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Does the NHL Use Synthetic Ice? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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Hockey players are undoubtedly some of the toughest and most determined athletes out there. They display exceptional skill and resilience when playing on ice rinks, which is considered one of the most challenging conditions in sports. We, as fans, get to witness their thrilling performances and enjoy the excitement they bring to the game. However, have you ever asked – does the NHL use synthetic ice for training or games?

Synthetic ice has become a viable option for hockey players and trainers thanks to KwikRink. In this article, we will delve into the world of synthetic ice and its use in the sport of hockey.

But first, let’s begin with the basics: 

What is Synthetic Ice?

Synthetic ice is an artificial indoor rink made from solid polymer materials—interlocking panels designed to mimic real ice’s look and feel make up the skating floor. Solid plastic (polyoxymethylene), previously used, has been upgraded over the years to use High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) for durability and better performance when skating on synthetic ice.

Synthetic ice is commonly used for hockey practice or recreational skating and is often found in indoor facilities where traditional or metal skates are used.  

Does the NHL Use Synthetic Ice?

fans on the hockey match

Synthetic Ice for Practice and Training

The NHL does not use synthetic ice for its games. The league uses natural ice for all matches, made by freezing water on a rink surface. However, other aspects of hockey do use synthetic ice.

Many NHL teams use synthetic ice for practice. It allows players to work on their skills and drills even when they cannot access their traditional ice rink. Synthetic ice is also easier on players’ joints, as it’s not as hard as natural ice. This more shock-absorbing surface can be particularly beneficial for players who are recovering from injuries.

KwikRink has successfully installed state-of-the-art practice rinks for several NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, and the Carolina Hurricanes, to name just a few. These advanced synthetic rinks provide top-tier training opportunities for these professional ice hockey players, helping them to hone their skills and maintain peak performance levels.

Youth Hockey Organizations and Synthetic Ice

But it’s not just NHL teams that use synthetic ice. Many youth hockey organizations also use it for their practices and games. It’s a cost-effective alternative to natural ice, which can be expensive to maintain. Since synthetic ice does not require refrigeration, players can use it year-round, regardless of the ambient temperature.

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and Synthetic Ice

Another notable organization that uses synthetic ice is the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The IIHF is the international governing body for ice hockey and oversees all international tournaments, including the Olympics. They’ve used synthetic ice for various events, including the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Pros and Cons of Synthetic Ice

While synthetic ice rinks offer versatility and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional ice rinks, it’s essential to consider their pros and cons before deciding to set one up. Here are some pros and cons of synthetic ice rinks:


  • Synthetic ice can be used indoors or outdoors, regardless of the temperature or weather conditions, making it a versatile option for year-round training.
  • It requires less maintenance than traditional ice rinks, as it doesn’t need to be resurfaced or flooded with water.
  • It can be more cost-effective in the long run, as it doesn’t require the same energy or resources to maintain as traditional ice rinks.
  • Synthetic ice can be customized to fit any size or shape, benefiting those with limited space or specific training needs.
  • It can be a more environmentally-friendly option, as it doesn’t require water or energy-intensive equipment to maintain.


  • While synthetic ice may not precisely replicate the feel and glide of natural ice, the best synthetic ice for hockey offers high-quality plastic that retains 90% or more of the ice’s natural glide.
  • Synthetic ice requires regular maintenance, just like natural ice surfaces, but it can provide a high-quality skating surface with proper care.
  • Over time, synthetic ice can experience wear and tear due to the friction and heat generated by skating. However, you can minimize this with proper maintenance and care.
  • While synthetic ice may be more cost-effective than natural ice in the long run, an initial investment is required to set up a synthetic ice rink.
  • Synthetic ice can produce a louder noise when skates move across the surface than natural ice, which can be a concern for those living nearby or for indoor training facilities. However, you can address this by using sound-dampening materials and techniques.

What Hockey Players Think of Synthetic Ice 

Ice hockey - Does the NHL Use Synthetic Ice

Some players and coaches swear by synthetic ice despite the pros and cons. They argue that it’s a helpful tool for developing skills and practicing drills and that it can be a valuable addition to a training program.

And while the NHL and other notable hockey organizations don’t use synthetic ice for games or official practices, some players have used it for individual training.

Examples of players notably known to practice on synthetic ice include Patrick Kane of the New York Rangers, Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars, and Auston Matthews, a star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Contact Us for More Information on Synthetic Ice Rinks 

Synthetic ice may not be used in official NHL games or practices, but it offers significant value as a training tool. Although it cannot entirely replace real ice, it can be a useful addition to a training program and provide skaters with an accessible and cost-effective way to train during the off-season or when traditional ice surfaces are unavailable. 

Contact us to learn how KwikRink can provide a quality artificial ice skating experience.

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