Monthly Archives: July 2016
How is a consumer supposed to intelligently make a synthetic ice comparison? Admittedly it can be difficult. So exactly how do they go about it?
Well one thing they do understand is price. When something is difficult to compare consumers default to price. The problem with that is price almost never tells the full story – only part of the story. To make a more informed synthetic ice comparison a consumer requires information that they can rely on.
First things first. What are some of the basic questions for you to consider:
- what are you hoping to be able to do (hockey drills, figure skating training)?
- what are your performance expectations?
- how much space do you have?
- do you place importance on quality, value, or price?
If all you hope to do is simply take shots with skates on and do some basic movements such as stepping into a shot then chances are then you could do with more of a cheap synthetic ice product – likely an extruded material. You should be able to source something for under $9.00 psf.
If your expectations are higher in terms of quality and durability then you will likely want to consider a sinter pressed / compression molded product. These materials are much more durable simply because the raw materials in this process can be a much higher molecular weight. In our lab testing we have demonstrated that the force required to move a weighted skate blade is as much as 40% less than with an extruded material. That directly translates into a superior glide. Read a more detailed description about our synthetic ice price.
When it comes to the size of the surface we generally tell people the larger the surface the more thought you should give to buying a premium material. With smaller surfaces (100-200 sf) you will never truly appreciate the better glide or speed because you will never get up to full stride. So we might recommend a mid range sinter pressed material or even our value priced extruded option.
The point here is that we will discuss your application and recommend the right product to reach your hockey training goals within your budget. If we do our job right then and only then can you intelligently compare one product to another.
Skating on synthetic ice has it’s advantages. Sure there are folks out there who love it and there are those who don’t – like anything. What I will write about here is my own experiences with my kids – both who I (more importantly all their coaches) always considered excellent skaters.
First I will say this: if a hockey player can do something on real ice then they could do it on a high quality synthetic hockey ice surface.
That being said there are some industry “negatives” I often hear about from people who really don’t understand or perhaps haven’t skated on the best synthetic ice surfaces:
- “you can’t skate backwards on synthetic ice”
- “goalies can’t do lateral slides”
- “there is too much resistance to skate properly”
- “will it affect my stride?”
There is no doubt that skating on synthetic ice where some products are concerned is radically different than real ice. There are some products that are so bad that it is difficult to skate backwards. Heck with some products it’s hard enough to skate forwards!
What motivated me to get into this business was our own experience with low quality products. It always amazed me that a business owner selling synthetic ice practice time would install a poor quality product but those were our first experiences with it. It was OK for shooting pucks but that was about it.
In my own experience here are things my own kids have worked on:
- stride mechanics (relationship of hip, knee, ankle, toe)
- posture (head up, back position, butt)
- stride starting position to recovery
- explosiveness (those first three quick strides)
- edge control (leaving your comfort zone on both edges)
- quick direction change
- agility, footwork, quick feet
And really this is just the tip of the iceberg. But these are some basic fundamentals that all aspiring young hockey players need to pursue to get better. If a hockey player doesn’t learn these things they will struggle. Period.
We’ve all seen that kid with the quirky stride. We used to call that “skating on railroad tracks” where they have that real choppy short stride. With proper instruction skating on synthetic ice can absolutely fix that if the player is committed to fixing it. They might be filling the net but if they skate poorly they won’t get very far in hockey.
A high quality synthetic ice product like we sell at SmartRink is a great investment for your hockey kid(s). Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do certain things on synthetic ice. They are ignorant and simply don’t know. They had a bad experience or knew someone else who did. What is important is that skating on synthetic ice can not only fix flaws in skating stride it can improve your overall game.
Do all the dryland training you want – there is no substitute for being on your skates to get better. Check out passing hockey drills and passing and shooting hockey drills that are fantastic when using synthetic ice rinks.
The term “heavy duty synthetic ice” is misused, abused, over represented and generally not well understood by potential buyers and customers. This article is going to clear all that up for you (and probably my competitors as well).
Heavy duty synthetic ice is defined by the following characteristics:
- The type of connection system
- The strength of the connection system
- The durability of the material
- The panel thickness
You see the industry has this false idea that if a product is thicker then we can call it “heavy duty” without any regard to the other criteria listed above. A thicker product does not make it heavy duty. You can have a product 3/4″ thick but using a weak dovetail or jigsaw puzzle connection system where the joint is completely vulnerable to vertical separation. There is nothing heavy duty about that. Yet most competitors offer this. If the joint separates even a little vertically you have just created a very unsafe skating condition. And the larger the rink the bigger the potential problem can be because of expansion and contraction forces. Bad things can happen with temperature changes when the wrong connection system is used.
I have seen it and know of applications where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent only to have the complete rink taken apart never to be used again.
In the image above it shows a connection system known as the H-Tongue or H-Spline system. My competitors hate it and scoff at it and call it old technology etc. The fact is this connection system has been around a while (30 years) and was even patented. But when it comes to connection strength this product is the “mother of all heavy duty synthetic ice” connection systems. Why? It can not be separated vertically or horizontally (unless you actually understand how to take it apart). Any monkey can take apart what most companies call a heavy duty system…not only that but they can easily be vandalized and even stolen if they are in outside public spaces (that’s happened too!).
We actually test and have lab verified results for the strength of our heavy duty synthetic ice connection systems. I would love to compare results with other companies…but the reality is that we also sell a jigsaw puzzle / dovetail system as well – but we are not so naive that we are going to call it “heavy duty” because we know better. The bottom line is that certain products are better suited for certain applications. There is no one size fits all in this business – so please don’t fall for that type of marketing or salesmanship.
If you are considering buying synthetic ice as a business operator, a hockey training center, a community public rink or something similar then you really should be concerned about panel joint separation. Not only could you prevent a potential safety issue but possibly even avoid potential liability concerns. We have three “heavy duty synthetic ice” connection systems that can be discussed and we would consult with you about your intended application before we made a recommendation.
If you are serious about wanting to put in the best products to get the best results over the very long term then you owe it to yourself to consider a true heavy duty synthetic ice connection system. Read about how important it is to do your research when choosing the brand and type of synthetic ice rink for you.