Hockey players, like everyone who has a favorite sport, hobby, or pastime, have preferences and opinions about the best way to go about enjoying their pastime. Maybe a guitar player prefers a certain brand of strings, a chef prefers using a cast-iron skillet, a skateboarder likes skating goofy.
Hockey players also develop their own opinions and preferences for how they prefer training and playing games. You may or may not be surprised to learn that there is a growing number of hockey players that actually prefer playing hockey on synthetic ice. But why would they prefer this?
There are a lot of different answers that different hockey players give about why they prefer synthetic ice. Some people prefer it just for training while others prefer it to regular ice altogether. We’re going to delve into the minds of the people that hold this preference so you can understand why they prefer synthetic ice over real ice in many cases and maybe it will inspire you to make changes to your own training regimen or even how you prefer to play games. There’s a lot of information to go over so let’s dive headfirst into learning about this tantalizing subject!
What is Synthetic Ice?
Before delving into why some people might prefer synthetic ice over real ice, it’s important to understand exactly what artificial ice is. Synthetic and artificial ice are interchangeable terms, but both terms can leave a little confusion in the long run. Neither of these terms is referring to ice that is made out of real water. Some people do refer to chemically frozen water as artificial ice, but in this context, it’s rarely referred to as such. In fact, artificial ice in this context couldn’t be further from chemically frozen ice.
Synthetic ice that is used for hockey flooring is a substance made up of a special kind of plastic. There are two very commonly used types of plastics that are very high-density. Both types of plastics have long, complicated names but rest assured that they are very chemically complicated. The names of them are commonly found online but in most cases, synthetic ice is made up of some type of polyethylene plastic. It definitely has its pros and cons, and there are a lot of reasons why someone might prefer to use it. We’ll cover that in the next sections, but let’s go into a bit more detail about the artificial ice first.
Back in the day, it was incredibly common for synthetic ice to require some kind of lubrication in order for you to be able to move on it in ice skates at all. As time went on and technology got better and better this become a more and more uncommon practice. The vast majority of the synthetic ice on the market today doesn’t need any lubrication in order to make it work. That’s because the glide factor provided by the material is enough to simulate ice close enough even on the less advanced pieces of synthetic ice available on the market.
There is a big industry centered around synthetic ice, so you can be sure that research and development are being done every single day to further improve the technology that we have for this. That means that in the future we could look forward to even more accessible synthetic ice that could be objectively better than real ice no matter what metric you use. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry so you can be sure that companies are doing their best to find the next cutting-edge materials they can use to make it better and better.
Preference for Training
The most common thing that we hear from hockey players is that they prefer using artificial ice for training. Many hockey players ranging from junior league players to weekend warriors and even all the way up to professionals say that you just can’t beat training on synthetic ice for a lot of reasons. A lot of these hockey players prefer to play actually games on real ice, but training is a different story for them. So what makes synthetic ice tick in this category? Why is it such a good practice tool for hockey players of all skill levels?
Well, the biggest thing is the small amount of drag that is produced by the majority of artificial ice products available on the market. This small level of drag helps to provide a bit of resistance training, which can make hockey players both faster and stronger when they get onto the real ice. How does that work? It’s pretty simple and has a lot to do with the way that strength training works. Let’s use an example from something that you might have a bit of an easier time understanding, running. Running is a cardio exercise that a lot of people take part in on a daily basis.
If you want to do a similar kind of training while running, you’d strap weights to your body. The extra weight that you have strapped on will help you build muscle while also getting your regular exercise in. If you can run an 8-minute mile without any extra weight then you work up to running an 8-minute mile with an extra 25 pounds strapped to you, odds are that you’ll be able to run even faster when you’re uninhibited by the extra weight.
The same can be said about hockey. When you have some drag on your skates, it makes it harder to move around the court. Once you’re able to move like you usually would on artificial ice with the increased level of drag, moving on real ice is like skating on butter. It’s like going from driving a pickup truck to driving a sports car. It can have some truly incredible effects on the way that you play the game in general, and that can make you a more valuable asset for your team while also being a bigger threat to all of your competition league-wide.
It is also worth noting that synthetic ice is somewhat portable. It does take a bit of time and effort so we wouldn’t recommend moving it around all the time unless you have the time and effort to spare, but in a pinch, you can put it up, tear it down, and move it to a new location over and over all day if you needed to. That makes it a great choice for practice because you could easily go down to the park and get it set up to your liking if you needed to practice somewhere other than your house.
Preference for Games
Now, the number of hockey players that prefer artificial ice for games is a great minority, but there are players that exist that would prefer to play actual games on synthetic ice as opposed to real ice. There are two main schools of thought on this topic and each has its own reasons, so we’re going to shortly cover both sides so you can better understand this opinion. It may seem like a counterintuitive opinion, but it does still check out in the long and short run for most hockey players that hold this preference.
The first school of thought on this is familiarity. Some people that practice exclusively on synthetic ice prefer the feeling of it over real ice because they’re used to it. Some people do feel that they are faster and stronger on real ice but going from artificial ice for practice to real ice for games is like having to drive a car you’re not used to when it matters the most. The ebb and flow of skating on synthetic ice can be very easy for people to get used to, so it only makes sense that some people would prefer to play all of their games on it.
The second camp has a different reason why they prefer this altogether. They would actually prefer real ice over the kind of synthetic ice that causes drag. There is actually artificial ice on the market today that has a better glide factor than real ice, making it even easier to skate on and providing a more competitive atmosphere for everyone involved. Not everyone is aware of this kind of artificial ice, and many people that are heavily pro synthetic ice for hockey games feel that if more people were aware of its existence they’d be in favor of it.
Playing Hockey Right
Now, you’re also a person that has their own views and opinions. You definitely don’t have to agree with the hockey players that prefer synthetic ice. That being said, we hope we were able to enlighten you as to why some people would make this choice over using real ice for hockey all the time. The most important thing, no matter if you prefer real ice, synthetic ice, or even just using roller blades on concrete, is that you’re having fun on your terms and enjoying the sport. What’s the point of it if you aren’t, right?