Coq. grandmother fulfills Zamboni zeal

A Coquitlam grandmother has finally lived her sporting dream — even though she’s 80 years old.

Liz Thunstrom said she always wanted to ride a Zamboni around a pristine white ice rink, and last week the Vancouver Giants hockey team, with a little secret help from her family, made her ambition come true. Just several days after she officially became an octogenarian on Aug. 28.

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On Sept. 7, Thunstrom’s family, including her grandaughter Kaitlyn Williams and her sister Brianna, as well as their parents, Holly and Todd, along with two of her grandsons, Alex and Ryan Nieuwenhuis, and several family friends, took her on a celebratory family outing. But they didn’t tell her it was at the Langley Events Centre where the Giants would be hosting the Victoria Cougars in a Western Hockey League preseason game.

Midway through the first period, Thunstrom was escorted to the arena’s bowels where the team’s “Fanboni,” a specially-modified ice resurfacing machine that can accommodate passengers, was warming up to scrape the ice between periods.

Thunstrom beamed ear to ear.

“I think that is terrific,” she said after perching in the passenger box for a few spins around the ice, waving to the fans who hadn’t retreated to the concessions, and then posing for photos afterward.

Williams, the organizer of the surprise, said her grandma’s wish was pretty unique.

“She does a lot of stuff,” she said. “She’s pretty awesome.” 

Thunstrom, an avid gardner who belongs to the Dogwood Gardening Club, said she had no idea what initially attracted her to the idea of riding a Zamboni.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to do it,” she said. “I always thought it would be fun.”

And so it was.

“I feel very lucky to have a family like this,” she said of her conspirators.

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