translation missing: en.general.currency.dropdown_label

Hockey Training Products for Rinks, Training Centers, Garage, Basement, or Backyard
Most “Made in USA” products in our industry

Stories

Searching for the Best Hockey Gifts for Your Champion? Check Out Our Top 5 Ideas!

Searching for the Best Hockey Gifts for Your Champion? Check Out Our Top 5 Ideas!

There is no better time than now to start shopping for your loved ones. Get a jump start on the season and get your gear while it is still available.

If someone in your life is a hockey player, and they’ve done a particularly good job this season - or not - you might want to give them a little something just to show your appreciation. Giving hockey gifts to that special hockey player in your life is a great way to show them that you’ve been paying attention and that their chosen sport matters to you! 

Whether your special hockey player is in youth high school, college, or even professional hockey, it can be a very meaningful gift, knowing that you support them. With that being said, the art of gift-giving definitely isn’t something that everyone is born with, and for those of us that don’t have that gift, this can feel like a huge challenge. Hopefully, we can help point you in the right direction so you can be sure that the special hockey player in your life feels appreciated.

Sometimes the actual process of finding a good hockey gift can be a little intimidating, especially when there are many options to choose from! Fair warning, though, finding holiday gifts for hockey players may be a little more fun than you would anticipate.

 

Get Them Some At-Home Hockey Training Aids

One of the easiest and best ways to show the hockey player in your life that you appreciate what they do and understand their accomplishments is to get them some tools that they can use to further their training while in the convenience of their own home.  Getting training both on and off the ice is incredibly important for hockey players because they need to hone their skills so they can always be as sharp as possible during matches. With that in mind, you have a lot of options to choose from in this category, and picking the right one can be as simple as knowing what your player needs to work on.

It is common knowledge that the only way to get really good at something is to practice. When you give the gift of a training aid, you are also giving the gift of excellence. If your player needs to work on ice skating skills, shooting skills, passing skills, or whatever...the best way to hone those skills is to work on them. 

 

Here are our top 5 hockey training aids that make magnificent gifts!

 

1. Sniper’s Edge Synthetic Ice Flooring

What greater gift to give a hockey player than to give them the type of flooring they can use to build their own ice skating rink? Synthetic ice panels are lightweight but very durable. It only takes a little while to place them on a flat surface and snap them together in order to create a seamless flooring that allows for hockey players to ice skate in the comfort of their own homes. 

Sniper’s edge synthetic ice panels are created with the type of technology that not only lasts a long time, but provides hassle-free self-lubrication so that you can enjoy a smooth, slick surface without ever having to add any extra additives or gliding agents. 

Synthetic ice flooring is a perfect gift for somebody that wants to be able to ice skate at any time no matter what part of the season it is...hot or cold.

Although there is a slight difference between the way the skates glide across the ice flooring and the way that they glide across synthetic ice flooring, the extra little bit of resistance that the flooring puts off, actually strengthens and tones the skater in a way that helps them to become better, stronger skaters when it is time to play a real game and win.

 

2. Sniper’s Edge Slick Tiles Dryland Flooring

For the hockey players that prefer to play hockey on inline skates, or in sneakers, Sniper's Edge Slick Tiles are an incredible gift idea. These compact, durable, yet lightweight dryland hockey flooring tiles are easy to install and tough enough to withstand even the rowdiest hockey players, not to mention your Hockey Dad’s pickup truck!  

The slick surface of the flooring is smooth enough to shoot pucks across with accuracy and flawless grace.  You can practice shooting, stickhandling, passing all while protecting that expensive stick!  “It all starts with the flooring.”  The Slick Tiles are semi-permanent, you typically “set and forget” them, but should you need to move your area, you can disassemble and reset them up easily!  Slick Tiles are designed to be used with both tennis shoes or in-line skates. 

Once you have your flooring, you have a designated area in your garage, basement or driveway to hone your skills.  Once the flooring is installed, it’s very easy to add other items such as a hockey passer (link to PM), stickhandling aids (link to SweetHands) and a hockey target (link to Ultimate Goalie) or goalie (link to Shooting Tarp) to shoot on. Think of this process similarly to setting up a home gym.

 

3. Sniper’s Edge Hockey Shooting Tarp

The Sniper’s Edge hockey shooting tarp is the perfect gift to go with a synthetic ice rink, or a dryland hockey practice area, or even just a regular old garage floor. It is built to endure even the toughest hockey shooters regardless of skill level.

The large canvas is made out of tough material that is built to last. The whole idea of the shooting tarp is to protect the walls, appliances, vehicles - and even people - from being assaulted by fast-flying hockey pucks. Nobody likes to see their walls and other areas of the home scuffed up by black puck marks.

In addition to the protection, the design of the tarp is to help the shooter hone in on the difficult to make shots by practicing with repetition and building muscle memory. After a time of regular practice and perseverance, those one-timers and dekes will come second nature to persons wise enough to regularly train on a hockey shooting tarp.

The Sniper’s Edge hockey shooting tarp is easy to install and even easier to use. It simply hangs from a beam or a stud by strong eyelets that allow the tarp to be pulled away and stored out of sight when not in use.

This is a perfect gift for the passionate hockey enthusiast that wants to learn how to shoot and score with precision and ease.

 

4. Hockey Passer / Rebounder

Another no-brainer gift for a hockey player is a Passmaster hockey passer and rebounder. With this heavy-duty hockey training aid, the player can practice the way that they pass and receive pucks. They can also work on shooting one-timers from rebounds from the passer.

They control how fast the puck comes back at them when they pass it. 

One of the greatest features of the Passmaster is that it is in the shape of a triangle and has three sides to rebound from. It is designed to be able to mimic real-life situations on the rink when playing a game.

Since passing and shooting are a huge part of the success of the game, every hockey player must master these skills and continue to keep them sharp. A hockey rebounder is a great way to keep sharp during off-times.

 

5. Hockey Shooting Pads

A perfect gift idea for an up-and-coming hockey champion is a high-quality Sniper’s Edge hockey shooting pad. They come in three convenient sizes and are built to endure the abuse that a hockey player will supply when they are training to win.

All the player has to do is place the shooting pad on a flat surface where they can get a good swing and they will be able to train for shooting, passing, and stickhandling all at the same time.

Having a hockey shooting pad combined with a hockey shooting tarp is the ultimate way to get the most out of any training session. The player can stockpile an arsenal of biscuits on the pad and shoot shots over and over again without having to skip a beat.

Repetition and practice builds muscle memory that kicks in at the time that the player needs it the most.

These shooting pads are very lightweight and can be used to practice just about anywhere.

 

Hockey Balance Board

One of the best ways to build core strength and hone in the balancing skills is to make good use of a balance board for hockey. The Sniper’s Edge hockey balance board is geared to bring the most out of every player’s experience on it. There are numerous exercises and drills that one can use on a daily basis to master the art of balance.

What makes a hockey balance board such an amazing gift is that it can be used just about anywhere a player has a little bit of room. Outside in the grass, inside in the living room, in the garage, on a playground... wherever. It is lightweight and just as easy to carry around as a skateboard.

Building the core muscles is an integral part of being a healthy and strong hockey player. All of the muscles that the hockey balance board strengthens are the ones that keep hockey players on their feet and help them to avoid injuries. A strong core is absolutely necessary to be competitive in the game, so the more it is built upon, the better off the player will be.

 

Hockey Merchandise as Gifts

Of course, there is always the go-to favorite Hockey team mug, jersey, or signed Merch by your avid Hockey player.  Here at Sniper’s Edge, we wear our hockey merchandise proudly, especially on game days. 

There are many retailers online, including Amazon, that we think are a great source for all the Hockey merchandise gifts.  Here are some of our favorite places to buy hockey merchandise:

  • Amazon
  • Pure Hockey
  • Dick's Sporting Goods
  • Dave's Sport Shop  

 

What is Better than Gifts for Hockey Players for the Holidays? Nothing

Ask any hockey player or fan and they’ll tell you that a hockey gift will always be a one-timer shot. Hockey players love hockey. Plain and simple. 

If you get them a gift that they cherish close to their heart, you can’t go wrong. No matter what holiday you celebrate, hockey gifts are the best way to go for real hockey players and fans. 

 When you are looking for high-quality hockey products the best place for you to find them is somewhere that is just as crazy about the sport as your player is. Sniper’s Edge. Owned and operated by hockey professionals that know all there is to know about hockey. Shop now, and get the best there is.

Women’s Hockey Blog

Women’s Hockey Blog

“It’s for the dream, not the money”.

We don’t move across the world, uproot our careers, families, leave good jobs, to make money. We don’t practice before the sunrises in the morning, workout after our full-time jobs, meal plan and prep during our little amount of down time, so we can get into the best clubs, and have the most Instagram followers.

We do all of these things, simply because we love the game. We love to play. For most women’s hockey players, we have a passion for the game, and we don’t make our entire living on the salary. And, if we do, we certainly aren’t saving anything.

In comparison to the lavish lifestyles and extravagant elitism that our male counterparts experience, it’s alarming.For as long as I can remember, the women’s movement has had a feeling of waiting. Waiting for the NHL to step in, waiting for investors to help, waiting. Through the tumultuous years, from the splitting of leagues, to the walk out, to the folding of the CWHL, and beyond… It's always felt like in North America, the women’s hockey movement has been relying on men. Biding their time, until the bigger, older brother can step in. This mindset is in direct contrast to the way we are brought up. We are taught to be independent, strong, free-thinking, and hard-working. We are taught to never rely on outside forces, to work and accomplish things on our own without challenging the status quo.

Hockey in general, has taught me a lot of lessons. It has let me face adversity, shown me how to have resilience, and to live with success. I’ve learned to fail, I’ve learned to care, and I’ve learned to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given.

I’ve been involved in women’s hockey for most of my life. I’ve been a coach, a fan, and a player. I’ve been on the ice at the end of a game, and I’ve been a bench player. I’ve waited for my chance eagerly, patiently, and I’ve had the disappointment of seeing that chance never come to fruition. Yet, even in that disappointment, in that failure, and in that loss, I’ve always come back. I’ve always shown up. In the days and practices that followed, even when I didn’t want to show up, I did. Looking back, that’s what I’m the proudest of. That I learned to show up. That I learned to come back. That I was strong. That I was a good teammate. That I waited for my chance and I made the most of it when it came.

Objectively, one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports is the hockey rivalry between the US and Canada. Especially in women’s hockey. There have been more than 20 years of intense games, overtimes, penalty shots, fights, goals. Each year, the game has intensified. The women’s movement has become a focal point of women’s hockey, and sports. At the end of the day, the men’s Olympic hockey is roster after roster filled with players making millions of dollars. To them, they are wearing just another jersey, with just another helmet, on just another day. They come onto the ice, skate around, with teammates from their home countries, and it’s a glorified All-Star game. These NHL players have nothing to gain, nothing to lose from the outcome of the game. In fact, they could even lose money if they are injured, making their effort subpar at times. Gone are the days of amateurs, giving it their all to play for their country.

One of my favorite movies is Miracle on Ice. The passion for the game can be felt in that movie, it practically oozes out from the screen. The way the boys played, against the goliath team, against reason, against any doubt. And, against the odds, they won. Because they wanted to, they willed it to happen. That’s the beauty of sports, when money isn’t the final objective. When it’s simply the glory of representing something greater than yourself, and as Herb Brooks exclaims in the movie, “The name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back”

Oddly enough, through serendipity, fate, or some other stroke of luck, a documentary about my former team came out today. In my first of two seasons playing in Sweden, we had a person follow our team, and a few specific players. It was truly profound, seeing my teammates speak to the exact topic I was focusing on. They had vocalized the epitome of what makes women’s hockey special, and the documentarian brought it to life.

As the 7th season of the Professional Women’s League in North America begins, it’s a new feeling. With the changing of the name, there is a new and refreshed sense of independence. Of freedom, of joy. As this new dawn begins, the era of the game is more about the future than it ever has been. It’s more about the girls watching the games in the stands, about creating a product that is everything the NHL never could be, and that’s beautiful. For everything women’s hockey may lack, it has something that men’s hockey never will. It has a raw sense of passion, of sacrifice, and of giving. Women’s hockey is not men’s hockey, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s for the dream, not the money.

 

Why Choose Synthetic Ice

Why Choose Synthetic Ice

Why Buy Synthetic Ice?

The popularity of synthetic ice has skyrocketed in the last few years. Since it made its first appearance in the early 1960s, developers have been teaming up with scientists all around the world with a determined goal to create a flooring that is just as slick and seamless as traditional ice.

Synthetic ice flooring is not only better for the environment, it is much easier to install and maintain than frozen water. The fact that it is lightweight, and can be assembled and disassembled in a manner of minutes makes it the perfect solution for ice skating enthusiasts to skate and practice in the comfort of their own  homes.

If you play ice hockey, or like to ice skate for whatever reason, the reasons why you should invest in your own synthetic ice flooring far outnumber the reasons why you shouldn’t. Once you understand how beneficial synthetic ice flooring really is, the question quickly changes from “why buy” to “why haven’t I?”

 

Technology

Technology has come a long way over the last decade. It is not hard to see how much of an impact it has had on our society. Although it may be hard to consider synthetic ice as a type of technology, once you understand how it is made you will be able to connect the dots. 

Synthetic ice is made out of polyethylene plastic, which is created from synthetic polymer chains. High-quality synthetic ice such as Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice panels is constructed out of highly complex polymer chains that include additives and lubricants that can be activated as the skaters glide across the surface.

Much like frozen water creates its own lubricant from the water that is formed from the melted ice as the blades from the skates cause friction upon the surface, Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is designed to create its own lubricant so that skaters never have to worry about adding gliding agents or other additives to the flooring. This type of technology allows for the flooring to be as much like actual ice as possible - without having to be kept at freezing temperatures.

 

Bring the Game Home

One of the greatest things about Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is that you can install it right in your home. All that you need is a flat, level surface that is hard enough to sustain the weight of the people that will be ice skating on it.

In many instances people place a layer of plywood on top of the area that they are building the rink upon in order to add an extra level of support. For example, you can build an ice rink on top of carpet or grass as long as you install plywood panels, or a comparable solution.

Since the panels are compact and lightweight it does not take an overwhelming amount of effort to build the rink. The panels simply lay flat on the floor and are snapped together by tabs that are on the outer edges of the panels. It is possible to build an entire skating rink, ready to skate on in less than a couple of hours.

 

Save Money

The biggest difference between building a skate rink in  your home with synthetic ice and with real ice is that it will cost a lot less to install synthetic ice panels than it would to build a frozen ice rink that has an environment that will keep the water frozen when the outside temperatures rise above the freezing point.

To build and maintain an ice rink it could cost upwards of what it would cost to build an entire home.

With synthetic ice all you do is purchase the amount of flooring that you will need to build your rink, plus whatever expenses it will entail to get the job done. After that you are all set with your rink and you will not have any more expenses to incur for maintaining your rink. 

 

Builds Strength and Stamina

Although Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is of the utmost quality, and is as close to true ice as it gets, there are differences between the surfaces. When skaters glide across the surface of synthetic ice flooring they will notice an increase in resistance. Synthetic ice will have a little more drag than traditional ice. It is not enough of a difference to hinder the skater from being able to move across the flooring, but it is enough to cause a little bit of an extra strain in order to maneuver around.

It is a proven and known fact that whenever people raise the resistance in a workout that they build strength as they do so. The way that weight trainers build strength is that they add weight to the amount of weight that they work out with until the amount of weight that they use becomes comfortable. Of course, they keep adding more and more weight as time goes on so that they continue to build muscle.

By training on synthetic ice, the skater will experience an increase in resistance as they skate. When the skater continues to skate and push through this resistance, they begin to adapt to the extra amount of drag until it becomes comfortable. 

By training on a surface that makes a person work harder to maneuver, it causes the skater to build strength, endurance and stamina. This way, when they do go out on a traditional ice rink and play a game, they will be stronger and faster than ever.

 

Easy to Install

We mentioned above that synthetic ice comes in the form of lightweight, and compact panels that are easy to install. Imagine having your very own ice skating rink without having to go through all of the headaches that it takes to install a traditional ice skating rink.

Simply place the ice panels on the area that you are going to turn into a skating rink, then snap them together.

Although you may have to go over the flooring and tamp the edges down with a rubber mallet before it will be ready to skate on, installing the panels is just as easy as putting together a large jigsaw puzzle.

Be sure to start building from the inside of the area to the outside so that you don’t have to worry about matching the inner makings of the rink with the precise measurements from the outside.

 

Features & Benefits of Synthetic Ice

Shooting

Since synthetic ice was created in order to mimic real ice as closely as possible, the way that the puck slides across the surface of the flooring has to be as slick and seamless as the way that it would if it were on real ice. 

Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice panels are of such high quality that whenever the puck moves about the surface it is so close to the way that it glides on real ice, that it is hard to tell the difference. Whether it is practice training, or actually playing a game, the way that the puck and the stick interact with the flooring is as close to the real thing as possible. Taking shots on Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is just like taking shots on real ice, it’s just not as cold.

Since the flooring is so similar to real ice, the skater can stop, go, and pivot in the same fashion as on real ice. What this means is that shooting goals on the flooring can be done in the same way that they are done on real ice.

Practicing shots on synthetic ice flooring with a hockey shooting tarp is extremely beneficial because it trains the shooter to hone in on those hard to make shots and helps to push the limits of training because the shooter can shoot repetitively over and over again. 

 

Stickhandling

Dangling and stickhandling on Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is much like stickhandling on real ice. The smooth surface of the panels do not cause damage to the stick as it comes into contact with it. No lagging or snagging on the flooring means a great way to maneuver around the rink and shoot dekes to score winning points.

Even with real ice there can be problems with snagging and chipping on the stick. You might learn that you can stickhandle even better on Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice than you can on a traditional ice rink floor.

The best part about synthetic ice is that you can install it practically anywhere and be able to practice whenever you want. Whether it is taking shots, ice skating, or stickhandling - or all of them combined the more practice that you get, the better you become.

 

Skating

Ice skating on Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice flooring is smooth, easy and seamless. Training on synthetic ice helps to build strength, endurance and unending stamina. Although anybody that is used to skating on real ice will immediately be able to tell the difference, once you realize that it is only a slight difference, and get past the initial shock you will see that skating in high quality synthetic ice is actually pretty awesome. 

By installing an ice skating rink in your own home you will be able to practice ice skating at any time that you want, during all of the seasons...hot or cold. You will never have to worry about your rink melting from the heat because synthetic ice works great in any weather.

 

Passing

Passing on Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is graceful and smooth because the pucks glide across the flooring with ease. The slick surface combined with the virtually seamless layout of the panels create a flooring that is perfect for hockey pucks to flow as if on ice, and the sticks to easily maneuver across the surface as well. 

One of the best ways to hone the passing skills is to invest in a hockey rebounder and put it to good use on your synthetic ice panels. With a rebounder you can practice your shots, and your passing skills at the same time while you skate around on your new flooring. With a puck rebounder you can control the heat that comes at you from the rebound. Either softly nudge the puck towards the rebounder, or slap it full force and learn to receive as well as pass at high speeds and hard hits.

 

The Sniper's Edge Synthetic Ice Difference

What makes Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice stand above other types of flooring? Sniper’s Edge takes pride in providing synthetic ice that is of the highest quality and sturdiest standards. Here are some of the perks that you can expect from Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice panels:

  • Self-lubricating: Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice has self-lubricating properties, which means that you never have to add any lubricants or additives to experience a slick, smooth skating surface.
  • Double-sided: being reversible, the ability to use both sides helps to lengthen the life of the tiles, and makes it more durable and long-lasting. 
  • Size: Having large rectangular tiles makes for fewer points of connections, leading to a smoother finish and seamless surface. 
  • Quality of Material: Having better materials will always lead to a longer life for the products, better experience for the user, and other benefits. Sniper’s Edge synthetic ice is UV protected, so they will hold up in the sun, and other outdoor conditions. 
  • Price: you want to be able to get the best product you can, but not at a price that will break the bank. Sniper’s Edge is affordable and practical so that all  hockey players have access to the finest products available on the market. 

Sniper’s Edge Hockey Synthetic Ice has been perfected over the years with a significant amount of engineering, improvements, and time. The tiles are designed to withstand time, weather, skates, and more. They improve as they are used, and they allow people to improve their on-ice game, at home. 

We chose to extrude our panels to create the best experience, without any need for sprays, wax, or anything else directly out of the box.

 

The History of Sniper’s Edge Synthetic Ice

While other companies rushed into the market to make Synthetic Ice, the Sniper’s Edge Team took time to learn and understand the science behind the products, and to make the best possible experience for the skater. The longer answer is that it took us well over 50 revisions to come up with the ultimate version that blends together the ultimate recipe to supply our customers with a product that will perform very well on any hard, flat surface.  There are many different versions of “plastic” that exist in the Synthetic Ice claims.  Please understand there are differences that even a 5-year-old will notice as when using real ice, they will learn quicker and be able to perform more “on-ice” moves such as mohawks, power turns and full-on hockey-stops that you cannot get from some versions that exist.  

In 2018, the first pair of skates slid along the panels. Since then, we settled on 2-foot by 4-foot panels that are 5/16inch thick. We’ve tweaked and perfected the formula to create a special sauce that makes it durable, tough, slippery, and safe to be driven, skated, or walked on. It can handle intense amounts of sunlight, blades, pucks, balls, and even tires being on top of it. It’s double-sided, and it has properties that lubricate the material as it is activated on the surface through use. 

In our research, we used real hockey minds to develop a product that we could produce with the end user in mind. There are two conflicting schools when it comes to off-ice training, and using a skateable panel or tile. 

The first is that being on skates is always good because it brings the player closer to the real situation of practice and games, and it allows them to work on their edges, and shooting on skates is a great tool to become more comfortable on blades for players at multiple levels. 

On the other hand, there are coaches and trainers that believe it isn’t the same as ice, and trying to adapt with skates on will only inhibit and negatively impact the players form and precision on ice. Instead of learning how to shoot, they are learning how to stand on their skates, being discombobulated and off-balance mechanically. 

Knowing both of these schools, we developed a product that would be able to be used on skates and with shoes. This versatility has become one of the best features our Synthetic Ice has to offer. The puck slides with ease, making shooting, stickhandling, and passing just like on ice, and on skates or shoes, the player is going to improve their game performance on-ice. Having the option to skate on the panels is a great way to try out both schools and decide for yourself, or your player which is the best for them. Shoes, or skates. It all depends! 

 

Benefits of the Sniper’s Edge Synthetic Ice:

  • Skateable
  • Smooth surface
  • Sturdy enough to withstand the weight of a car
  • Specially coated with UV protection
  • Never needs any sprays or coatings
  • Easily locks into place with a rubber mallet

The Best Skateable Synthetic ice panels are designed to create a better skating experience as they get used more. Small shavings peel off as you dig into the ice, similar to ice. The synthetic ice sheets contain properties that are a heavy-duty polyethylene plastic, long lasting and durable. 

With the classic interlocking design, the tiles are knocked into place with the rubber mallet, and stay in place with ease and confidence. 

While nothing will ever seriously be able to recreate the experience of on-ice skating. Ice is after all, ice. Creating something at home that can be more challenging, yet still give the same ability for turns, stops, strides, and puck handling. This can help you improve! It will make real ice feel easier. Stronger, better. That’s all we really want, at the end of the day.

Backyard Rink: Tricks, Tips and Lessons Learned

Backyard Rink: Tricks, Tips and Lessons Learned

Anyone who has built a backyard rink, or has a friend or neighbor who does, knows that while building a rink is no simple feat, it provides tremendous joy and satisfaction for those who persevere and get it done! The boards and brackets are expensive, each year you need a new liner, shovel, and/or replacement boards, plus all the countless hours shoveling, resurfacing, and trying to undo weather damage delivered by Mother Nature. Last year a friend joked that he logged more hours preparing and maintaining his ice than his family actually spent skating on it! But alas, it’s a labor of love for hockey families, and in the north there is no better way to spend a crisp winter day then with your friends and family in the backyard!

I have learned from both success and failure with backyard rinks over the years, and in this article my goal is to share the issues I wish I knew before building my first rink.

Backyard Rink LIner


How much slope in my yard is allowable?

This is arguably the most important issue to consider in your yard, and unfortunately for many homeowners a tough issue to overcome because most yards are built with a gentle slope to allow for proper water drainage. A few significant issues regarding slope to consider:

  1. Too much slope and your boards may not interlock together the way the manufacturer intended. You might get around that by trenching slightly underneath each board to create straight vertical alignment, but then your boards will look like “stair steps” and sharp corners could injury a skater who falls there. If your boards are plywood, you could cut or sand the surface to remove the injury hazard. 
  2. Consider board height vs elevation change. Ice generally needs at least three inches of thickness for safe skating, and many boards are knee high at 24” tall. But if both of those factors exist, then your elevation change could not be any greater than 21” from low point to high point or the water will literally flow over the edge. Consider using taller boards in the area with lowest elevation, if that is an option. 
  3. Keep in mind that water will naturally flow to (and thus, put the most pressure on) the lowest elevation area, so extra reinforcement is required behind those boards. I used 10-15 stakes of rebar behind my wood boards at the low elevation point, and boards still angled back slightly from the water's pressure. Without such reinforcement, the weight of the water could literally burst through or knock over your boards during filling and ruin your rink.
  4. Having proper board alignment is also critical to combatting this issue. If there is slope in your yard, then there’s a good chance that there will be gaps either under or between boards. Water will try pushing into those nooks and crannies, so if gaps between and under boards are not plugged, then the water will push the liner into those crevices and could create a "popping balloon" effect during your fill. If you have wood boards, the easy solution is to fasten small strips of wood to wherever there are gaps (and be sure to screw from inside to the outside, to minimize chances of puncturing the liner). If composite boards, try to get them flush vertically, and then plug gaps along the bottom with sand bags, lumber or other hard objects that can prevent water from pushing the liner outward. 

How do you know how much slope you have? There’s no easy answer, unfortunately. Ask that handyman friend or neighbor if they have an altimeter, a leveler, or other tools or home remedy to solve this problem. Otherwise you can eyeball it and take your chances. 

 

When to do initial fill?

You will need a reliable weather app and a calendar to figure this out. I’m not a scientist, but have researched this topic extensively over the years and believe the following research to be the most credible I found (http://lakeice.squarespace.com/ice-growth/). In short: ice should freeze at rate of 1 inch per day when it’s 17 degrees (i.e. 15 degrees below the freezing point), more rapidly when colder and less rapidly when warmer. Thus, as an example, if average temperature is 20 degrees (or 12 degrees less than freezing point), then 12/15 inches of additional ice is likely to be created that day. Next, a snow event prior to ice being fully frozen is catastrophic for your rink, so you'll need to ensure you get 2-3 inches of top layer frozen before the snowfall. Third, a person needs to account for how long it will take to fill their rink. If your rink will take 24 hours to fill, then you need to back-up your timetable even further. 

Conventional wisdom is that three inches of ice thickness is required prior to begin skating (probably depends on your weight). Outdoor ice freezes from the surface down, so seeing water underneath the ice layer is not uncommon even if the ice is strong enough. 

For many frigid northern climates like Minnesota and North Dakota, the answer of when these conditions exist is usually sometime between late November to early December, but every once in a while Mother Nature blesses us hockey fans with early cold temps, so it is wise to have your boards up and liner ready to unroll in case you are fortunate to have a Thanksgiving skate. 

 

How long does it take to fill?

This is another math exercise. First you need to calculate how many gallons of water is required. Each gallon is 7.48 cubic feet. Cubic feet = length x width x height (or ice thickness, in our case). So take the average desired ice thickness across your entire rink (which for me was three inches of water in some areas, 18 inches thick in others due to slope, so overall roughly an average of 10 inches) x 50 feet length x 25 feet width = 1,041.67 cubic feet x 7.48 gallons/cubic feet = 7,800 gallons! That’s a lot of water.

 

Next question is how are you going to fill the rink? In the Twin Cities, there are several tanker truck companies that can deliver you water, but it’s not cheap at $400-500/truck and generally each truck can only hold 5,000 or 6,000 gallons, so that gets pricey. Or, you can use your garden hose. Many variables such as faucet PSI, hose length and thickness will determine flow rate of a garden hose…but many commentators believe it's around 12-13 gallons per minute (or 720-780 gallons/hour). So at 7,800 gallons, my rink should take ~10 hours to fill...which is about accurate.  

Other considerations:

  • Water will flow to lowest elevation area first, and will slowly expand outward from there. It may take literally hours until water covers the entire base of your surface before it begins rising vertically.
  • Consider whether your exterior faucets remain on during the winter, or do you have the sprinkler company turn them off? If they are off, then consider two solutions: 1) hire the water truck, or 2) consider running a hose from a laundry room or utilities room inside the house. Yes it gets messy and requires a longer hose, but it works.
  • How do you know when fill is done? In the highest elevation area the water would only need to be three inches deep, so use measuring tape or homemade dip stick to dip into water at that point (assuming it's along boards, of course) to estimate the depth. Err on the side of >3 inches if you can, just in case there is a slight leak somewhere. 

 

What is optimal rink size and board size?

This is a personal preference that depends on many factors, but bigger is not always better. Consider the following: 

Rink size. The bigger the rink, the more time, expense, and logistical challenges you will face, such as finding a flat enough area of your yard (see my commentary on slope above), backyard liners are more expensive and awkward to lay out, filling takes considerably longer, shoveling and resurfacing takes longer, set-up time takes longer, and requires more space for offseason storage. That said, a rink of 1,200 SF will be great for elementary age kids playing 3-on-3, but gets rather crowded if numbers increase any more and/or bigger skaters are present. You will also want to consider distance from your house to the rink, and whether that’s an issue for the skaters in your family. If a smaller rink is footsteps away, vs a bigger rink that is 100 yards away, which one will your 8 year-old want to skate on? 

Board size. There’s no doubt that taller boards are great for keeping the puck in play and allowing your kids to practice lifting the puck off the boards, but there are also issues to consider. Taller boards make it tougher for smaller kids to get onto the rink itself (unless there’s a door), requires a larger liner (assuming you want your liner to go up and over the boards), tougher to get snow up and over the sides while shoveling, and without a door will be nearly impossible to lift a snowblower onto the ice. That said, consider that knee-high boards (24” high) generally end up with even less height from ice to board top, depending on whether your yard's slope and how many inches of water was required at the point. With lower boards the puck will bounce out of play more often, and there’s greater chance that a kid will occasionally trip and fall over the boards throughout the winter. 

Taken altogether, there are tradeoffs either way so make sure you have your eyes wide open about the challenges with either strategy. 

 

What is the ideal size of liner compared to rink size?

Conventional wisdom is to use a rink liner that is at least 5 feet wider and 5 feet longer than your boards, but the real answer depends on a) height of your boards, and b) do you want the liner to go up and over the boards (which we recommend), or do you intend to trim back the liner after freezing. If your boards are two feet high, then 2.5 feet on each end (or 5 feet longer, or 5 feet wider, in total) should be fine. But if your boards are higher on one of both side, then you need to consider rink length + board height on both ends plus 12” inches of slack (6” on each side). If you have four foot boards all around, for example, then you will want a liner 9-10’ taller (and/or wider) than your rink. If you have excess liner after filling and freezing, then just trim off the excess if you wish. 

You will also want to leave some slack in the liner when filling so the water can fully reach every inch of the ground within your rink without stretching the liner at the top. You’ll also want to secure the liner to top of your boards just enough so that the entire liner stays above the water line during filling, but still with slack, and then after filling is complete you can create tighter fit with your liner all along boards. 

 

Which liners to use and where to buy?

Like you, I struggled for years to find quality rink liners at a reasonable price. First, in terms of quality, don’t take a chance on anything less than 5 mil or 6 mil. You have made substantial investment or time and money on the rest of your rink, and there’s a narrow window of time to fill and allow freezing, so you simply can’t risk water leakage during filling. Home improvement stores generally don’t have the quality 5 mil or 6 mil liners, or if they do not in large enough sizes (and take it from me, you want a single sheet because trying to tape two liners simply doesn't work). The farm stores carry 6 mil liners during the summer, but a) generally only sell in bulk sizes (which you’d have to haul to your house, unroll, measure, cut, and store), and b) most farm stores only carry these liners during the summer for agricultural customers and therefore may not still have inventory in the winter. The companies who manufacture rink boards sell liners, but you’ll want to double-check the shipping charges because these are big and bulky items, so that can sometimes run you $50-100 or more for shipping. Plus, given the surge in new families who bought and put up backyard rinks in 2020, there's going to be many more families buying replacement liners in 2021, so if you wait too long to get your liner this winter then can you still rely upon them still being available in the size you want? Lastly, in most climates there is a narrow window of time to start filling with water as soon as temperatures are consistently below freezing point, so you'll want to plan ahead and get your liner today so you’ll be ready when optimal weather arrives.

 

Is the liner reusable?

Theoretically you can re-use your liner the next year, but I have never heard of anyone who was able to. First, often times the liners get punctured by skates, ice chunks, errant screws sticking out of the boards, or when disassembling the rinks. Second, even if they remain puncture-free, the liners are nearly impossible to roll back up, get really heavy from being covered with wet leaves and moisture so are tough to transport, and take up too much room to store. Third, if you can solve the roll-up and storage issue, sometimes you don’t realize your liner is punctured until you roll it out and start to fill the next winter. What a terrifying experience that would be! You might only have a narrow window for that initial fill, as previously mentioned, and it’s difficult to find affordable last-minute liners in December. Can you try to mend the puncture? Perhaps, but not guaranteed. Duct tape is not strong enough to hold back water during initial water filling...there is always seepage underneath, however gradual, that will impact your freezing. The FlexSeal tape option seems appealing, and if you just have 1-2 small patches to fix then maybe that’s worth a shot. But the tape is difficult to apply on uneven ground and in cold weather, and if you have a significant tear you are gambling that the water will freeze at a faster rate than the water will leak under the tape. 

In this writer’s opinion, don’t horse around…just bite the bullet, order your new liner right away and have it ready to go. 

Lastly, nearly everyone I know that built a rink last year wants to build an even bigger rink this year. Don’t you? Obviously as your rink dimensions change you now need a new liner.

 

 When and how to lay down liner?

Immediately prior to filling! That way you reduce the chance of leaves and branches falling on top, having the wind blow the liner away or out of position, or a snowstorm arrives and now you have to shovel what lands on the liner (which inevitably leads to puncture). For the installation process, we recommend that you recruit a friend to help you roll out the liner across your rink, straighten out the wrinkles, and then tuck in the corners. In our experience, it’s best to wear socks while walking on the liner to reduce risk to reduce “pulling” of the liners that can happen with grippy boots (or risk something sharp on bottom of boot). Also be prepared to go on hands and knees to straighten out wrinkles and tuck in corners.

 

As mentioned above, I recommend that you leave some slack in the rink liner when filling so the water can fully reach every inch of the ground within your rink without stretch the liner at the top. You’ll also want to secure the end along each side of liner to top of your boards so that the entire liner stays above the water line during filling. 

 

Resurfacing.

It’s a challenge for everyone. The Nice Rink resurfacers are the best I’ve seen, but they require a hose connection, which means you have to bring hoses out each day and put them away after use or risk them freezing and breaking, you have to consider where will you connect the hose (are you going to keep an exterior faucet on during winter and risk pipes bursting, or pay a plumber to swap out for frost-free faucet), or run a hose to your basement utilities room? Plus the resurfacers are $250 to $300 with shipping, so not cheap for an imperfect solution. They leave a smooth surface, however. Most backyard rink enthusiasts have some other homemade option such as a cooler with water spigots or garbage cans (but where do you fill them up…and do you have to lift over boards with water in?). A hose could also work, but is better for initial filling and smoothing out ice mountains because it doesn’t create a smooth finish. I tried them all…and honestly my best results for my 1,250 SF rink was to use a handheld flower watering can and take 8-10 trips back into the house to fill up with hot water from bathroom sink.

  

Taken altogether, building the backyard rink is an arduous journey that require many factors to come together, but for those who love outdoor hockey and family time it is truly rewarding to create a successful rink. Having had both successful rinks and failed rinks, I hope my lessons learned can help inspire you to make the right decisions with your rink this winter so that you and family can spend more time skating on the rink than working on the rink.  

 

David Shuler is CEO of Sniper’s Edge Hockey, Inc. He lives in the greater Minneapolis area, where he grew up playing pond hockey, and today coaches mite hockey and plays some beer league. His backyard rink also includes a wood-burning fire pit, music (Kidz Bop, mainly), spotlights, cocoa and plenty of on-ice silliness. He welcomes your comments on this article, plus any of your outdoor rink tips and lessons learned, at david@snipersedgehockey.com.

  

 

Making the Right Team for You

Making the Right Team for You

Making the Right Team for You

Off-ice hockey training

Playing on the team that is right for you can be the difference maker in your
development. You want to play at a level that is competitive and challenging, but also where you can touch the puck and improve your skills. 
Read more

 

Read more