The Science of Ice

Factors of making the perfect ice for hockey

The winter gives us a variety of sports to choose from, but hockey is native to the Northland – and ice, that’s the most important part of the good ol’ hockey game.

First things first, temperature.

“We turn the temperature down basically as far as we can get it because we’re putting multiple loads on and that’s what we call our slab temp or concrete temp and then we also look at our surface temps. Typically during our season, the slab temp is about 17 degrees and the surface temp is about 23 degrees.”

Joe Amundson, the Director of Ice Operations at Scheels Arena, says that the temperature of the concourse and all of the people in the arena factor into that as well. It’s all controlled by a computer system which regulates the coolers underneath the ice.

Besides how cold it is, another component is the thickness of the ice.

“Well, typically in your perfect world, you have an inch of ice, so it’s not very thick at all,” Amundson states.

Amundson says the thickness of the ice has to be maintained thoroughly between and during practices and games because of the brute force of hockey.

“The players, approximately 18 to 20 year olds, they’re bigger, faster, stronger, so that push off their legs, their skates bite harder on the ice so they’ll have a deeper cut or groove as we call it,” Amundson explains.

The harder, thicker ice makes a difference for those who play the game, like Mark Senden of the Fargo Force.

“Hard ice will make the game faster, the puck will move quicker and it will glide more on top of it. Whereas soft ice, the steel kind of sinks into the ice,” says Senden.

The zamboni keeps the surface hard enough for the athletes to play the sport they love.

Besides picking up all of the extra ice and snow, the zamboni coats the ice with an extra layer of liquid by a process known as hot flooding.

“We use about 160 degree water in the zamboni and that gives us our best ice adhesion,” says Amundson.

With zambonied ice at the right temperature, hockey players can make the perfect shot…to end the game.

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