Posted at: 01/25/2013 11:29 PM
By: Mark Saxenmeyer
Minnesotans love their hockey.
But even the most fervent of fans admit it's been awfully cold lately, to be skating outside.
Now though, there's an increasingly popular alternative to outdoor ice: synthetic indoor flooring. Not only can you stay warm while you skate, but you might even a gain a competitive edge.
15-year-old Ryan Murphy, a freshman at Providence Academy, is a prime example. Inside his Orono home, Ryan practices his hockey skills year-round. "I come down here and skate pretty much every day," he said.
No matter the January cold, no matter the July heat.
"I wanna go NHL." Ryan explained.
His father, Rich Murphy, said, "If you have a child that's wanting to dream that dream and go to the next step, I was willing to give him the tools to be able to do so."
Rich paid $8,000 to install synthetic flooring in an area of their home that used to be a basketball court.
Ryan skates on it just like he would on ice. "His puck handling has gotten better, his eye-hand coordination has gotten better, his skating ability is better," Rich said.
Ryan says this new groove is giving him the edge he needs in the increasingly cut-throat world of youth hockey. "I just use it to my advantage," he said.
Don Mason developed this product, which he calls Kwik Rink, in the mid 1990s. But only now, he says, is this ice catching fire. "My sales have probably doubled in the last five years," he said.
Case in point: the new Velocity Hockey Training Facility being built in Edina. It opens February 4th and contains Kwik Rink flooring in two separate locations. Owner Noel Rahn already uses the synthetic in his Eden Prairie location. "This is the closest stuff to ice that you can find, in my opinion. We do a lot of stick handling and a lot of shooting on it with the kids," he said.
Manufactured at a Minnesota plastics plant, Kwik Rink requires nothing but a water-based lubricant to maintain its ice-like properties. But creator Mason won't divulge the actual ingredients that make this synthetic so smooth. "I can't," he said. It'd be like revealing the "secret sauce" on a McDonald's Big Mac.
Regardless of how it works, Rich Murphy is pleased with his investment. "You can't always be on the ice so we went to the next best thing," he said.
"You can literally do anything in here on it," Ryan added.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org