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An ice rink (or ice skating rink) is a frozen body of water and/or hardened chemicals where people can ice skate or play winter sports. Besides recreational ice skating, some of its uses include ice hockey, bandy, rink bandy, ringette, speed skating, figure skating, ice stock sport and curling as well as exhibitions, contests and ice shows. There are two types of rinks in prevalent use today: natural, where freezing occurs from cold ambient temperatures, and artificial (or mechanically-frozen), where a coolant produces cold temperatures in the surface below the water, causing the water to freeze. There are also synthetic ice rinks where skating surfaces are made out of plastics.
Many ice rinks consist of, or are found on, open bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, canals, and sometimes rivers; these can only be used in the winter in climates where the surface would freeze thickly enough to support human weight. Rinks can also be made in cold climates by enclosing a level area of ground, filling it with water, and letting it freeze. Snow may even be packed to use as a containment material.
A famous example of this type of rink is the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada, estimated at 1,764,000 square feet (163,900 m2) and 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) long, which claims to be the "world's largest ice skating rink." The rink is prepared by lowering the canal's water level and letting the canal water freeze. The rink is then resurfaced nightly by cleaning the ice of snow and flooding it with water from below the ice. The rink is recognized as the "world's largest naturally frozen ice surface" by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Another famous rink is the annual River Trail rink cleared on the Red River at Winnipeg, Canada, which is the "world's longest ice skating rink." according to the Guinness Book of World Records - http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-5000/longest-ice-skating-trail/ The trail is cleared by volunteers with snow shovels and is 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) long.
In any climate, an arena ice surface can be installed in a properly built space. This consists of a bed of sand or occasionally a slab of concrete, through (or on top of) which pipes run. The pipes carry a chilled fluid (usually either a salt brine or water with antifreeze, or in the case of smaller rinks, refrigerant) which can lower the temperature of the slab so that water placed atop will freeze. Such rinks were developed in the late nineteenth century, the first being the Glaciarium in London. This methodology is known as 'artificial ice' to differentiate from ice rinks made by simply freezing water in a cold climate, indoors or outdoors, although both types are of frozen water. A more proper technical term is 'mechanically frozen' ice.
A famous example of this type of rink is the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval, a 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) rink in Roseville, Minnesota, United States. Another example is the outdoor rink at Rockefeller Center in New York.
Modern rinks have a specific procedure for preparing the surface. With the pipes cold, a thin layer of water is sprayed on the sand or concrete to seal and level it (or in the case of concrete, to keep it from being marked). This thin layer is painted white or pale blue for better contrast; markings necessary for hockey or curling are also placed, along with logos or other decorations. Another thin layer of water is sprayed on top of this. The ice is built up to a thickness of 2–3 centimetres (around one inch) by repeated flows of water onto the surface.
Synthetic rinks are constructed from a solid polymer material designed for skating using normal metal-bladed ice skates. High density polyethelene (HDPE) and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW) are the only materials that offer reasonable skating characteristics, with UHMW synthetic rinks offering the most ice-like skating but also being the most expensive. A typical synthetic rink will consist of many panels of thin surface material assembled on top of a sturdy, level and smooth sub-floor (anything from concrete to wood or even dirt or grass) to create a large skating area.
Periodically after the ice has been used, it is resurfaced using a machine called an ice resurfacer (sometimes colloquially referred to as a Zamboni- who are a major manufacturer of such machinery). For curling, the surface is 'pebbled' by allowing loose drops of cold water to fall onto the ice and freeze into rounded peaks.
Between events, especially if the arena is being used without need for the ice surface, it is either covered with a heavily insulated floor or melted by allowing the fluid in the pipes below the ice to warm.
A highly specialized form of rink is used for speed skating; this is a large oval (or ring) much like an athletic track. Because of their limited use, speed skating ovals are found in much fewer numbers than the more common hockey or curling rinks.
Those skilled at preparing arena ice are often in demand for major events where ice quality is critical. The level of the sport of hockey in Canada has led its icemakers to be particularly sought after. One such team of professionals was responsible for placing a loonie coin under center ice at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah; as both Canadian teams (men's and women's) won their respective hockey gold medals, the coin was christened "lucky" and is now in the possession of the Hockey Hall of Fame after having been retrieved from beneath the ice.
In speedskating, the official Olympic rink size is 30 x 60 meters for short track, and 400 meters for long track.
In bandy, the rink size is 90–110 m (300–360 ft) x 45–65 m (148–213 ft).
There are basically two rink sizes in use, although there is a great deal of variation in the dimensions of actual ice rinks. Historically, earlier ice rinks were smaller than today.
Official National Hockey League rinks are 85 ft × 200 ft (26 m × 61 m). The dimensions originate from the size of the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. Official Olympic/International rinks have dimensions of 30 m × 60 m (98.4 ft × 197 ft).
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