Is synthetic ice training really what you or your child needs? This post is going to attempt to help you answer that question. First of all you have to ask yourself what it is that you are trying to achieve. Are you focused on getting a better shot? Is it skating you are looking to improve? Perhaps it’s puck handling. Maybe it’s all of those things. Regardless, you have to try to decide what your priorities are and whether a synthetic ice surface will help.
There are a lot of misconceptions about synthetic ice in general. There are a great many products around now and some are good and some are poor. In very general terms you can pretty well do anything on the better quality synthetic ice training products. The low end products can be fine for shooting but bad for skating. It’s really worthwhile to understand what you are buying. If your goal is to be able to work on your stride mechanics for example then make sure you look at the best quality products or you will be disappointed. I often hear hockey dads and moms complaining that the synthetic ice is bad or too difficult to skate on. In some cases they are correct. But to be fair in a lot of cases their child is simply a poor skater mechanically. A choppy stride on real ice will not mysteriously translate into a smoother stride on synthetic ice. It will likely look even worse! If a kid has never been taught about how to take a full stride and then a full recovery of that stride then they will struggle on synthetic ice. Sorry parents, I know its not what you want to hear but its a fact. Most kids are never taught to run either, and therefore some can run smoothly naturally, and others are poor runners. Skating is much more complex. Real ice can hide those flaws because the child can glide and therefore get away with their stride flaws. But skating on the right synthetic ice surface can be easy!
As far as shooting and puck skills improvement go – there is probably no better tool than synthetic ice training. That being said, they still need to have the basic instruction as a foundation to improvement. I have certainly seen first hand how my oldest child went from a below average shooter to a consistently top point player on whatever team he played on. His “big breakthrough” came one summer when he literally took 10,000 shots with his skates on training on synthetic ice. This gave him tremendous confidence in his game, and he’s now 20 years old and still plays junior hockey and is in love with the game. For him synthetic ice training at home was a tremendous investment in his skill that will be with him for life.
If your child is one who might be described as a timid player – then synthetic ice training can be used to develop his “competitive spirit or drive”. Hockey dads get your skates on too and work on angling, rubbing out, small body contact, driving the net and so on. There are dozens of fun little drills you can dream up. Stop saying “I wish my kid could do this or that”. They can do it. I’ve seen it myself. I have seen kids transform from mild mannered kids off ice to super competitive players on ice. But they have to put the time in, and there has to be a lot of patience at times (I’m talking to you hockey parents).
Synthetic ice training is no magic trick. It’s a training tool that allows you the flexibility for your child to train when they want, in the privacy of your home. It allows hockey dad to have countless hours of fun with your kids and to help them with all those little subtle things that will make them better players.
So in summary, decide first what skills you will like to work on most, and then decide on the quality of product you can afford. The best product ARE the most expensive – regardless of what the suppliers all say. If you are not 100% sure how much to get – then buy a smaller amount now and then once you get it you can always buy more later. Have fun and enjoy your synthetic ice training!!
Check out these hockey drills you can try on your synthetic ice surface.