Hockey player? Parent? Coach? Trainer?

Things you should know about skates.

Skate FAQs

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Do new skates need sharpening?

Yes. Sharp skates on the store shelves would result in customers being injured. Besides the liability issue, eliminating skate sharpening saves a bit of money for the manufacturers.

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How often should skates be sharpened?

Rules of thumb:

After each skate check for damage to the edges. Banging skates in a puck battle, on a goal post, even against the support for the bench, can wreck an edge at any time. Some arenas have bad ice that will degrade edges faster.

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What is a hollow, and how do different ones affect skating?

Sharpening diagram

New skate runners are flat on the bottom. Sharpening removes steel from the centre of the runner to create an inside and an outside edge. To do this, the face of the sharpening stone is dressed to a particular radius measurement — the Radius of Hollow.

Skate Hollows Diagram

The majority of players use a 1/2 inch hollow, but others will prefer one between 3/8 of an inch and 5/8 of an inch. It is a personal preference and worth experimenting with to find what feels best. The compromise is always between speed and agility. Hollows of a smaller radius enhance agility, but hurt speed slightly. Hollows of a larger radius allow a bit more speed at the expense of agility. For players learning the skill of two-foot stops it sometimes helps to use a larger radius of hollow for a time, so the skates have less bite. But as they gain confidence and demonstrate ability to perform the skill the hollow should be returned to normal.

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How should I determine the right hollow to use?

Try different hollows on your skates and pick one that feels most comfortable to you. Most people stick with that for a lifetime. Asking the skater's height, weight, and position they are playing to determine the optimal hollow to apply is not a good indicator. Other factors, such as the condition of the ice they will be skating on have much more impact. And changing the hollow frequently to account for a weight or position change will be frustrating. Keeping the feel of the edge consistent will allow the player to better adapt to changing ice, and growth.

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What is a flat bottom sharpening?

The flat bottom sharpening method involves shaping the face of the sharpening stone to produce very aggressive edges.

Conventional or Flat Bottom Diagram

The technique was first promoted by a company bringing a new skate sharpening machine to the market. It was novel and developed a following for a time. More recently, scientific testing at the Brock University Skate Lab has determined there is not any measurable performance advantage for hockey players. I have equipment in my shop to do flat bottom, but choose not to use it. I tried it on my skates, and concluded there may be a detrimental impact on a hockey player's game performance. Also, the degree of precision required to produce this type of sharpening consistently is not easily attainable or replicated. And the thinness of the edge produced means it can be more easily damaged. If you choose to have this done to your skates be prepared to sharpen more frequently, and to deal with bad sharpenings more often.

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What can be done to fix an edge during a game?

There is not much you can do to fix the edge that will not just make the situation worse. This is self-serving, I admit, but it cannot be helped. If you have the newer Bauer Edge trigger holder or CCM SpeedBlade thumbwheel on your skates the best remedy by far is a spare set of sharp runners that can be easily swapped on the bench. Even if your skates have CCM holders with a bolt at each end of the runner it is worth having the extra runners to use. It is a pretty quick job to swap them. Some Easton skates are similar. Grafs have a bolt you can access, but there are some tricks to changing those runners and I would not recommend trying in the middle of a game yourself. Those extra runners also mean you can use the skates outdoors then put the sharp set in before you play a game in an arena.

Wrong Tool Abuse Diagram

Can give you 40 more seconds of ice time, not 4 more ice times

The ceramic tools that have become staples on the shelves of some sporting goods retailers help them, but will not do much for the player. They were meant as a quick fix at the end of the game when an edge is damaged and there is not time to run to the team training room to sharpen the skates for that last shift. When abused, that tool actually weakens the steel by folding the edges over, and it turns a proper runner edge that has a bite angle on the inside of the hollow into a knife edge beveled on both sides, which is very difficult to skate on. Well meaning trainers and coaches have left players stuck in the ice unable to do much of anything. Fixing the skates later will require the sharpening technician to remove a lot of steel that need not have been sacrificed. If you want to use something, a simple honing stone that can remove the burrs left by an accident is often enough to get you to the end of the game. Just make sure the stone is held flat against the side of the runner, not angled as it would be when sharpening a knife.

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The skates were just sharpened, but they do not work. What is wrong?

Skate sharpenings can be afflicted with a lot of different issues, mostly as a result of lack of attention by the technician or lack of proper training in the first place, or poorly set-up equipment. A common fault occurs when the runner is not properly centered on the face of the stone. This produces one of three results:

  1. One edge will be higher than the other.
  2. One edge will be higher at the toe or the heel, and the other edge will be higher at the opposite end.
  3. One edge may be sharp but the other never contacts the stone and is left as dull as when the skates were handed in.
A good technician will always verify that the edges are sharp and even. Another sharpening error is to make a big uncontrolled change in the skate's profile, or the shape along the length of the runner. This can result from uneven pressure against the sharpening stone, or pauses during the pass. Runners can be left with little humps and bumps that result in very little blade actually contacting the ice. Or the heel and toe of the skate is attacked leaving the runner severely rockered, upsetting the player's sense of balance.

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When I try to stop, my skate blade jumps across the ice. Why is this happening?

Chattering occurs when the edge being stopped on (inside or outside) has too much bite. Sometimes the radius of hollow is too small for the player, or "too sharp." More often it is because the skate was not centered on the sharpening stone resulting in one edge being "higher" than the other. Sharpening your skates properly, maybe at a slightly larger radius of hollow so you do not dig into the ice as much, will fix this problem.

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How much sharpening is left in these hockey skates?

When enough of the steel gets ground off in sharpenings, the skate cannot be clamped in a sharpening vise without compromising the vise. That is going to happen when there is about 7 or 8 mm of steel left protruding from the plastic holder in the centre of the runner. But if the runner toes and heels are ground away creating "banana blades," your skates may be wasted before they reach the limit of the steel in the centre.

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I can hear a clicking sound when I step on the skates. Can this be fixed?

Usually this is simply because the bolts holding the runners in place have loosened slightly. On many skates it is a quick fix to tighten the bolts. On Bauer skates though, the mounting system is located inside the plastic runner holder, and this repair will take longer and sometimes requires taking the whole holder off the boot and remounting it. Some skates do not have a runner mounting mechanism at all, the runners are incorporated into the holders in the plastic moulding process and there isn't anything to be done if they work loose.

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