The days when ice skating was only available to the masses throughout the winter months are no longer. The local ice Arena was the only option for anyone that wanted a leisurely skate at a moment’s notice, other than that you needed to live in the Northern hemisphere and wait for the pond to freeze over.
People wonder why winter sports like Ice Hockey, Figure Skating and Curling become so popular every four years during the Olympic Games. The reason I would say is partly because to grow the game you need the ice that comes with it….and to make it yourself would cost a LOT of money… until now.
Times have certainly changed with the development of new synthetic ice plastics that are portable and easy to assemble to create your own artificial ice rink virtually anywhere. Over the years the polymer industry has made huge strides in creating hardened plastics that have changed the way we live.
Plastics manufactured today are durable enough for knee and hip replacements. They are also resistant enough to handle the wear and tear of ice skating on a flat sheet….and yes, these plastics are very similar in a lot of ways.
The big difference between todays synthetic ice plastics and those from the early days is what actually makes the surface slippery. In the early days, most surfaces were simply a large white cutting board with oils applied (yes, I said oils) to make it slippery enough to skate on.
That would be ideal today if you wanted to slice up a nice salad with your skates but probably wouldn’t be the best option for ice skating. Today’s newer polymer plastics have become denser and abrasive-resistant while surface glide enhancers designed just for synthetic ice have also developed along the way.
The biggest development has been in the manufacturing process where plastic ice is now being designed solely for the purpose of ice skating. The introduction of “slip agents” during manufacturing actually make the plastic slippery enough not to require surface enhancers. Without getting too technical, this development creates way less surface friction and makes it feel much more like you’re on natural ice and the overall experience much more pleasurable. It also creates more options for those who always wanted to try ice skating but it was never an option.
A New Ice Age Cometh
Growing up I always remembered looking through the old NHL team Media Guides at some of my favorite hockey players and at the bottom of the page where it said “Birthplace” they ALL said “CANADA”.
Times have certainly changed over the years as the Sport of Hockey and Figure Skating continues to grow into the South and warmer climate areas. With the introduction of these new synthetic ice plastics backyard rinks can be set-up year-round allowing more great skaters and players to hone their skills.
With the development of synthetic ice plastics you can look for these sports to continue to grow and develop more players and skaters that may come from some unrecognizable zip codes.
By Jim Loughran, PolyGlide Ice