How to Properly Care for your Hockey Skates
Hockey players of all ages and skills levels constantly need to make sure their skates are maintained throughout the season to obtain optimal performance on the ice. Having properly cared for skates will help not only your game, but also your hygiene, and your wallet. The game of hockey is fast, so making sure your gear, especially your skates, are in near-perfect condition is paramount. If your skates aren’t well maintained, you may lose your edges, costing you chances on big plays throughout your game or potentially causing injury to you or other players on the ice. It can also be damaging to your skates, which will result in repairs or having to by new skates more often, which can get very expensive. There are a number of ways you can make sure your skates and skate blades are taken care of, so you can perform your best on the ice as well as keep your costs down, here are a few:
1: Regular Sharpening
Skating is the most critical skill in hockey, so making sure your edges are properly sharpened is key. Regular sharpening will help you keep your edges more predictable and allow you to extract the most power and speed out of your stride and turns. Dull blades can cause you to lose your balance or just lose power on your stride, which will make you slower than your competition and less mobile on the ice. While it’s unrealistic to sharpen your skates after every practice or game, you can keep smaller wear out of your blades by maintaining them with a stone between ice times. You should always make sure to check the sharpness of your skates after skating outside or on Synthetic Ice. While skating on the ponds or backyard rinks, the ice can be much rougher which can cause damage to blades. You also tend to have much more debris on the ice, like sticks, dirt, or rocks that can really hinder your skating performance as you go back to indoor ice for practice or for games. Skating on Synthetic Ice can be a great way to work on your game away from the rink and during warmer months, however there is an increased amount of friction on your blades, which will increase the wear on them. Whether skating outside or on Synthetic Ice, it’s always good to get your skates sharpened again before hitting the more consistent indoor ice!
2: Regular Skate Checks
While the blades are the key factor in performance, your overall skate health is important to pay attention to. Making sure that the other parts of the skate are well cared for can also help product results on the ice and avoid injury, while saving you money off of it. Check your skate boot regularly for any increased wear, like broken rivets in the blade holder, wear in the back tendon guard, lace wear, or any damage around the the skate. Having a piece of your skate come apart during a game can lead to loss in performance or even injury if serious enough. Rivets are the black, rounded, pieces that keep your boot attached to the blade holder on your skate. Over time, they can separate from each other, which causes a decrease in energy transfer into the ice which reduces your stride power. Lace wear can also affect your skating speed. A loose skate also decreases that transfer of energy as well as making your skate more uncomfortable to wear and hurting your feet during long ice times. Getting these pieces replaced as quickly as possible will eliminate any chance of further damage or injury and prevent having to buy new skates faster.
3: Drying and Cleaning
Just like all gear, skates tend to get wet from both melted ice as well as sweat from your feet as you play, and when skates stay wet, they break down the materials and cause metal parts to start rusting and breaking. There are a couple key pieces to make sure you focus on drying after you skate. First, make sure that your blade has been cleared of any ice or snow that has built up from your skate BEFORE you put your skate guard on. This will make sure there isn’t any excess water that can sit on the blade and cause rust. Next, make sure your skate comes out of your bag and into a space where it can properly dry. This will protect the rivets and other metal parts from a rust build up while packed in a moist bag. Finally, take the skate liner out of your skate to dry and make sure that there’s plenty of airflow into the boot. The skate liner is easily washable and the space between the liner and the actual boot can trap damp air and moisture. This will prevent any mold from growing inside of your skate, as it’s the most closed off part of your gear, and help prevent getting any sicknesses or rashes that can occur from moldy skates. This also helps reduce the stinky smell that hockey equipment has become known for over the years. These steps only take a few extra seconds when storing your gear but can save you a lot of money down the line when it comes to wear and tear on your skates.
4: Use Skate Guards
This is one of the easiest ways to maintain your blades and protect them from any damage. When wearing your skates, you only want to walk on the rubber surfaces that lead to the ice. Surfaces like asphalt, concrete, or even the hard plastic around the boards and benches can quickly dull your skates or even ruin your blades, so making sure that you’re only walking in designated areas will help protect those blades between the locker room and the ice. Once you’re finished playing, make sure to put your skate guards on before you toss them back into your equipment bag to bring back home. This will ensure that none of your other equipment has a chance to damage the blade while in transport. Equipment like metal cages or hard shin pads can easily put marks into your blades that can hurt your performance next time you skate. If you wear your skates to the rink or out to the pond, make sure you wear skate guards that ACTUALLY protect your blades while walking, like SKABoots. SKABoots can also help you transport yourself or younger players from ice time to ice time without having to worry about changing out of your gear and losing time along the way. They also provide a stable walking surface that can help you traverse the parking lot, snowbanks, or paths that lead you to the ice. Cloth or other soft skate guards aren’t secure or strong enough to keep your skate blades separated from concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces that will damage your blades that will hurt your performance, but also could cause unrepairable damage, which will cost you money to replace.
By employing these tips and keeping a good focus on the health of your skates all around, you’ll be able to increase your performance as well as save money on having to replace uncared for skates. There are a lot of components that go into skates, but how you skate and how your equipment performs can be the difference between scoring that goal for your team and losing the game!