Ice Skating Training Facilities

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History of Ice Skating Facilities

       Canada has led the world in the development of early skating rinks,” according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. The cold northern winter results in large number of frozen ponds and the ability to flood any flat surface to create a frozen surface. Montreal has a history of outdoor ice skating for more than 150 years. Given the proliferation of rinks in Montreal, it’s no surprise that “the first prepared outdoor commercial rink in the Canada was opened in Montréal in 1850.” Montreal has about 275 outdoor ice skating rinks in its 19 boroughs. The city offers two refrigerated rinks at Mount Royal Park and the Old Port that maintain the most regular ice hours. However, most of the other city ice skating rinks and ice rings are only open seasonally.

Historical Development of Ice Skating

       Skaters used poles to propel themselves over the ice until about 1300 A.D., when an unknown Dutchman fashioned skates out of metal. These could be given a sharp, smooth edge, which enabled skaters to propel themselves along without the aid of a stick. The Dutch continued to experiment with designs, and soon developed the basic pattern that is very similar to the modern figure skate or hockey skate.

       Ice skating remained a sport for commoners until about 1600, when the appeal of ice skating began to spread to various members of European nobility. The aristocracy did not want to associate with commoners, thus the first specially designed skating rinks were built. Members of the lower classes -- many of whom were still on wood skates -- were confined to skating on frozen lakes and canals for the next couple hundred years or so, until cities began constructing community rinks.

Indoor Skating Rinks
       The first indoor artificial ice (mechanically refrigerated) rink opened in 1876 at Chelsea, London, England and was named the Glaciarium. It was built near the King's Road in London by John Gamgee.. Pre-dating electrical refrigeration, the ice was chilled by copper pipes that had glycerin and water forced through them. It was an expensive, inefficient design, but it was the state of the art for the time.

       The Madison Square Garden ice rink was constructed in New York City in 1879.

    Advances in refrigeration technology made rapid advances with the widespread availability of reliable electricity.

       The first Olympic figure skating competition was held on a refrigerated indoor rink in London in 1908. Figure skating was, a summer Olympic sport held indoors from 1908-1924. The first Winter Olympics didn't start until 1924.

The Process of Freezing Ice
       Indoor skating can trace its roots in North America to brothers, Lester and Joe Patrick, who built an indoor rink in Canada in 1912, to play games for their newly formed hockey league. Their chilling mechanism used brine water to refrigerate a concrete base, on which they repeatedly poured ultra thin coatings of water to build up to a layer of ice. Over the next few decades, the Patricks were responsible for creating arenas all across the northwest United States and throughout western Canada. Today, the United States has more than 1,700 ice rinks.

       The process used today is much more efficient, but remains essentially unchanged from the Patrick brothers' method were the refrigerant doesn't cool the ice directly. Instead, it cools brine water, a calcium chloride solution, which is pumped through a grid system of pipes underneath the ice. The pipes are embedded in a concrete or sand base.

       Indoor ice surfaces are commonly used for recreational activities and sports including curling, hockey, figure skating, and speed skating. In all of these sports the quality of the ice makes a big difference.

       The strength and skill of ice skaters has increased tremendously since the days of skating outdoor under all sorts of changing ice and weather conditions. It may not be immediately obvious that the uniform  characteristics of indoor ice has make a big difference in the increased performance levels of skaters.

Factors that Affect of the Ice
       Rink managers strive to keep the skating surface at 24 to 26 F (about -4 C), the building temperature at about 63 F (17 C), and the indoor humidity at about 30 percent. However, warm outdoor air  temperature can cause a migration of the warm air into the building which requires lowering the building temperature to avoid affecting the quality of the ice."  If the outdoor temperature is extremely cold, the inside of the arena is generally heated to avoid problems with the ice.
   
       The type of water can also change conditions. Ice made with water that contains dissolved alkaline salts tends have a sticky feel and will dull the edges of skate blades. To counteract these problems, many rinks use water purifiers or add chemicals to condition the tap water.
 
       Figure skaters and hockey skaters have totally different ideas of what represents ideal ice conditions and temperatures to achieve those conditions. Figure skaters prefer an ice temperature of 26 to 28 F. as this temperature range is softer and skate edges grip the ice better. The ice is also less likely to shatter under the impact of jumps. Hockey players prefer colder, harder ice as the ice surface tends to get chewed up at the warmer temperatures preferred by figure skaters. During hockey games, the top of the ice is usually kept at 24 to 26 F. as warmer ice may cause players to lose their edge during a crucial play. However, ice that's too cold may chip too readily.

References:

Table of Contents - Basic Skills Bridge Program Handbook

College and University Skating Programs

PDF  USFS Member Club Directory 2011-12

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Index of Articles on Ice Rinks
PDF  2012-13 USFS Club List Ice Rinks & USFS Clubs by states
ISI Rink List 16 USA administrative areas
ISI & USFS Basic Skills programs
State Games
USFS Basic Skating Skills Club List

    
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