Thanks to the Japanese, we're now closer than ever to having a Winter Classic in Phoenix someday. Say hello to eco-friendly, resin-based, iceless skating rinks:
So the minute they finally figure out how to turn a Zamboni into a giant razor to generate ad revenue, someone decides to invent iceless ice. That's hockey luck for you.
The "ice" surfaces are manufactured by Mitsubishi plastics and are being marketed as a way to keep costs down while increasing the number of rinks in Japan, as skating booms in popularity for its athletes. Ice rinks are closing due to economic strain, and the fabricated rinks can save operators roughly $190,000 U.S. annually in both air conditioning and water bills. From Inventor Spot:
The new iceless skating rinks will be formed from 6-ft by 3-ft plastic panels, each weighing 84 lbs. and measuring just under an inch thick. A special wax is applied to the surface of the panels once they're assembled. The end result is a surface that is nearly 90% as "slippery" as real ice and can be skated on using normal, unmodified ice skates.
In the video, the skater trying out the surface indicates that it would be great for practice but that some of the more complicated figure-skating moves were better left for actual ice. Since hockey doesn't require many triple salchows, could a full three periods of puck action be held on an iceless rink? This brings up a rather philosophical question. If you have rollerblades, it's roller hockey. If you're running around on the roof of the Quick Stop with Randal and Dante, it's deck hockey or street hockey. So can it still be ice hockey if you're wearing ice skates but there's no, you know, ice?
If Al Gore had said something about the NHL having to play its games on a giant dry-erase board thanks to global warming, we probably wouldn't have fallen asleep during "An Inconvenient Truth."