. “We to try to put our best foot on the ice to make sure everything’s ready.”

When he first started, Nagel says replenishing the ice between periods in front of several thousand fans took some getting used to.

He said, “It could be pretty nerve-racking for me back then. Fans used to be able to reach over the glass here and a couple times people tried to grab me.”

Nagel, 36, is well known among many members of the local hockey community.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘I was yelling at you and you didn’t respond!’ But it all blends together so much,” Nagel said.

Though he’s been working at the Ice Arena for less than 20 years, Nagel seems to be a veteran of ice care. The building’s manager, Buddy Powers, said he is glad to have him around.

“He’s indispensable,” Powers said. “With the different aspects he can perform regarding plumbing and electric work in the arena, he’s a great asset for the University.”

Powers has seen Nagel work his way up and gain more experience to the point that he can keep an aging building in working condition.

“I’ve probably known Eric for a good 15 years. He was first starting to work here in his late teenage years back when I was coaching,” Powers said. “There’s an awful lot of things that go on behind the scenes at an ice arena that many people don’t know about.”

Nagel’s brother, sister and parents still live in BG, but his family has grown ever larger in recent years. Now married, Nagel and his wife have three children.

But he hasn’t quite been able to teach all of them his favorite sport.

Not yet, anyway.

“My oldest son is eight and he’s the only one who’s really old enough. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem interested,” Nagel said.

But with a daughter and another son, there’s hope.

“I’ve got two more, so I’ll work on them.”