Synthetic ice business in Strathroy, Ont. booms during pandemic
STRATHROY, ONT. -- The Excel Synthetic Ice company started just a year-and-a-half ago, but has already sold off its complete inventory after hockey-hungry families went looking for alternatives to ice rinks that were closed down.
“We looked around and didn’t find exactly what we were looking for, so we reached out to some manufacturers and we were able to come up with basically exactly what we wanted,” says Meghan Jonkhans, the owner of Excel Synthetic Ice in Strathroy.
Her son Brandon was the first test subject for the project, and once Jonkhans began offering it to the public, it didn’t take long for business to boom.
“I always wanted synthetic ice, for as long as I can remember,” says Brandon Balcar, a 14-year-old competitive goalie. His family installed the ice a couple of months ago and now he and his brother have something to hone their skills on every day.
“The kids love it,” says mom Jian Balcar. “It’s convenient, they can go for a skate in the morning before they go to school, and they go for a skate after school.”
According to dad, Lubos Balcar, with the money saved from not travelling for tournaments, they were able to make the investment.
“You have two kids in competitive hockey, you are practicing seven days a week at the hockey arena,” says Lubos.
“Four tournaments a year, hotels and all the travelling, so you are looking at a couple of thousand dollars a year, and now with everything shut down, you cannot travel and we don’t have any tournaments. Even purchasing just the synthetic ice, we’re still in black numbers.”
The adjustment to synthetic ice was difficult at first, but now the young hockey players says it’s paying off when they get back to the rink.
“At the beginning it’s pretty hard to start off skating, but once you get going and your blades warm up, it’s really easy” says Brandon.
The company is looking to expand into a retail location with a test facility sometime this year.
“We are working with the local municipalities to try to find the proper zoning to open up more of a retail and test facility for the tiles.”
Pictures on the company’s website show customers who have converted garages, basements and even front porches into mini rinks as families go to greater lengths to get their hockey fix this winter.