Everything You Need to Know About the NHL’s Ice

Do you remember when you were a kid and you decided to make an ice rink in your driveway? All you had to do was turn on the garden hose, flood the concrete and wait for the snowy weather to facilitate the deep freeze. It seemed so easy.

For the NHL’s 30 teams, however, constructing the ice surface is a far more involved and uniform process. The surfaces at every venue must be evenly level for player safety, and the ice must be able to withstand the cuts and slices from the sharp skate blades for at least 60 minutes of play.

We mined the league for details on how teams set up their rinks. It’s more science than art, according to the NHL. Here is what they shared about the ice making process.

The Chill: As much as 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant are poured into the bottom of the rinks. The glycol chills the base of the 200 ft. by 100 ft. rectangle in order to keep the ice near its ideal temperature of 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Build: Next, the approximately three-foot high rink boards are installed around the edge of the rectangle. Once the boards are locked into place, the process of forming the ice begins. In an NHL arena, the ice is built to a thickness of approximately 1-1.25 inches. (An outdoor rink, however, requires up to two inches of ice thickness to help withstand the more extreme elements.)

The Key Ingredient: While many speculate that it takes special water to create the ice, the water used is the same tap water in everyone’s homes. The water is added slowly in a fine mist to help create an even playing surface. Each inch of ice thickness requires approximately 10,000 gallons of water.

The Paint Job: For the finishing touch, the ice surface is whitened using approximately 350 gallons of water soluble paint. The lines and logos are then painted and placed on the surface, with more ice built on top.

The Follow Through: Once constructed, monitoring the status of the ice is a 24-hour job. To help this process, a high-tech system called “Eye on the Ice” is embedded in the surface. The technology provides updates on temperatures at different areas of the ice, signaling an alert and prompting the need to pump more glycol or engage the in-line heating system in case the weather gets too cold.