Ice skating is a fantastic sport that challenges the body and mind. Kids and adults of all ages skate, especially during the winter holidays.
But have you ever wondered about the origins of ice skating?
Are you intrigued by the sport and want to know more about its history?
You’re in the right place.
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These 50 ice skating facts will help answer your pressing questions, and some may even blow your mind.
Ice Skating Origins
1. The first ice skates were made of bone.
Some historians trace the first ice skates in Finland, where people used sharpened bones attached to leather straps to transport themselves and materials over large areas of ice. (Source:Britannia)
2. Ice skating is one of the oldest sports.
Evidence of people skating on ice for competitive purposes dates the Middle Ages and then the early 1700s in the Netherlands, France, and Britain. (Source: Britannia)
3. The first figure skating club started in the 1740s in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Members had to pass an entrance exam, which included jumping over a stack of three hats. If only they could see the jumps performed now! (Source: History.com)
4. The first organized international competition occurred in 1914.
The competition was put on by the International Skating Union (ISU), which was founded in 1892. The event was open to all amateur skaters (Source: ISU)
5. The first metal skates were Dutch-made.
The Dutch played a significant role in advancing ice skate concepts. In the 13th century, they began using wooden platforms with iron blades to navigate frozen canals and waterways for transportation during winter months. (Source: Wonderopolis)
6. So were the first ice skating boots.
7. John Wilson is one of the oldest ice skating blade brands.
Blades and boots are often manufactured separately, though there are many brands today that make both. John Wilson is one of the first blade-making brands on record, established in 1696. (Source: John Wilson Skates)
8. Ice skating was once only for the wealthy.
Like renting of pineapples, Ice skating became fashionable and accessible only among European aristocrats and nobility in the 17th and 18th centuries. French and Russian royalty were particularly fond of ice skating. This status still permeates skating today, as there is an impression that the sport is expensive to start and only accessible to certain economic classes. (Source: Atlas Obscura)
9. The first indoor Ice hockey game was in 1875,
The origin of ice hockey is still murky. However, the first indoor ice hockey game was played in Montreal, Quebec, on March 3rd, 1875. (Source: History.com)
10. In the Winter Olympics, all ice skating sports are held indoors.
Figure skating, speed skating, hockey, and curling are all held indoors. All other ice sports are essentially outdoor events (Source: Top End Sports)
Ice Skating Facts
11. Over 9.5 million Americans ice skate.
Ice skating numbers declined over the last ten years, but its popularity is rising again, especially since the pandemic. (Source: Statista)
12. You’re not melting the ice with your blades.
Ice actually develops a microscopic film of water over its surface, allowing you to glide across it with your blades (Source: Vox)
13. Don’t confuse hydroplaning with hydroblading.
Hydroblading is an advanced figure skating move where the skater establishes a deep edge and stretches the body in a deep, low position, almost touching the ice (Source: Wikipedia)
14. Figure skaters generate about 4Gs of force.
Skaters fight about 4Gs of force when taking off for a quadruple jump and up to 14Gs when landing. (Source: BYU)
15. Ice skate blades have two edges.
Your skate blades may look like one piece of metal, but it’s actually formed to have two edges. (Source: Figure Skating Etc)
16. Skaters exceed 300 revolutions per minute.
Olivia Oliver holds the world record at 342 revolutions. (Source: Olympics.com)
17. Figure skating started by drawing figures on the ice.
Figure skaters were once judged on the figures or patterns they had to make with their skates on the ice. (Source: Britannica)
18. Rink sizes vary for different sports.
Hockey rinks are 200 x 85 feet while figure skating rinks are 200 x 100 feet (Source: NHL)
19. Kjeld Nuis set the world record for the fastest speed on ice skates.
In 2022, Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis went 64 miles per hour while skating behind a device to reduce wind drag (Source: Red Bull)
20. Skate Canada just removed gender barriers in figure skating.
In an ‘ice breaking’ historic move, Skate Canada has removed gender barriers from pairs and dance teams. Now you don’t need male-female teams! (Source: Skate Canada)
Fascinating Facts About Ice Rinks
21. Thomas Rankin built the US's first mechanically refrigerated ice rink.
It was placed in Madison Square Garden, New York. (Source: Vintage Minnesota Hockey)
22. The first synthetic ice rink - one that did not involve water or ice - was built in 1841.
The Glacarium used pig fat, lard, salts, and copper. (Source: Smithsonian)
23. The world's largest outdoor ice rink is the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada.
It stretches over 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles). Some Ottawans even use the rink to ice skate to work or school! (Source: Ottawa Tourism)
24. The largest indoor ice rink in the world is the Harbin Ice and Snow World in China.
It covers an area of over 750,000 square feet. (Source: Ice Festival Harbin)
25. The Boston Bruins was the first hockey team to use a Zamboni.
The Zambonis were created by namesake Frank Zamboni. Now there are other manufacturers, but they are all called the brand name “Zambonis,” like Coca-Cola or Botox.
26. Ice skating facts reveal that rinks require significant water to create and maintain the surface.
Making a standard-size ice rink can take about 12,000 to 15,000 gallons of water.
27. The first synthetic ice rink made of “plastic” came in the 1980s.
The concept of skating on plastic has been around since the 1960s, but the first massive rink came some 20 years later. It was later showcased on ABC's Shark Tank by PolyGlide Ice in December of 2016. (Source: Wikipedia)
28. The Calumet Colosseum is considered the oldest operating continuous-use ice rink in North America.
The rink was built in 1913 in Calumet, Michigan (Source: NHL)
29. There are over 7,000 rinks in Canada, the most in the world but just over 2,000 in the USA.
30. The most famous ice rink in the world is the Rockefeller Rink in Manhattan, NY.
(Source: Rockefeller Center)
Fantastic Feats On The Ice
31. Figure skating became an official Olympic sport in 1908.
It’s also one of the oldest events in the Winter Olympic Games. (Source: USOPM)
32. The first man to land a quadruple jump competition was Kurt Browning of Canada in 1988.
He won the 1988 Worlds in Hungary and went on to three-peat. He sadly never won an Olympic medal. (Source: Skate Canada)
33. The first woman to land a triple Axel in the competition was Midori Ito of Japan in 1988.
Considered the most difficult jump, she tried it, missed, then landed it at the end of her performance. (Source: Olympics)
34. The first triple jump in figure skating was performed by Axel Paulsen in 1882.
It is now a common element in the sport. He also created a specific jump, the Axel, one of the only jumps to start from a forward outside edge. He also wore hockey skates when he created it. (Source: Britannia)
35. France’s Surya Bonaly performed the backflip and was the first woman to attempt a quad.
She’s a trailblazer in every sense of the word, rattling ice skating because of her unorthodox look, style, attempts, and, yes, even her skin color. She’s the first to land a backflip, landing on one ice skate, and the first woman to attempt a quadruple jump in competition. (Source: Time and Wikipedia)
36. Wayne Gretzky, considered the greatest hockey player of all time, has the most points in history.
Records are meant to be broken, but his 2857 points still reigns supreme. (Source: NHL)
37. The most continuous upright spins on ice skates on one foot is 115.
Don’t get dizzy, but the record was set by Lucinda Ruh of Switzerland in 2003. (Source: SwissInfo)
38. The Dutch Speed Skating Championship, the Alternative Elfstedentocht, is a grueling 200-kilometer (124-mile) course.
It’s arguably the biggest sporting event in the country. (Source: CBS)
39. Nathan Chen landed 6 quad jumps in a single routine.
The Asian American did it at the 2018 Olympics and has the nickname ‘The Quad King.’ However, the quad axel still eludes him. (Source: People)
40. In 2022, Ilia Malinin landed the first quad Axel in competition.
Hold my beer, Nathan. Malinin did it at the ISU Grand Prix and was only 17. It took over 40 years to get from a 3A to a 4A. (Source: Eurosport)
More interesting ice skating facts
41. Red Bull Crashed Ice is an extreme ice skating race.
Crashed Ice features a thrilling combination of ice skating, downhill racing, and obstacle course elements. Skaters race down a steep track filled with jumps, tight turns, and challenging obstacles, reaching speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour). (Source: Red Bull)
42. The first Disney on Ice was in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1981.
It was a sold-out show that recruited some of the best ice skaters worldwide. (Source: Disney)
43. Have you heard of broomball or ringette?
These sports use brooms or rings to get items into a goal. Think of it as hockey Lite. (Source: Broomball)
44. Sweden won the 2023 Bandy World Championship.
Bandy is a team sport that resembles a mix of ice hockey and soccer. It is played on ice using a ball rather than a puck. The Bandy World Championship is an annual international tournament that showcases this unique winter sport. The event features teams from various countries competing for the championship. (Source: FIB)
45. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan placed a worldwide spotlight on figure skating.
In 1994, ice skating was thrust into the international limelight when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in an attempt to break her knees by Shane Stant, contracted by Tonya’s ex-husband and her bodyguard. Harding and Kerrigan had a fierce rivalry, and Harding, to this day, denies being involved in the attack. The controversy has created several media pieces, including the movie I,Tonya. (Source: Biography)
46. You can make your own ice rink.
With some ingenuity, water, and wood, you can make your own ice rink in the winter. (Source: Home Depot)
47. Jumping over barrels is a thing.
Barrel jumping was a popular sport where ice skaters build up speed to jump over a series of barrels lying side by side. The world record barrel jump is 18, set by Yvon Jolin Junior of Canada in 1980. (Source: Messy Nessy)
48. Ice skating is a great full-body workout.
It requires more than 200 muscles to be engaged. Pick up skating if you’re looking for a fun way to stay in shape! (Source: Sports Medicine Weekly)
49. You can sync up your skating.
The concept of synchronized ice skating, where a team performs choreographed routines, was introduced in the 1950s. (Source: US Figure Skating)
50. Yvonne Dowlen is a 90-year-old ice skater.
Yvonne proved that age is just a number, skating professionally for several decades and teaching for several more. (Source: National Geographic)
And That's a Fact!
Did you enjoy these ice skating facts?
They reveal that ice skating has a deep, decorated, and celebrated history.
If you’re new to ice skating or a seasoned pro, we hope these ice skating facts help connect you to the sport more.
From its ancient roots to modern innovations, and from its role in sports to leisure activities, these 50 ice skating facts have revealed a captivating universe on blades.
May they inspire you to lace up, hit the ice, and embrace the exhilarating combination of grace, strength, and balance that defines this incredible activity.
Whether you're a seasoned skater or a beginner, every glide across the rink is an addition to this vibrant story of ice skating.