First Person

Frog Pond’s ice king

Donnie Mooney grew up to have the part-time job of his dreams, operating the Zamboni at the skating rink on Boston Common.

“The slower you go, the better you make ice,” says Donnie Mooney of his rink-grooming duties.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
“The slower you go, the better you make ice,” says Donnie Mooney of his rink-grooming duties.

I’ve been there since it opened [in January 1997]. I was a skate guard, just skating around making sure everybody’s having a good time, that there are no problems. I grew up playing hockey in Neponset, probably since the age of 7 or 8. I WAS A RINK RAT; I lived a couple of blocks away, and we would always be down the rink. THE COOLEST THING DOWN THERE WAS ALWAYS THE ZAMBONI. So I had my eyes set on that, and within two years my boss had me up on the machine. I’ve been there ever since.

It’s a lot of fun. It’s a different kind of job than a 9-to-5 where you’re sitting in a cubicle. You’re outside, and there are always tons of people. It’s ONE OF THE TOP DATING SPOTS in Boston. It’s in the middle of the Common, and now that the Christmas lights are up, when it’s snowing out, it’s a good romantic background. WE ACTUALLY DO PROPOSALS, TOO, where people can get out at center ice and get down on one knee, and hopefully she says “yes.” And the percentage of how many times they say no? They all say “yes.”

Cam Neely was doing a fund-raiser down there, about 10 years ago, and everyone’s out looking at whoever the Bruins were then. And there’s this one guy down at the end of the rink, and I’m like, “MY GOD! THAT’S BOBBY ORR, and not one person’s skating with him!” So I threw my skates on, and I go over and I said, “Hey, Mr. Orr, how ya doing? Mind if I chat with you?” You can only imagine, skating around the rink with Bobby Orr with no one else.  — As told to Joel Brown

Interview has been edited and condensed.