Ask any hockey player, and they can remember, in vivid detail, when they got their first hockey stick.
Maybe it was an old Titan stick (before they got acquired by CCM), a Bauer or STX stick today.
When you get that first hockey stick, you want to try it out ASAP.
Unfortunately, you have to wait until you can get to the ice.
Can you use synthetic ice for shooting pucks?
Synthetic ice is a versatile alternative to natural ice.
You can use it for leisure skating, figure skating practice, and training and playing hockey.
It is easy to assemble and install.
You can even have it in your home so you can practice anytime.
You can improve all your hockey skills during the off-season, or maybe just play a fun game with friends.
Synthetic ice for shooting pucks is very popular in the hockey community.
Whether for a team or individual practice, it is an excellent skating surface.
Aside from skating, you can also practice passing, stickhandling, goaltending, and of course, shooting pucks.
The pucks glide across synthetic ice with the same smoothness and speed you will expect on normal ice.
Why practicing your shooting matters
Shooting is one of the most important skills you should learn, especially as a winger or center.
At a base level, you want to get better at scoring goals.
However, practicing shooting goes a lot deeper.
You also hone balance, and concentration, increase your range and improve your accuracy.
But, the main key to improving your shooting skills is reps.
It’s what makes Steph Curry so good.
Hundreds of shots per day.
And it’s what made legends like Gretzky so good too.
We have muscle memory.
The more you shooting repetitions you do, the easier and more accurate your shooting will be.
The challenges of training
Off-ice training is particularly challenging for hockey players.
You often settle on practicing on concrete, flooring tiles, or mats.
Some players invest in shooting pads or slide boards.
While you can use a puck this time, you can’t use your ice skates on these surfaces.
The best you can do is to use rollerblades to practice skating.
For passing and shooting practice, you also have to use balls or other types of “pucks.”
These alternatives help with your mechanics, but they don’t really provide an identical experience with ice, skates, and pucks.
What about on-ice training?
Well, it’s really down to access and availability.
How often do you want to practice your shooting?
And for how long?
These figures would mean finding a rink outside normal Gametime or training.
Unless you live in an area that has multiple rinks, you’ll find that ice training could be a logical and financial challenge.
Can Synthetic Ice make a difference?
The best alternative to natural ice is actually synthetic ice.
Synthetic ice replicates the properties of real ice, so you can practice all those hockey skills - skating, stickhandling, passing and shooting pucks, and goaltending.
It also allows you to use your regular skates, sticks, and pucks.
The polymer material of synthetic ice offers slight resistance (or the coefficient of friction), but that’s ok. In fact, it’s useful for your training.
Positive resistance training can make you become faster, stronger, and better conditioned, and the friction slightly impacts the puck, but the difference is unnoticeable.
Synthetic ice comes in tiles or panels that can fit in small spaces.
You simply connect the grooves at the edges and can have your own mini rink.
For instance, PolyGlide ice offers a Pro-Glide Infused Ice.
Its solid core surface provides an ice-like feel perfect for your hockey career.
It is also infused with a self-lubricating panel that offers optimal glide and performance with durability built to last.
One kit gives you 32 SF of skating space.
Benefits of synthetic ice:
In addition to the advantages mentioned above, synthetic ice has other benefits, especially for hockey players.
Ice tiles and panels are easy to install
The first benefit is that synthetic ice is easy to install.
They are usually packed as tiles or panels, which you can assemble on any flat and hard surface.
The synthetic ice panels fit together like a puzzle.
You can use a rubber mallet to ensure the tiles connect smoothly and evenly.
You can do it on your own.
Although, if you are installing several sets of panels - probably for team practice or a large rink - it’s best to have a helping hand.
You can train anywhere
Synthetic ice will also allow you to train both indoors and outdoors.
Once you have space in your driveway, garage, deck, or backyard, you can set up and train anywhere.
You can arrange the tiles in a straight line or square, depending on your specific drill.
The only prerequisite is that you use a flat surface for synthetic ice.
Some surfaces are uneven, so you may need to add plywood as an underlay before installing the ice panels.
We also recommend putting up barriers around your rink, especially if you are training solo or you want to avoid damaging property.
You can set up bounce bars, PVC pipe, or netting to avoid sliding off ice panels, stray pucks, and ruining your skates.
You can train anytime
Having a synthetic ice rink also gives you unlimited ice time, so you can easily improve your skating skills and overall game performance.
Since you have control over your ice training, you can easily plan out your schedule and allocate as much time as you need to work on your shots.
You can improve your skating agility and speed while enhancing your shooting accuracy.
More importantly, you don’t have to wait until winter to start training.
You can use the tiles in the summer, improving your accuracy while everyone else is resting.
It builds your strength and stamina
As mentioned above, synthetic ice offers slight resistance.
However, it will not hinder you from moving freely.
With the extra resistance every training, your strength is built, similar to what weight trainers do.
It also builds your stamina because you must work harder to endure your training or game.
Over time, practicing on synthetic ice will become second nature so playing on natural ice is easier.
You save rink time and money
Regarding cost, having your own synthetic ice rink also generates long-term savings.
First, you can save time that you would otherwise have to spend traveling to a commercial ice rink.
Instead of traveling for 30-40 minutes to the nearest local rink, you can already start warming up and practicing in your backyard.
Parents who need to take their kids for extra sessions can save that time by investing in a backyard rink.
It’s a safe space where they can improve under your watchful eye.
When it comes to cost, training in a home ice rink will also save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.
The transport and gas costs go back into your pocket, especially with rising inflation.
Synthetic ice is made of durable polymer plastic, so it has a life expectancy of over 10 years.
You will see your return on investment after a few months and save in the coming years.
Try these puck training drills
A synthetic ice rink is particularly helpful in improving your puck shooting skills.
Aside from the ice, you will need a goal, a net to prevent stray pucks, some targets, and cones.
You can focus on hitting specific areas of the goal or targets.
One session could be spent on hitting a specific target.
Check out some of these drills from Snipe Academy:
You can practice forehand to backhand shots, one-timers, quick shots, slap shots, and much more.
You can also focus on shooting from various angles.
Since goalies are becoming more skilled at cutting off angles and adopting positions like the butterfly, you want to get shots off to fool them or make it difficult to save.
Try these challenges like the Puck Pull Shooting Challenge or the Toe Drag Pull.
Train on synthetic ice today
Having your own synthetic ice rink brings a lot of advantages and benefits for you and your teammates.
On it, you can train anytime, either alone or with friends.
With unlimited ice time, you also have unlimited opportunities to improve your skills, especially in shooting pucks.
So keep on shooting those pucks and get synthetic ice to stay ahead of the competition.
If you feel a home synthetic ice rink may be for you, check out the rink packages we put together to address your home training needs and bedget!