WInter Olympics fever will soon be marching into our television sets as it always does every 4-years without fail. Once again you can count on the mesmerizing captivation of the always fun to watch game of curling. What is it about this sport/game that has us glued to our sets watching rolling granite stones and hyperactive "broomsters" working the ice like a well-oiled machine?
Perhaps it's the welcome pause that's required when we put down our cell phones for more than three minutes between tweets and Likes to watch people actually doing stuff. Just when you're ready to check your text messages another stone is hurled and nothing becomes more important to the eye than watching the heavy granite rock crawl over the pebbled ice to a peacefull rest......Ooh Curling!
As the games are played folks will learn terms like House, Button, End, Broom, Hammer, Hacks and Hog Lines......(and we all know we will need to learn them all over again four years later...:-) It doesn't seem to matter though as Curling does a great job in bringing us back to our past when active gaming was the norm and sharing actually meant giving something to someone.
In the meantime we can take solace in knowing that we can always count on getting our fill of this "cool" Olympic sport/game every few years and be happy to be a spectator. Though it would be fun to just once be able to take part in the yelling as the broomster steers the Rock...."HARD!....HARD!...HARD!"
There are many things to consider when purchasing a synthetic ice rink including whether to go with an "infused" or "non-infused" surface. Infused or "self lubricating" synthetic ice panels are manufactured with a slip agent additive and have less surface friction or "Coefficient of Friction" and don't require a surface glide enhancer application.
However, self-lubricating does not mean self-cleaning as infused surfaces do tend to attract more dirt and require more work in keeping them cleaner over the lifetime of the rink. Non-infused surfaces do require a glide enhancer spray to reduce the surface friction. This is a great option for heavy foot traffic areas or hockey shooting galleries. Though spraying the surface has been looked upon as a "negative" with regards to rink maintenance it does help keep the rink free of dirt and dust and cleaner over the long term.
Regardless of kind of rink surface is chosen, both types of surfaces need to be kept clean to maintain optimal performance. Infused surfaces need to be kept clean and re-conditioned to avoid the look of "frozen mud" over time. If not, panel seams will become more pronaounced and dark "grout lines" will appear making your ice rink look more like flooring.
The most important thing to consider while deciding on a surface is WHO will be using the rink and for what purpose? Residential or commercial? Training or pleasure? Need and Affordability?.......(Just to mention a few ;-)
Synthetic ice surfaces are no different than any other flooring products with the exception that you can skate on it. With this I mean that in order to install flooring products such as ceramic tiles, hardwood flooring, flooring laminates or linoleum you must have a firm and flat sub-floor. This will help insure that your synthteic ice panels lay flat and the connections are virtually seamless.
Much the same way flooring laminates require a gap around the perimeter synthetic ice also must be treated like a "floating floor" that is allowed to expand and contract with temperature changes. To do this a slight gap must be made around the perimeter and no mechanical fasteners are to be used to secure the surface. This will lessen the "stress" on the surface especially on outdoor rinks in cold climate areas and large temperature "swings".
One of the begest enemies of synthteic ice is REAL ICE. During extreme cold weather freezing of the surface from ice build-up must be prevented. A frozen rink will not be able to expand in direct sunlight which will stress-out the surface and can cause stress cracks if provisions are not made.
If you are considering installing your synthteic ice rink on a grass you will need to install a sub-floor FIRST as grass will not be firm or flat enough to support your rink. A simple way to achieve this is by constructing a "shed deck" by using exterior grade plywood on top of pressure-treated stringers. Using manufactured sheating or materials will provide a good base for your rink to be installed.
Synthetic ice is a solid polymer sheet material made from polyethylene plastic. These polymer sheets are connected together using various methods to form an artificial ice skating surface. Early implementation of synthetic ice for ice skating dates back to the 1960's when polymer materials became more commonplace in everyday life.
Over the decades synthetic ice has continued to develop with the use of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Utra-High Molecular Weight (UHMWPE) being the industry standard amonst most manufacturers and distributors. DIfferent variations of these polymer compounds along with "slip" agent additives continued to improve the overall performance of todays modern synthetic ice.
Synthetic ice rinks can virtually be installed in any location or climate condition with relitively easy assemble. With no need for electricity or refrigeration and with the improvement of it's performance, synthetic ice has become a cost effective substitute to refrigerated ice.
Some surfaces do require a glide enhancer spray while others are infused with a slip agent additive to reduce surface friction or "coefficient of friction". Skaters can expect 10-15% added friction while skating on synthteic ice which has helped it to become a popular training tool for Hockey Players and Figure Skaters alike.
The growth of any of the major sports rely on those who support, attend, view the games, follow their teams and immulate their heroes. Starting with the latter, as with every sport aspiring young players hone their skills with the hopes of one day enjoying the accolades and acheiving the goals of their favorite players and teams.
With each sport different skills are required to excel at each position both mentally and physically. For the most part with most sports not a lot is required to begin the process. Basketball requires simply a ball and a hoop. Baseball requires a bat, a ball and a glove. Football requires a football and an open field or schoolyard. Soccer just a ball.
Now Ice Hockey on the other hand is a whole other animal. Sure you can hone your stick-handling and shooting skills with a puck and a stick but now try doing it on the ice. Developing and learning the art of ice skating is not "geographically" available to many of those who appreciate the game. As much as we would love to rely on mother nature to help grow the sport, Ice Rinks and Ice Time has become a costly necessity for anyone with the slightest interest in becoming the next "Great One"......until now.
There is a second coming of the "Ice Age" in the form of synthetic ice plastic that has breathed new life into growing the sport of Ice Hockey. Now aspiring young players in warm climate areas and anywhere else for that matter can learn the skill of ice skating in the privacy of their own home. Though the original investment in these portable ice panels may be considered costly it pales in comparison to the constant schlepping back-and-forth to the rink, paying for gas, private lessons, clinics and camps. A home synthetic Ice rink offers players the ability train and become better skaters in the comfort of their own home and would pay for itself when parents do the math.
Developments in new technology have improved the quality and performance of synthetic ice plastic tremendously in the last 10-years. The old-school "cutting board" type surface has been relaced by high-tech infused panels that lesson the surface "drag" or coefficient of friction (COF) to make skating on synthetic ice a more ice-like experience.
These new devolpments will go a long way to help growing the game of Ice Hockey and reaching those players and families that may otherwise consider another sport. This may well be the "New Ice Age" that helps put Ice Hockey into the mainstream of professional sports....only time will tell.