Putting the Ice in Hockey

Putting the Ice in Hockey Anders Elkjaer Johansen, Face off in the NHL game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers at GM Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Have you ever slipped on ice or tried to pick up an ice cube only to have it slip out of your fingers? Imagine what the sport of hockey and ice-skating would be like if ice was not as slippery as it is. What do you think causes ice to be slippery? What happens to the ice in hockey arenas as the temperature changes?

While these are questions that scientists have explored for a long time, you may be surprised to learn that it has only been in recent years that they have discovered the unique properties of ice that make it slippery and have revised some of their old theories.

Explore the Science of Hockey http://www.exploratorium.edu/hockey/index.html, on The Exploratorium website, to understand more about what makes ice slippery.

As you explore the website, answer these questions:

1. Describe the difference between “fast ice” and “slow ice.”



2. Which kind of ice do hockey players seem to prefer? Why?



3. Where are the hockey arenas located where the ice is better? Why?



4. How does the ice differ for hockey and figure skating?



5. In the past, what did scientists think caused ice to be slippery?



6. According to Professor Somorjai and his colleagues, why is the previous theory about why ice is slippery incorrect?



7. According to Professor Somorjai, what may account for the difference between “fast ice” and “slow ice?”



8. What did Professor Somorjai discover when he first examined the surface structure and composition of the atoms and molecules that make up ice? What did he discover upon further research to indicate what makes ice slippery?



9. Describe the steps involved in making ice for a hockey arena at the beginning of the season.



10. What is a Zamboni? How does it work?



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