Moncton Wildcats put ‘human hockey puck hovercraft’ on ice

All it took was a couple of leaf blowers, a sheet of plywood, black paint and some very late nights for James Upham of Moncton to build the first “human hockey puck hovercraft.”

Upham is in charge of programming at Moncton’s Resurgo Place, a transportation discovery centre and museum, and when the Moncton Wildcats approached him to be part of their season opener in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League he immediately wanted to do something different.

“The idea came up — why not a human hockey puck? So I sat and drew a thing up and it’s scaled to an actual hockey puck,” Upham said.

It took him two weeks to build the giant hockey puck, which measures 120 centimetres in diameter and 40 centimetres high and is large enough for hockey fans to ride.

James Upham human hockey puck

James Upham of Moncton’s Resurgo Place shows off the human hockey puck hovercraft he invented using two leaf blowers. (Kenneth Hebert/CBC)

“It’ll lift about 300 pounds. It’s got two, 40-volt lithium-ion battery-powered leaf blowers that’ll move about 600 cubic feet of air per minute,” he said.

Upham said the project took over his life for a couple of weeks but seeing it glide across the ice at the Moncton Coliseum in Friday’s opening game was “awesome.”

“The trick was making it big enough and scaling it and getting the two leaf blowers in there and keeping everything balanced. And also you’re going to have a person on it and making sure that it’s going to have enough lift … it was a bit of a process,” Upham laughed.

I kind of had hovercraft on the brain.
– James Upham

“I kind of had hovercraft on the brain.”

You can’t steer the human hockey puck, but it is simple to control with a single joystick.

“When you want to stop, just let go. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. You can’t mess it up,” Upham said.

Fans can ride the human hockey puck

At the game ,young Wildcats fans were given a chance to ride the human hockey puck during intermission.

Ticket sales manager Sarah Nesbitt said she is “super-impressed” with the final product.

At the opener children were blind-folded and pushed onto the ice with only the fans to guide them to centre ice.

We’re probably going to build another one and eventually do races with them on ice during intermissions.
– Sarah Nesbitt

“The fans cheer, tell them when to stop and then the rider will just let go and see how close to centre ice they are,” she said.

“We’re probably going to build another one and eventually do races with them on ice during intermissions.”

Upham was there pushing the young fans onto the ice and said it worked just as he had hoped.

“It was awesome. I mean the kid literally flew.”

Nesbitt calls the human hockey puck the first of its kind in the hockey world.

“There’s an NHL team that does a human hockey puck but it’s literally a foam suit and the person is running — so it’s completely different. First of this kind ever.”

Nesbitt is hoping it will become a draw for hockey fans. Riders will be chosen from those who make group bookings for Wildcats games, or who fill out a ballot at Resurgo Place. 

“Hopefully as things move forward  this becomes sort of a thing to be like, ‘Hey you know, I went to a Wildcats game and I got to ride the human hockey puck.”

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