If you’ve ever watched a live hockey game, maybe you’ve wondered: just how thick is the ice on a hockey rink? Somehow, throughout the entire game of hockey lasting hours, the ice in a hockey rink remains solid and functional, so other than the question of how thick is the ice, how does the ice not melt throughout the three hours that a hockey game lasts on average? We will answer those questions in this article, along with questions such as how does the ice in a hockey rink affect skating, how do they paint the rink and many more.
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How Thick Is The Ice On A Hockey Rink?
An ice hockey rink is at least ¾ inch thick. Depending on what league the rink is in and whether or not it’s used for casual play, how thick hockey ice is can be anywhere from ¾ inches (thin ice) up to 3 inches (thick ice).
The ice on a hockey rink must be thick enough to support the players without collapsing. When it comes to durability, there are two stats that affect its durability the most:
- Ice thickness
- Refrigeration power
How cold a hockey rink is impacts how long the rink can hold out, with thinner ice lasting longer. The refrigeration power of the cold concrete below can be anywhere from 14 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Figure skaters usually want an ice temperature of 26 to 28 degrees fahrenheit. If you’re a skater, you can find some great ice skates for beginners on our blog.
Hockey arena ice rink uses an advanced refrigeration system that pumps freezing salt water through the concrete floor below the ice surface. The dissolved alkaline salts in the freezing brine water going through the concrete slab gives the frozen surface slight stickiness.
For hockey games, a standard hockey rink has the markings such as blue lines, center ice, end-zone and other markings get painted on a thin layer (first layer) of ice before the desired thickness gets added (top layer).
|Type Of Ice Hockey Rinks||Ice Thickness In Inches||Ice Thickness In Cm||Dimensions In Feet||Dimensions In Meters||Temperature in Fahrenheit||Temperature in Celsius|
|Olympic||1.75 – 2||4.5 – 5||197×98.5||60×30||24||4.4|
|NHL||¾ – 1.5||1.9 – 3.8||200×85||61-26||16||-9|
For the Olympics, the ideal thickness of the ice surface is thicker than in the NHL.
Having the ice up to two inches thick means slower movements and a higher necessary temperature to keep the ice conditions perfect.
The NHL is on the low-end with a super-thin layer of ice giving the hockey players skating a more fast-paced game on their indoor rink. Both rink types have rounded edges instead of sharp ones.
Go here to see our recommendations on hockey skates for wide feet.
How Is The Thickness Of Ice Measured?
The thickness of ice is measured in millimeters. The measurements are usually done at the center and at the ends. The end of the hockey rink should have an ice surface just a single millimeter shorter than the center.
The NHL hockey ice surface should have a measurement of an inch (25 mm), while a college hockey ice surface should have two inches (50 mm) at most.
If we’re talking figure skates or hockey skates, figure skaters prefer thicker ice.
What Is The Temperature Of The Ice At A Hockey Rink?
The temperature of the ice at a hockey rink is anywhere between 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius).
NHL rink ice surface tends to be on the colder end while Olympic rink surfaces tends to be on the warmer end.
How Is The Hockey Rink Ice Made?
The hockey rink ice is made using cold concrete. The cold concrete has the ability of ice making because of the metal pipes running through it. Adding coolant to the metal pipes makes the concrete freeze water on its surface.
Instead of spraying water randomly, water is sprayed directly and gently onto the cold surface. The first layer freezes instantly.
The hockey ice rink then gets filled with water, freezing it layer by layer, until the ice surface is an inch thick.
The process to create an ice rink, regardless of how thick the ice is, can take up to four days. This includes getting the layers to be perfect and painting to take place, and uses around 10000 gallons of water.
What Is Hockey Ice Made Of?
The hockey ice is made of water. This water freezes with the assistance of applying saltwater (brine) and/or any other coolant through the pipes below the ice surface surrounded by concrete.
Depending on the quality of water, the ice can vary in quality. Water quality also changes how quickly it freezes, with poor quality water taking longer to freeze adequately.
If you’re thinking of making it at home, you’d best buy synthetic ice instead. Check our blog for the best synthetic ice.
How Do Ice Rinks Stay Frozen?
Ice rinks stay frozen mostly with the help of the concrete floor below the ice hockey rink which is filled with pipes that have coolant running through them.
Other factors such as humidity levels, how big the ice hockey rink is and how thick the ice is affect the ice’s ability to remain frozen.
How Are The Markings On The Ice Made?
The markings on the ice are made on a thinner ice layer prior to additional coating.
Before painting markings the thinnest ice layer gets painted white. After closing the white layer with a new layer of ice, the markings get painted after which additional layers get added so that the rink is an inch thick.
What Are The Standard Rink Sizes?
The standard rink sizes in NHL are 200 by 85 feet (61 by 26 meters). The standard Olympic ice in a hockey rink is sized at 197 by 98.5 feet (60 by 30 meters).
While colleges don’t have a standard ice hockey rink size, most of the time it’s set on the NHL standard.
If you want good beginner hockey skates you can see here on our blog.
How Is Rink Ice Painted?
Rink ice is painted by firstly painting the second layer of ice which is 1/32 inches thick, white. After that, another layer is added which seals the layer that has been painted white.
The layer that sealed the white layer is the one that gets painted with all the markings and logos. Finally, the additional coating covers the ice to the wanted thickness.
Types Of Ice Hockey Rinks
There are two primary types of hockey rinks: NHL and Olympic hockey rinks.
The NHL rink is 200 by 85 feet while an Olympic rink is 197 by 98.5 feet. The hockey arena usually offers more space for other events as well, both ice and non-ice-related.
There are also ice rinks where you only skate that don’t have a standard size. Click here to see what to wear ice skating.
How Does A Zamboni Work?
A Zamboni works by:
- Shaving the ice: The Zamboni shaves 1/16 inch thick layer of ice.
- Washing the ice: While mopping the ice, Zamboni vacuums the dirt, blood and anything else off of the floor.
- Layering new water: After cleaning, the Zamboni sprays water from its fresh water tank.
- Spread the new water: Finally, the Zamboni spreads the water evenly.
Frequently Asked Questions
A cold slab of concrete is under the ice in a hockey rink. The slab of concrete has pipes filled with coolant running constantly formed in a grid. The coolant in those pipes is brine water most of the time. Most of the refrigeration works under the hockey rink ice.
Olympic ice is 1.75 to 2 inches thick (4.5 to 5 centimeters thick). The center ice on an Olympic ice rink is thicker than the edges by a millimeter. Because the ice on an NHL rink is thinner, it doesn’t demand as much energy to use as an Olympic ice rink.
There are 11 to 13 layers of ice on a hockey rink. The first layer is 1/32 inches thick. The second layer of ice, which is also 1/32 thick, gets painted over with white paint. The third layer is 1/16 inches thick and gets painted with markers and logos. Finally, 8 to 10 additional coatings get added.
Now you know everything there is to know about hockey rinks, from how they’re formed, to how thick and big they are. The question of ‘How thick is the ice on a hockey rink’ is now behind you, with the answer being from 0.75 to two inches. For more articles about skating, you can visit our blog.
About the Author: Jason Walker
I have always had a passion for toys and games, and I have many fond memories of playing yard and board games with my friends and family growing up – before the days of playing on the internet! These games taught be valuable coordination and analytical skills, and demonstrating concepts in a fun and exciting way, an outlook which I appreciated and I built on through my years of teacher training.
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