I'm interested in getting some of this stuff for a moderately sized setup, and I was wondering how it really does compare to real ice. Wear and tear from hard stops and durability from heavy use is my primary concern. Plus, what is the quality of the skating? I know it's a little more work, but can a player still hit top end speed and maintain it gliding, or is there a lot more friction? How quickly would this wear down your blades? And lastly, what is the lifespan of the stuff? I've never actually stepped onto the stuff before, so I'd like to hear from people who have firsthand experience.
Is there a brand anyone would recommend? It's a big investment, I'd like to know the dirt on it before I commit to anything, thanks. Shipping location would be Florida in the U.S., if anyone has any idea what shipping would cost.
It is pretty sweet, it fits together just like a puzzle, so you can keep on expanding if you want.
As far as skating goes it feels like there is a layer of molasses on regular ice. I could skate forwards and backwards and stop just like I would on ice, but it is "sticky" feeling, so your legs have to work harder to go anywhere (more friction) it is the same with any type of fake ice.
I asked the guy who was working about maintenance and he said they last about 20 years, and all you have to do is sweep it off. A size big enough to mess around on would cost you about $5000 and if you want to actually get up to full speed you'd be looking at over $10 000
Basically I'd say the major differences are in the power needed to stride, lateral movement and stopping. You'll feel like a kid again the first time you step on because despite it being a pretty good simulation of real ice, it is not real ice. There's a considerable amount of traction in comparison to actual ice, and you'll need to work harder to move the same distance you would on ice. I felt like it was kinda sticky, you drag a lot more than you do on ice (so your stride naturally is much smaller). Lateral movement gets cut down by the traction as well, which affects goalies more than players I think. Stopping is a bit harder at first because you have to put more effort into it.
It really helps your stride and strength for the ice though, since you need more work to get the same job done on synthetic ice. In terms of puck handling and the feel for it, it felt a lot like real ice. There are obvious differences, simply by the nature of it not being ice (more traction, more traction, more traction). But you don't have to worry about your skates rusting from residue- it's just this sort of plasticy film that comes off all flakey. On the downside, it gets all over you and smells a bit off (like cleaning products, but I guess they don't smell so horrible).
This stuff eats your blades, but it's more a big deal for goalies than players. You should get one of those self-sharpener things, just a quick few swipes when you go on and off. You'll need to sharpen your skates every session to get the right feel I think (unless you like them dulled), as they wear out quick on the synthetic. You're not going to hit the same speed as ice on synthetic but you can get pretty close, and you'll probably get faster on ice if you ever go on again. It lasts a long time, I don't know the actual timeframe (20 years the guy below says, and that would seem right: the place I trained at had the same one for 5 years and still has it iirc).
It takes some getting used to. The first time I skated on it, two-foot stops were impossible, and the friction you feel when starting a stride from standstill is just awful. I've heard there are some types of the plastic ice that use a spray on coating to keep it slick, you might want to look into that. I skated on some variant of the jigsaw stuff posted earlier, and while it's probably great for stick-handling or shooting practice, I doubt it'd be worth investing in for serious skating. The stuff tears up skate blades too.