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Kahnawake Sports Complex Zamboni driver Ray Diabo retires after 33 years

WATCH: Ray Diabo has been keeping the ice at the Kahnawake Sports Complex in impeccable shape ever since the arena opened. But as Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, after 30 years, Diabo is retiring and Sunday will be his last day on the Zamboni.

Ray Diabo’s work could be considered a behind the scenes job, but at the Kahnawake Sports Complex, he’s more of a leading man.

“There’s a lot of people in the audience. They wave at me, I wave like the queen — just like this,” Diabo said, while showing his best Queen Elizabeth II impression.

Diabo has been working as the arena’s Zamboni driver since the day it opened in 1986.

The arena is his “home away from home,” as he calls it.

He knows everyone and and everything about the arena, but he says his lips are sealed when it comes to sharing any secrets.

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The man loves his job so much that at 71 years old, he wasn’t thinking of retirement — until retirement came knocking on his door.

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“I had a light stroke and it turned my life around and I said, ‘that’s it,'” Diabo told Global News.

After working six days a week for 33 years, he broke the news to his unsuspecting colleagues and friends.

“They were shocked, surprised. Some said, ‘It’s about time, you know. Move on,'” he said.

“I’m moving on; you’ll miss me,” he chuckled.

WATCH: The Kahnawake Brewing Co. sits on reserve land, but caters to anyone who walks through its doors. 

Kahnawake brewery growing in popularity
Kahnawake brewery growing in popularity

It’s easy to see what he means. Diabo always has a smile and a trick or two to play.

“Got ’em!” he says after he honked and managed to scare the president of the Kahnawake Figure Skating Club, Phyllis Fazio-Mayo.

“We’re all going to miss him, everybody. From the youngest right to the oldest, the coaches, the staff — everybody,” Fazio-Mayo says.

READ MORE: Just Like Home: Kahnawake traditions run deep in a changing world

Fazio-Mayo says she feels privileged Diabo’s last ride will happen during the club’s 25th anniversary celebrations on Sunday.

Although his Zamboni days are coming to a close, Diabo says he will still continue to drive: “Drive my wife crazy,” he replied jokingly.

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And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see him at the rink again: “I got the keys, I can sneak [in] here at night,” he laughed.
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