Brief History of Synthetic Ice

In the early 1960’s the idea of polyethylene plastic being used as a substitute for ice was born, with the world’s first commercially viable synthetic ice product launching in 1978.

The polymers used back then, although state of the art at the time, were not great for skaters. They could not glide smoothly on the surface without the regular application of a silicone compound or alternative lubricant. Even then, it did not have the smooth glide of regular ice.

Our subsidiary company history, NOICEONE, goes back to the 1980’s – the first full size synthetic skating rink was installed in Southport, UK introducing a patented interlocking panel made of a higher density polyethylene. It was truly revolutionary. The surface still needed to be sprayed regularly with a gliding fluid to be maintained, but advancements in panel connection systems and skateable materials were slowly being made.  

Into the 1990’s, NOICEONE was the worldwide front runner in manufacture, design and installation around the world, and is still working away today developing innovative new products and improving materials. SmartRink has had the direct benefit of both past achievements of NOICEONE and been directly involved in more recent engineering advancements of this product and want to share some of the things we have learned.

Most synthetic ice suppliers today are still using mass produced extruded polyethylene material. This product may have evolved over the years, however it certainly doesn’t meet the SmartRink quality standards for GLIDE, PERFORMANCE and DURABILITY.

Having over 40 years experience in the industry, we have been heavily involved with testing of various products on the market. Our German manufacturer (OKULEN) completes continuous in house research, development and engineering to maintain a world renowned product that is second to no other.

Here is a brief overview of accomplishments:

  • First commercially viable product for sale in 1978
  • Developed and patented the H-Tongue connection system
  • Popularized the synthetic ice Home Rink Advantage selling rinks to homeowners in Canada and USA
  • Sold and installed the world’s first permanent NHL size rink (still in operation).
  • Installed the world’s largest backyard synthetic ice rink (we think it still has the record)
  • Designed and patented the world’s first Hybrid-Lock(TM) connection system
  • Developed in conjunction with our partners the only officially endorsed ice less curling system by the World Curling Federation
  • Invented the world’s only inter-connected 2 sided goal crease
  • Sold the first ever synthetic ice skating rink to Barbados
  • Developed the world’s only true comparison measurement test tool : The Weighted Skate Test (TM)
  • Developed our trademark Ice-Y-Blue700(TM) skating material

On to Today:

Our premium grade panel uses a Very High Molecular Weight Pe virgin resin as raw material and then is sinter pressed (a process that uses extreme hot and cold pressure to ensure an extremely dense material). Our Exclusive producer partner, OKULEN, has a meticulous DIN ISO9001 quality system in place, which consistently produces an exceptional skating panel every time! The process ensures no gaps or air pockets, only a solid homogeneous sheet. During the process the material is de-stressed so that it always lies flat.

Synthetic ice is used all over the world as a replacement for real ice.  Without the need for refrigeration, electricity or heavy equipment, the environmental impacts are substantial, offering an environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. At the end of the useful life of our material, it can even be ground up and reprocessed

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One Parents Journey to get their Kid Unlimited Ice Time!

Every hockey parent knows, your kid just can’t get enough ice time. But let’s face it, commuting an hour to the rink through rush hour traffic, getting up before the break of dawn, and juggling a multitude of practices and games, isn’t always easy for us either. Even though we race tirelessly to support our kids’ performance, training and development, is there a better way – to get better faster?

This was the challenge for one determined hockey parent who knew she had to go the extra mile to get her kid the ice time needed to advance and develop his skill. 

Some parents are willing to go that extra mile for their kids development, and this client of ours did just that!

After doing her research on synthetic ice and what products were available, she contacted us to help her install a home rink.  We were pretty impressed, because she knew her stuff and we were thrilled to help her get an inside rink geared up! 

Two big selling features for her were that SmartRink offered a Forever USE Warranty due to our incredible synthetic panel durability for hockey training.  She also loved that the ice had superior glide performance for hockey training due to our uncompromising attention to our engineered sinter pressed materials.

It was certainly a huge investment, but one that granted her kid unlimited ice time, while freeing up her own time! Some things are just priceless.

Imagine having a cup of coffee in your pajamas watching your kid practice, or working with them to do some one on one training..without having to leave your home or scrape off your car. 

A dream come true really, and one that this parent made into a reality.

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How One Community Created Atmosphere on a Tight Budget

We all can agree, investing in an ice rink can be a huge investment, so how do you create a community venue, like a skating rink, on a tight budget?

This was a real challenge for a local church in California. They had their hearts set on providing a skating rink for their members and locals to use, wanting to build a great atmosphere for families and their community to come together and enjoy.  How do you do that on a low budget?  How do you maintain or install products you know nothing about?  These were all real challenges for them to overcome and it all started with research.

The price point between synthetic ice and a real ice rink was the first big selling feature.  Synthetic ice is far more affordable, not to mention the maintenance is almost non existent in comparison to real ice.  We generally advise that synthetic ice surfaces are cleaned daily, however when compared to hourly for a refrigerated surface, it saves both money and time. Synthetic ice rinks do not require the use of electricity or water and therefore don’t require the use of chillers or heavy equipment for maintenance; perfect for venues where noise could change the atmosphere that is trying to be created.

There are certainly huge savings in the price point between the two, both for installing and maintaining synthetic ice versus real ice, however this church was still not able to fund a purchase.  Beyond that, they knew very little about synthetic skating material and when researching various companies online the information seemed confusing and it was hard to differentiate one firm from another.

When they reached out to us, we were more than happy to work with them and come up with an affordable rental package that fit their needs. We collaborated on installation resources and the church community showed up to lend a helping hand and did really tremendous work.

SmartRink is proud to support communities through positive experiences by creating cost effective community recreation spaces that can be enjoyed by all for years to come. This is the SmartRink difference.

After being a returning SmartRink rental package customer for two years and many thousands of happy skaters later, it was exciting to see this client attract some funding to purchase a SmartRink for their community to enjoy for years to come! We are not surprised they got funding, as they are among the nicest clients we have ever worked with!

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The SmartRink Difference

The best decision SmartRink ever made was partnering with OKULEN as their exclusive synthetic ice production facility.

Based out of Ahaus, Germany, OKULEN is a world class synthetic ice manufacturer whose materials are engineered only for skating purposes. They complete in house research, development and engineering to maintain the worldwide reputation, that is in our opinion, definitely deserved!

There are many manufacturers throughout North America and worldwide who use a inferior, extruded polyethylene material that just doesn’t meet the Smartrink quality standards for GLIDE, PERFORMANCE and DURABILITY. As a result, consumers can be left disappointed with products that simply do not meet expectations.  

What’s so different about OKULEN?

OKULEN uses only premium grade Very High Molecular Weight Pe resin as raw material. Only SINTER pressing is capable of using grades of this quality.

What is Sinter pressing?

Sinter pressing is a process that uses extreme hot and cold pressure to ensure an extremely dense material. OKULEN has a meticulous DIN ISO9001 quality system in place, which consistently produces an exceptional skating panel every time! The process ensures no gaps or air pockets, only a solid homogeneous sheet. During the process the material is de-stressed so that it always lies flat.

Smartrink companies and OKULEN have been in partnership for almost 30 years. It is our opinion that they are the finest manufacturer of engineered plastic in the world. They do not compromise on quality. Ever.

We pride ourselves in delivering only the best products to our clients and we value the importance of educating them to make informative decisions, regardless of who they purchase from.  Therefore, we continue to partner with OKULEN, giving our clients the quality product they deserve and trust!

 

 

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Synthetic ice goaltender training

Synthetic Ice Goaltender Training

 

Ask Dave Stathos how he is feeling about training more than 600 goalies on synthetic ice using SmartRink and he tell you that he’s been impressed.

According to Dave…”SmartRink has exceeded our expectations. Before we purchased SmartRink I skated on over 20 different types and this one had the best feeling. Also I don’t have to spray anything on it and it heals itself as you use it.”

Dave has a deep background as a goalie having played professionally in Finland as well as NCAA for Princeton University.

About a year ago Dave opened up Dave Stathos Goalie Development Center in Kanata Ontario – see www.davestathos.com. He has some of the most innovative goal training sessions available anywhere in terms of training goaltenders on synthetic ice or any kind of ice for that matter. Dave is a pro at what he does.

Dave was initially concerned about the wear and tear on the material having seen how other products wear down quickly especially with goalie skates stopping and pushing in the same spots.

“I have to say that after one year and 600 goalies there is no sign of it wearing down faster in any specific spots. And he goes on to add “I have yet to see any other setup that looks and feels better.”

Thanks Dave for the very kind endorsement.

Read more about what it is like skating on synthetic ice.

On his 30 foot x 40 foot setup Dave can train up to 6 goalies per session using up to 4 nets depending on the drills. He also uses video technology from various angles to further assist his students in reviewing drills to suggest further improvements.

It must be working for him as he has been non stop all summer doing hockey camps and individual training sessions.

Dave likes the product so much that he has offered for us to send anyone his way to discuss it with him.

Ask Dave Stathos how he is feeling about training more than 600 goalies on his SmartRink synthetic ice surface and he tell you that he’s been impressed.

According to Dave…”SmartRink has exceeded our expectations. Before we purchased SmartRink I skated on over 20 different types and this one had the best feeling. Also I don’t have to spray anything on it and it heals itself as you use it.”

Dave has a deep background as a goalie having played professionally in Finland as well as NCAA for Princeton University.

About a year ago Dave opened up Dave Stathos Goalie Development Center in Kanata Ontario – see www.davestathos.com .

Dave was initially concerned about the wear and tear on the material having seen how other products wear down quickly especially with goalie skates stopping and pushing in the same spots.

“I have to say that after one year and 600 goalies there is no sign of it wearing down faster in any specific spots. And he goes on to add “I have yet to see any other setup that looks and feels better.”

Thanks Dave for the very kind endorsement.

On his 30 foot x 40 foot setup Dave can train up to 6 goalies per session using up to 4 nets depending on the drills. He also uses video technology from various angles to further assist his students in reviewing drills to suggest further improvements.

It must be working for him as he has been non stop all summer doing hockey camps and individual training sessions.

Dave likes the product so much that he has offered for us to send anyone his way to discuss it with him. So if you have a young goalie at home and are considering synthetic ice we can put you in touch with Dave and get his expert thoughts on the matter.

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Caribbean Ice Skating

Caribbean ice skating you say? SmartRink just installed it’s first synthetic ice skating rink in the Caribbean – Barbados to be more accurate. After doing many rinks all across North America this one was particularly satisfying. For starters the genuine excitement and social media buzz this created was extraordinary. To our knowledge it was the first permanent synthetic ice rink ever built in the country. This really proves you can skate in any weather with synthetic ice!

Caribbean Skating, barbados skating, ice skating in Caribbean, synthetiic ice skating caribbean,

Icetopia Skating Rink Bridgetown Barbados

We met a great group of skilled workers while on site and that went a long way to creating a positive installation. As with most jobs there were the usual challenges. The main challenge on this one was the weather which was incredibly humid. Fortunately this did not present any concerns for the product.

The rink is not large by typical standards and at 2000 square feet took up much of the warehouse space it was in. We also erected perimeter boards. For those we supplied the white puck board and the owner had a local carpenter build the frame. We provided detailed drawings prior to arriving so the frames could be built ahead of time – and fortunately our carpenter was right on the money!

The synthetic ice floor took the better part of 2 days to install slowing down at times to do some floor repair work to improve the surface.

We provided about 125 pairs of hockey skates and also a skate sharpener. After setting up the sharpener we sharpened most of the skates in a single day. Lastly we installed rubber flooring around the skate fitting area.

Time for skating lessons! There aren’t many ice skaters in Barbados but there are lots of inline skaters. The owner had a friend who had been inline skating for many years so he became “my project”. Fortunately he picked it up quickly. Within 10 minutes he understood his inside and outside edges and how to take a full stride with a purpose and then do a full recovery as well. His 20 years of hi level inline skating translated very quickly to ice skating. It was actually quite amazing! His name is Bobby Havok (for real) and you can check out some of his skating vids here.

So who would have thought ice skating in the Caribbean would be so popular? Well it sure has been in Bridgetown. In a locale that does not offer a lot of family activities this is affordable family fun. So the next time you are in Bridgetown and looking for something to do try visiting Icetopia Skating Rink!

Learn more about setting up a synthetic ice rink in your community.

 

 

 

 

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synthetic ice comparison

synthetic ice comparisonHow 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:

  1. what are you hoping to be able to do (hockey drills, figure skating training)?
  2. what are your performance expectations?
  3. how much space do you have?
  4. 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.

 

 

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skating on synthetic ice

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.

 

 

 

 

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Heavy Duty Synthetic Ice

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:heavy duty synthetic ice

  1. The type of connection system
  2. The strength of the connection system
  3. The durability of the material
  4. 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.

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skate at home

skate at homeAs a hockey parent if someone told me that my kid could skate at home for less than a cup of coffee per day I would absolutely do that. Wouldn’t you? Probably you would.

But maybe you would need some additional information first such as “what the heck are you talking about!”

What I am talking about here is having your very own private synthetic ice training surface right in the comfort of your own home. Dollar for dollar its likely the best hockey training investment you can make for your kids. Most kids I know always did some kind of extra training to work on their skills. Could be shooting, quickness, agility, hands, anything really.

Imagine as a hockey dad you could all of a sudden work with your kid 1 on 1 and help them with all those little things you think they could improve upon. Their shot. Their stride. Their power. Their mechanics. Even learning to hit is possible on synthetic ice. There really is no limitation as to what you can work on with a kid using synthetic ice as the perfect skate at home training tool.

In Canada we can offer financing to hockey parents who are looking to get that little edge over other kids. Sorry – USA hockey parents – we just cant find anyone willing to write those loans in the US (but if you know a company please tell us!). The payment terms on approved credit basis can be as long as 10 years but even at 5 or 6 years on a 200 square foot surface you would literally pay less than what it costs for a cup of coffee daily.

You spend more on internet and cable TV than that!

So what are you waiting for? get on the SmartRink site and check out the financing option that is best for you or just give us a call today and we will be happy to set you up. Read more about the rationale behind our synthetic ice rink pricing.

 

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