Trying to find solutions for getting in your hockey practice at home can be complicated, to say the least. Trying to find a solution that will work as well as real ice can be even more complicated, or so it would seem. One solution a lot of people use is synthetic ice.
Many people that consider using this kind of ice have a lot of concerns. The largest among those concerns is that the artificial ice won’t be able to provide even a comparable experience to real ice. That is a valid concern because you are, after all, having to sink at least a little bit of money into this project.
In fact, it’s incredibly likely that you’ll want to have as close to the same experience as you would get on real ice as possible. That’s all anyone really wants out of this kind of thing, isn’t it? At the very least, it would make more people feel as if they got their money’s worth.
We wanted to know for ourselves so we decided to look into this very subject so you can get a better idea of how artificial ice compares to true ice. We’re going to look at the positives and negatives of artificial ice in this article as well as explaining exactly what we’re talking about, so stay tuned for some very useful information!
What is Artificial Ice Anyway?
While artificial ice isn’t necessarily “new” by any stretch of the imagination, there are still a lot of people that don’t really know what it is. This is entirely fair, we all have gaps in our knowledge. Nobody knows everything, and for some people, their lack of knowledge ends before the concept of artificial ice.
Artificial ice is, in short, ice that is made up of something other than water. In some cases, when people refer to “artificial ice” they’re referring to chemically frozen water. While that is technically also artificial ice, that’s not what we’re referring to in today’s article. That being said, there are a lot of resources about the other kind of artificial ice.
The kind of artificial ice that we’re referring to today is usually made up of a plastic that is very complicated from a molecular viewpoint. They have very long, complicated names that you need a passion for chemistry to understand, like ultra-low-molecular-weight polyethylene.
Artificial ice has evolved a lot over the years. As time has gone on, more and more companies have dedicated entire parts of their research and development departments to figure out how to get closer and closer to the feel of real ice for the people that are skating on the synthetic ice.
It’s come a long way over the last few decades. Early versions of artificial ice that was available to consumers needed to be lubricated regularly in order to provide a fraction of the experience that real ice is able to do naturally.
Modern artificial ice isn’t quite as fickle, and you don’t need to apply lubrication to the vast majority of the products that are on the market. You do still, however, need to clean it off from time to time to make sure that your skating experience is as good as possible.
The earliest version of artificial ice was actually created before hockey was in England. It did well, but it wasn’t everything that the creators had hoped it would be, with their skating rinks eventually shutting down because they couldn’t afford to keep them running.
The Positive Aspects of Artificial Ice
Artificial ice is fantastic for a lot of reasons, and there are a lot of people that use it from all different kinds of ice sports. It can provide a great surface to practice not only hockey but things. For example:
- Figure skating
- Speed skating
The best thing about artificial ice is the fact that you can use it indoors or outdoors year-round without having to worry about the ice melting, which is probably the only downside to using real ice. Artificial ice definitely has real ice beat on that front.
Artificial ice is also a lot more portable than real ice because it’s made up of modular tiles. That means that if you need to move it, all you need to do is take it apart and then put it back together. This does, however, take time but not as much time as it would take to move a real ice skating rink.
On top of that, it is typically weatherproof. That means that you could feasibly just set it up in your backyard and not have to worry about it unless some crazy weather is coming your way. Of course, it will stand up to most weather scenarios and come through the other side just fine.
That being said, it might get a small amount of damage if there’s suddenly three or four feet of snow on top of it, or if it’s 120 degrees out and the tiles are directly in the sun. That being said, most weather conditions will absolutely be safe for the tiles.
The Negative Aspects of Artificial Ice
Of course, everything in this world has a catch. Some of these can be shifted into positives, depending on your perspective, but that’s really up to you and your own preferences. That being said, let’s cover some of the bad things about artificial ice.
Firstly, no, artificial ice is not able to provide the same glide factor as real ice. It can be pretty close, but there are a lot of people that say that skating on artificial ice feels a lot like trying to skate on sand rather than skating on actual ice.
Some people would see this as a slight positive because it is able to give you some resistance training, which can help you be stronger and faster when push comes to shove. That being said, it’s up to you if that’s a silver lining you’d like to claim.
Artificial ice also wears down your ice skates about twice as fast as real ice does. That means every half hour of skating on the synthetic ice is doing about as much damage to your skates as an hour of skating on real ice.
Because of this, if you have artificial ice you might see your spending on sharpening your blades double. If you do decide to get artificial ice, we would highly recommend getting a sharpener for yourself so you can save some money on keeping your blades as sharp as possible.
That being said, even if you do get yourself a blade sharpener it does take time to do, and it takes practice to make sure that you’re doing a good job at making sure that you’re getting the blades as sharp as you possibly can, and that could be time or money you don’t have for this.
On top of that, if you’re looking to play any ice sports that use ice but not ice skates, you’re gonna have a bad time. The reason why a lot of ice sports work is because ice melts and creates a very thin layer of water on top of the ice.
That thin layer of water on top of the ice is also what makes skating on ice so easy. Friction melts the ice little by little, and this thin layer acts as a sort of lubrication that makes things slip and slide on the ice with a lot more ease.
That means that a lot of sports are off the table because they simply won’t work. Of course, you probably already assumed that things like skiing and snowboarding were off the table because those are more snow sports than ice sports.
We do have some bad news for fans of curling because you will not be able to practice curling on artificial ice. It just won’t work, curlers absolutely need that thin layer of water if they have any hope of moving the stone. On artificial ice, it would be a lot like just pushing the stone on dry land.
On top of all of that, there are a lot of low-quality products on the market that can degrade with little effort, and without doing research it can be really hard to know if the product you’re getting is one that will hold up under pressure or one that will just fall apart when you skate on it.
Getting the Most Out of Your Home Training
Everyone wants to find the best way to train at home so they can continue to grow their skills even when they aren’t in the middle of an active hockey season. That will allow for them to be better hockey players both in the short and long term.
Fortunately, if you know what you’re doing you can be sure that you’re getting the best equipment that you can to get your at-home training whenever you want. Whether you go with artificial ice or you decide that some other method is better, you can definitely improve your skills without having to step out of your house.