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Hockey Skates

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If you can't skate, and skate well, you can't play hockey. A good pair of skates is absolutely essential both for skating well and for protecting yourself against injury.

Hockey skates differ from figure skates in several key respects:

  • they don't have the teeth that give figure skaters toeholds on jumps and spins.
  • the boot is armored to protect against injury from pucks and sticks.
  • the blade is narrower.
  • the blade curves slightly from end to end (is rockered) rather than being flat.
  • the latter two adaptations facilitate the game's sudden turns, pivots and stops.

Never buy kids' skates that are too large, waiting for junior to grow into them. This is potentially harmful and dangerous. You wouldn't do it with street shoes. If you're on a budget, look for good used skates. This is not a perfect solution, since skates will mold to the foot of the first user, but it's much better than getting skates that are too big. Never compensate for big skates with extra pairs of socks. Wear one pair at most. Some top players have preferred to go without socks. That's a matter of personal preference.

The critical feature in any pair of skates is the amount of counter support. The counter is the section of the boot that molds to the instep, and extends up to the ankle. It must be sturdy and stiff, otherwise you will be unable to stand up straight. Cheap, battered skates with soft counters are often to blame when casual skaters complain of "weak ankles."

There is a bewildering array of skates from which to choose. Some high-end models are lined inside with packets of gels that will mold to the precise contours of your feet. Always be cognizant of weight. The lighter the skate, the easier it is to skate. However, make sure that protection is not sacrificed in the process.

You normally have to get skates from 1 to 2 sizes smaller than what you wear in street shoes. Fit into the smallest pair that is comfortable and doesn't crimp your toes.

Skate blades are hollow ground with a special sharpening machine. Look down the length of the blade and you'll see a slight depression between the two sharp outer edges.

Never entrust skates to a shoemaker or a knife sharpener. They seldom have either the correct equipment or the proper technique. Skill in sharpening skates varies greatly among pro shops and rinks. Hockey players are often quite particular about who "does" their skates.

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