It’s the middle of summer in Phoenix, Arizona, and it’s the ideal weather for a game of synthetic ice hockey.
“30 minutes until puck drops,” you send a group text.
The expected responses start to materialize within seconds.
“Lace ’em up,” says the narrator.
“I’m in!” says the participant.
“I’ll be on my way.”
“That’s wonderful, but I’m going to be late.”
Are you and your friends going to play hockey outside in the 100-degree heat? Doesn’t it seem a little far-fetched?
Not at all. For decades, the chance has existed.
For better or worse, the introduction of synthetic ice in the 1960s transformed hockey into a year-round sport that can be played at any temperature.
Just ask Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the No. 1 overall NHL lottery pick in 2008 who recently surpassed 400 career goals.
Stamkos became a six-time NHL All-Star after combining a strong work ethic with blistering one-timer and a great skating style during his 12-year career.
When he was younger and practicing on synthetic ice with his father, Stamkos was notorious for taking 500 shots per day to fine-tune his approach and execution.
It’s not hard to imagine a young Stamkos practicing his characteristic goal celebration while sliding over the synthetic hockey rink on one knee and pumping his fist.
What Is Synthetic Ice Made Of, and What Does It Contain?
Synthetic ice interconnects smooth polymer-based panels used to simulate natural ice for a realistic skating experience.
Synthetic ice panels have undergone a succession of modifications and developments throughout the years. Modern panels include ultra-high molecular weight and high-density polyethylene, which have replaced either soft or too firm surfaces and have consistently improved the skating experience.
Improvements in synthetic ice performance have come through studies with various polymer compositions and the inclusion of “slip” agents.
Depending on its intended usage, synthetic ice can be purchased in several sizes. Panels are available in various sizes and thicknesses. It is possible to create a simple setup, and a mallet is usually required to piece together a rink to meet the measurements of the practice area.
What Is the Price of a Synthetic Ice Rink?
When interested parties consider making such an investment, two crucial issues may arise: how much does a synthetic ice rink cost, and how long does synthetic ice last?
Simple economics is the answer to both problems. It is dependent on the product’s quality. However, depending on the size of the rink you want to build, you should anticipate paying anything from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Synthetic Ice’s Advantages and Disadvantages
When weighing the advantages and disadvantages of synthetic ice, many supporters point to how far the technology has progressed over the last few decades.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages:
Pro: Synthetic Ice Is a Close Match to Real Ice
While early, less expensive versions of synthetic ice frustrated many skaters due to poor surfaces and the rapid deterioration of their skate blades, technological advancements have allowed hockey players to practice skating abilities such as beginning and stopping, turning, and skating backward.
Synthetic ice is the most realistic substitute for practicing stickhandling, passing and shooting on real ice.
Stamkos can attest to that.
Synthetic Ice Can Be Used All Year
Finding open ice times can be difficult for most skaters, especially when they want to work on technique and form. The cost of ice time at a local rink might quickly add up.
There are limitless options to train in more controlled surroundings, like a basement or garage, with fake ice.
Synthetic Ice Can Be Used in Any Weather
In almost any weather condition, synthetic ice can be used. And this is one of the main reasons why skaters have always acquired synthetic ice panels and accessories.
Pro: Synthetic Ice Is Economical
Synthetic boards are cost-effective due to the elimination of the need for compressors to cool ice surfaces. Owners of fake ice panels also don’t have to bother about maintaining ideal humidity and temperature levels in their rooms.
Synthetic ice might cause damage to your skates.
Panels that are of poor quality or that have been neglected could damage your skates and disrupt your skating session.
The soft surfaces of older-style panels were made of low molecular weight polymers, which led them to break down. Skaters’ edges can quickly dull on hard polymer surfaces, leading them to lose their balance and wipe out.
Con: Synthetic Ice Doesn’t Have the Same Smoothness as Real Ice
Even the best synthetic ice surfaces are not as naturally smooth as real ice and frequently generate resistance during each glide. On the other hand, the greater friction may prove helpful over time, as the extra effort can help a skater’s endurance and strength.
Skaters who return to a natural ice surface report a smoother, more forceful glide, which helps them improve their speed and balance.
How to Take Care of Synthetic Ice
Forget about filling up your gas tank and driving a Zamboni around artificial ice rinks.
Connect a vacuum cleaner to the outlet. It will remove the shavings from most surfaces, allowing for a smoother next skate session.
Is It Possible to Play Hockey on Synthetic Ice?
Yes. Who could argue with one of the best NHL forwards in the last ten years?
Stamkos, who has played hockey on synthetic ice since he was a kid, would agree.
Others utilize it for leisurely glides or figure skating.
Is it necessary to resurface synthetic ice?
Owners will eventually need to learn to resurface synthetic ice once the rink is set up and ready to use. The steps you’ll need to take vary based on the sort of panels you bought.
“Self-lubrication” technology is used in some high-quality synthetic ice products. This function ensures a smooth glide in the panels without chemicals. UV protection is included on other surfaces to keep the synthetic ice from deteriorating when exposed to natural factors like the sun and snow.
To protect synthetic hockey ice panels, top-of-the-line accessories are required. The dasher boards (the boards surrounding hockey rinks) will impair the entire artificial ice experience, no matter how flawless the panels are.
There is a significant difference between high-end synthetic ice surfaces and low-quality equivalents, just as with many other consumer goods. When considering whether or not to make such an investment, thorough research is essential.
It could mean the difference between a pleasurable skating experience and a frustrating one.
In any weather or at any time of day.