How Thick is NHL Ice and Why Does it Matter? | LeoVegas

How Thick is Hockey Ice in the NHL?

Summary: The ice used in a professional game during a regular NHL season is approximately 3/4 of an inch thick, which is about 19.05 millimetres or 1.905 centimetres.

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Whether you’re playing slot games like Break Away Deluxe or betting on NHL outrights, the main part of the sport of hockey is, of course, the ice. Without it, you’d be playing street or field hockey! It’s the ice that allows for the speed of the game to be so high, for the collisions to be so impactful, and for the skill of the players to be that much more impressive.

Now, it could just be dismissed as a playing surface. After all, with modern technology, it doesn’t seem overly difficult to get an ice rink in place. Stadiums regularly flip between NHL ice and NBA courts.

This couldn’t be more wrong, as the ice, its thickness, and maintenance standards are crucial to competitive play in a top tier league. Read on to learn all about hockey rink ice thickness and its role in the sport.


Hockey Rink Thickness

In the NHL, hockey rink thickness is standardized at ¾ inch or 2cm. To get an idea of how thick that is, it’s around the same thickness as an NHL hockey puck. As a general rule, the thickness of the ice hockey rink gives NHL games a faster feel. Many other rinks use thicker ice as a standard, some going up to 1.5 inches or 4cm thick.

For the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the thickness of the ice was increased from the NHL standard of 2cm (3/4 inch) to between 2.5 cm and 3cm, which sets the range from just under 1 inch to around 1.2 inches thick. In Europe, the ice tends to be a bit thicker than that of the NHL, but the rinks are also a great deal wider than those in the North American league.

Dimensions of a Standard NHL Rink

A standard NHL rink, regardless of which NHL games you’re watching, has dimensions of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide, or close to 61 metres by 26 metres. To meet the requirements for ice thickness at this rink size, some 15,000 gallons or 56,781 litres of water are initially needed. To top it up and keep the ice thickness throughout a game, another 1,000 gallons or 3,785 litres is required.

This makes the NHL rink size rather small in comparison to other leagues. For international competitions, the standard is usually 200 feet by 100 feet, which is 61 metres by 30.5 metres. This is also the standard in European leagues like the SHL in Sweden. Obviously, this requires a lot more water to create enough ice for the rink. This is especially true when you weigh in the fact that the ice is also often thicker than the NHL.

The Role of Ice Thickness on the Game

Ice thickness can have a big effect on the speed of a hockey game, but it can also determine how quickly layers freeze. The thinner the ice, the faster it will be, because it’s harder. Thicker ice is seen as being softer and slower. Most players prefer thinner ice as they can skate quicker and the puck will move faster along the surface of the ice.

By comparison, a sport like figure skating prefers a thicker ice that’s slower, to help keep control during performances. With hockey, it’s the smaller, more compact rinks of the NHL coupled with thinner ice, that make for a more high-impact form of the sport. Players skate faster and don’t have as much room to manoeuvre, resulting in more hits and the need for faster plays.

Over the course of a game, players’ skates, pads, and sticks slapping a puck around over the ice will melt the surface and chip away at it. When ice is thinner, it can be frozen again faster via the equipment of the maintenance team. As a result, the ice remains faster and harder with less downtime for re-freezing compared to thicker ice.

So, if you’re betting on the SHL, note that gameplay will probably be slower and there’ll be more time on the puck.

Maintaining Ice Thickness During Hockey Games

In hockey leagues around the world, a key part of game day is the role of the ice technician team. They monitor ice temperature and look for problems on the surface. To keep the ice frozen throughout a game, a refrigeration system is used within the arena's floor, allowing for the many layers of the ice to be kept cold and for freezing to take place when necessary.

Of course, the most iconic part of ice thickness maintenance is the Zamboni. In between periods, an ice technician will ride out onto the rink on a Zamboni, driving over the entirety of the rink. For hockey fans, it’s a thing of beauty! As it scrapes the surface to level it and remove piles of cut-up ice or snow, it also lays down a layer of heated water. The ice beneath freezes too quickly to melt, so the heated water just creates a super smooth surface for the next 20 minutes.

Historical Perspective on Ice Thickness

There was a time when pond hockey was hailed as a key factor behind many great skaters rising to prominence. Naturally, when skating on a pond or frozen lake, you’re going to want as much thickness as possible, lest you risk falling through and needing to be pulled Out of the Ice . They recommend at least 4 inches of thickness for outdoor and wild hockey, so it’s easy to see why this desire for thicker ice could sway the thinking. Still, thinner ice makes for harder and faster surfaces, which is better.

How a Hockey Rink is Made

The team will first pump freezing cold salt water through pipes that are within a concrete block known as an ice slab. This ice slab will then get very, very cold, and naturally, layers of ice can be built up.

The first layers get the paint job that shows league and team logos, as well as advertisements. A few more layers are then added until the thickness hits that ¾ inch mark. It’s this initial build that holds for the entirety of the campaign.

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