At about 2:30 Friday afternoon, I got a reminder e-mail about an outdoor event that night—a preview party for next week’s Sarasota Open. I remembered seeing the whole “tennis under the stars” idea in the earlier releases about the event, but Friday was the first time I noticed the outdoor party’s other feature: a synthetic ice rink. Color me intrigued.


B is for Bentley, eye candy for the party.

We see ads for synthetic ice rinks all the time in our USA Hockey magazines. There are a few different types of surfaces, all of them wondrous mysteries to us. I mean, how do you make fake ice that works with real ice skates? It’s got to be soft enough that the blades can cut into it, without wearing down so quickly that it has to be replaced as much as actual ice has to be resurfaced—i.e., once an hour, at the very least.


Friday night’s experience was…an experience.


So, OK, no, in the context of my hockey world, I’m not a great skater. But, y’know, I get by. I do OK. I’m not Gretzky, but I’m not Bambi, either, ya know? You see me on the ice, I think you’d guess that I had a couple years’ experience in house-league hockey. I hold my own.


You see where this is going, right?


Yes, OK, yes: Hannah is insecure. I dream of demonstrating my competence, and when that fails, I am compelled to explain my competence. Which is not nearly as convincing.


So Friday, we strut up to the synthetic ice surface smack dab in the middle of Palm Avenue, all “we’re hockey players.” So of course the guy asks if I want figure skates. “Uh, no. Hockey skates. Size 7.5,” I snot, thankfully not adding, “The same size as Martin St. Louis, duh.”


Then me and my rental skates proceed to do a dead-on imitation of a newborn giraffe around the rink.


The guy sends his kid over with one of those PVC skater support things for toddlers. “Ooooh,” CCB said later. “I thought you were going to snatch it away from that kid and beat him with it.”


Hmm...something ain't quite right.

Humility achieved. “Um, these? Are not really sharp? I don’t think?” The guy tries an electronic sharpener, to no avail, and then offers a few “tips” before he concedes to let me try another pair. Before handing them back, I check the blade on the first pair: butter knife. This surface, which was sort of like a hard gym floor with a hard, waxy resin over it, needed something sharp.


This is payback for all those years I really didn’t know how to skate but still blamed the sharpness of the rental skates.



That look of intense concentration is usually not a good sign.


With the second pair, I managed a little better. Didn’t really try crossovers—no outside edge—and skating backwards wasn’t going to happen. So much for showing off.

Skating (sort of) on Palm.

It’s an interesting surface, though. You don’t glide as far; CCB almost fell over a few times leaning too far forward in anticipation of a longer glide. Slippery enough, though. I felt a bit like I was wearing dress shoes on a dance floor. But it achieved that balance—that you could dig into it a bit (assuming your skates were sharp), and then turn sideways and even out your edges to hockey stop. Instead of ice shavings, you get sort of wax shavings on your blade—like when you scrape your fingernail over the outside of a paper cup.


Not suprisingly, CCB showed me up.

After a few wobbly laps, I was left with that desperate feeling of wanting to explain myself—“But really, I’m better than this!”—to CCB; to the small children whipping up and down the surface; to the people watching; to Cliff Roles, who almost got a nice photo of me busting my ass; to the guy, who, in my insecure paranoia, I imagined was smirking and thinking, “This girl thinks she’s a hockey player. Hah.” Fortunately, a louder voice in my head kept insisting, “Do not, do not, DO NOT be that girl.”


Cliff Roles got this nice shot of me. Nice of him not to send the pics of me flailing my way over to the camera.

Throughout the rest of the evening, I kept shaking my head at a missed opportunity to be impressive. “Argh I wish I’d brought my own skates.” But CCB suggested a different perspective: “I dunno,” he’d say. “What if we brought our own skates and still couldn’t do it? Then we’d really look like jackasses.”


That’s true. Still, we’re looking into getting the surface installed temporarily in our back yard for Kegtacular. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to let my skating speak for itself. Whatever it may be saying.