When it comes to the accuracy and stealth of your ice skates it is not a laughing matter to ponder ways to keep them in the best of shape. However, if you are comparing slick tiles to synthetic ice for ice skating purposes…the joke might be on you. Slick tiles vs synthetic ice? Keep reading to learn a thing or two about both of these fantastic flooring options.
What is Synthetic Ice?
The best way to describe synthetic ice is to first ascertain what it is not. Synthetic ice is not made out of frozen water, nor does it need to be frozen in order to provide a great ice skating surface. Although millions of people across the United States love and adore synthetic ice skating rinks, not all of them appreciate what it is.
Back in the early 1960s, a group of dedicated scientists and developers got together in hopes of creating a flooring solution that would allow ice skaters to glide across the surface in the same way that they do when they are skating across frozen water.
With real ice rinks that are made out of frozen water as the blades from the ice skates travel across the surface of the flooring the friction from the two of the forces combining creates a small amount of heat. This little bit of heat causes enough of the water to melt on the top of where the ice skates travel to ensure a slick surface. The water that forms the ice temporarily morphs into its original form and acts as a natural lubricant for the ice skates to glide across. Real ice provides an almost seamless flow of forward motion for the skater that makes ice skating such an elegant and beautiful skill.
- Melting ice causes water to lubricate
- Ice skate blades glide almost effortlessly
- Frozen water has to be cooled
Synthetic ice, on the other hand, is made out of polymer plastics that have become so advanced that allow for a type of self-lubrication that mimics real ice. As the ice skate blades move across the surface of the flooring, a miniscule amount of lubricant is released onto the surface to allow a smooth, slick skating experience.
The early versions of synthetic ice, also known as artificial ice, had to be constantly sprayed with a gliding agent that acted as a lubricant for the skaters.
- Synthetic ice is made from polymer plastics
- Polymers can be engineered to emit lubricants
- Synthetic ice can be installed and skated on in any weather
Basically, synthetic ice has evolved over the years and is now better than it has ever been. It can be installed just about anywhere and can be used throughout the year during all types of weather.
What Are Slick Tiles?
Although the term “slick tiles” may sound like the type of flooring that a person could ice skate on, this kind of flooring does not allow for ice skates, but for inline skates, or sneakers. Slick Tiles are the Sniper’s Edge version of dryland hockey flooring for off-ice hockey players.
What is so great about the dryland flooring tiles is that they are made into small squares, one foot by one foot, so that you can install them in smaller areas, or larger areas.
Slick tiles, AKA dryland hockey tiles, are:
- Lightweight and small
- Easy to install
- Equipped with linking edges
- Made for inline skates or sneakers
If you plan to buy yourself some slick tiles to ice skate on, you might want to re-think your plan. It is virtually impossible to ice skate on dryland flooring.
Imagine trying to ice skate gracefully across your grandma’s linoleum floor. That would be about the same feeling as trying to ice skate on slick tiles.
Although dryland flooring is made out of polymer plastics as well, there are different components that go into the construction of the substances that make up synthetic ice. Synthetic ice is designed, on a molecular level, to accommodate ice skates and ice skaters. Dryland flooring is designed to accommodate inline skates, and to provide a slick surface for the pucks and the sticks to be effective with shooting and stickhandling.
Ice Skating Blades and Wear
Obviously, synthetic ice will be better for you ice skating blades than dryland hockey flooring. In fact, synthetic ice may be better for ice skating blades than actual ice. If the synthetic ice rink is kept free of debris and dirt on a regular basis, there should not be much of a problem for ice skate blades other than the normal wear and tear that they will get from skating. However, actual ice – since it is made out of water and melts – has the tendency to get sand, dirt, and other grime stuck inside of it where it is held captive in the ice.
Skating on ice skate blades over rocks and other hard surfaces will tear into the blades and cause chipping or dullness. Since an ice rink that is made out of frozen water will have hardened particles trapped in its surface, it is easy to see that real ice can actually cause more damage than synthetic ice.
Hockey on Dryland Flooring
Another great thing about dryland flooring is that it can be very versatile for hockey players. Dryland flooring can accommodate either biscuits or balls. Although most real hockey players prefer ice skates and regulation pucks, the off-ice hockey players can be pretty serious about their games.
Inline skates can move pretty quickly across the rink, sometimes faster than ice skates, so playing hockey on dryland can be just as competitive and high voltage as ice hockey.
Synthetic Ice Compared to Actual Ice
We mentioned earlier that synthetic ice is creed in order to mimic real ice. The difference between skating on synthetic ice and real ice can vary depending on the quality of the synthetic ice. For example, a low quality synthetic ice flooring will ultimately be cumbersome and hard to skate upon, it may even need to have lubricants and extra additives applied to it in order to be slick.
However, a higher grade of synthetic ice can be self lubricating and have a much more similar feel to it compared to real ice.
In any case, most skaters find that when they ice skate on synthetic ice flooring they experience a slight drag along with a bit of resistance, when compared to real ice.
One of the benefits of training on synthetic ice is that the increased resistance causes the muscles to work harder in order to propel the skates across the flooring. This extra resistance helps to build muscle and endurance, which result in a stronger and more powerful player.
Although synthetic ice has gotten pretty close to mimicking real ice, it is not quite the same. Any skilled skater will be able to feel the difference immediately when they hit the rink. However, the resistance and slight drag are just enough to build strength, but not quite enough to hinder the skater in a way that would cause them to be worn out quickly.
There is no comparison for ice skate health between dryland flooring and synthetic ice. Both are great flooring, but only synthetic ice will allow for ice skating. It also goes for inline skates on synthetic ice. It just doesn’t work. Try inline skates on a real ice rink to get an idea of why it’s a bad idea.
In the end, the hockey flooring that is best for you will be the one that you prefer. Your style and your strategy might be different from other people’s. That doesn’t matter, your style is your own and your choices are golden for who you are. The main thing is that you keep playing and getting better at what you do.d