Skate Sharpening Tips for Minor Hockey Players
Ah its that time of year again, minor hockey across Canada and the Unites States will be kicking off within the next week or two. Players young and old will be looking to get their skates buzzed up, ready to carve some ice. As a hockey parent I’m often asked how often should you sharpen your skates. Being a hockey parent I also like to ask other hockey parents how often they sharpen their kids skates. As a player I knew how often I needed my skates sharpened as I preferred them to be more sharp than not. Some players actually might want them a little more dull. It’s totally up to the individual and what they feel suits them best.
Why are sharp skates important?
If you think about the physics behind the act of skating, when the skate blade makes contact with the ice, friction causes the blade to melt the ice and the blade glides on the water that is generated. Of course the water refreezes turning back to ice after the blade passes and the skater glides over the surface. It stands to reason then that sharper skates melt the ice quicker making the ability to glide easier and more effective. The benefits of sharper skates include:
- better ability to push off
- better ability to push and glide
- better ability to generate speed
- better edge work: inside edges
- better edge work: outside edges
- reduces the action of falling
A couple of useful definitions when it comes to skate sharpening.
Inside Edge: The edge of the skate towards the inside of a skater’s foot
Outside Edge: The edge of the skate towards the outside of a skater’s foot
Hollow: The cut or depression in a skate blade.
Radius: The shape the grinding wheel takes out of skate blade that is passed against it.
Surface of the blade – the portion of the skate blade that comes in contact with the ice. The bottom portion of the blade.
The purpose of sharpening your skates is that the act of sharpening your skate blade removes nicks and makes the edge of your blade even so that you can stop and dig/carve into the ice at speed and with fewer falls.
So just how often should you get your skates sharpened? We’ve all heard various thoughts on this. Some suggest that you should get your skates sharpened after 10-15 hours on the ice, others will say after 4-5 hours. I know some parents that sharpen their kids’ skates once a month which probably translates to 25-30 hours if they play regular minor hockey. It honestly depends how picky you or your child is with their skates.
How Often Should I Get my little hockey players skates sharpened?
Typically we would suggest to sharpen them as often or a little as you need to, but if you tend to be hard on your edges we would recommend a bit more frequency. There is no magical sweet spot when it comes to sharpening your skates, but here are a couple of things to consider:
- For younger, novice skaters – who may be just beginning to play hockey and are in initiation or novice hockey, you’ll probably want to get their skates sharpened every couple of weeks or so depending on how often they are on the ice. Young, little players tend to step on sticks, pucks and other objects on the dressing room floor and as such can get nicks and dull up their skates fairly quickly.
- For atom level players – you are probably getting a 1/2″ sharpening done and you’ll want to get your skates sharpened anywhere from after six to ten hours of ice time to ten to fifteen hours.
- Hard on your edges? You might benefit from getting your skates sharpened a bit more often. For youth players you’ll probably want to get them sharpened after six to ten hours of ice time or even as much as five or six hours of ice time. If you are one of those parents who feels the need to sharpen skates more frequently, just know that you will be going through the blades quickly and may need to replace the blades late season or after the season.
- Got a nick in your blade? – if you have a good nick in your skate blade, for safety reasons you’ll probably want to get skates sharpened as soon as possible just so your child will not be falling down all of the time. A nick along the edge of your blade will catch the ice differently than what you’re expecting and will most likely cause you to stumble and ultimately fall. Any experienced hockey parent will tell you to invest in a good pair of skate guards to help protect your blades. However all it takes is stepping on a piece of metal in the dressing room or when getting off the ice to develop a nick in your blade.
As a general guideline, The Hockey Fanatic suggests getting your skates sharpened after 10-12 hours on the ice.
So let’s discuss a bit more about radius size in terms of skate sharpening.
Skate Sharpening: Radius Size
If you remember from your elementary school math class, the radius of a circle is half its width. When it comes to skate sharpening, radius refers to the shape the grinding wheel takes out of skate blade that is brushed against it. Think of a circle with a small radius and how that can cut into the end of a rectangle.
- A smaller radius creates more dramatic edges or what is referred to as a “deeper hollow”.
- A larger radius created a more blunt edge or what is referred to as a “shallow hollow”.
When sharpening skates you will want to determine what radius size you need. Most skates shops will recommend a 1/2″ radius which is pretty much standard for young skaters Other common radius sizes include:
- 3/8″ for light skaters or for skaters who want better grip and control (such as figure skaters).
- 1/2″ is the standard for most young hockey players
- 5/8″ is typically used for average skaters
- 3/4″ is used for heavy skaters
- 7/8″ – 1 1/4″ is typical for goalies.
- 1″ is used for skaters looking for an increased glide
Image Credit: http://newtohockey.com
This article discusses the effects of the Hollow and mentions:
“Have you ever run into a situation where you just had your skates sharpened and you can’t stop? That’s the hollow at play… The smaller the radius of the hollow, the sharper the edges of your skates will be, and the more the edges will bite into the ice. The larger the radius of the hollow, the less the edge will bite into the ice.”
Hockey Skate Sharpening Tips
- When sharpening, starting with the toe, lightly touch the edge of the blade to the spinning grinding wheel. Move the skate holder so that the entire length of the skate has been run through the grinder.
- Be smooth and consistent to prevent uneven sharpening.
- If you have successfully sharpened the entire length of the skate, there should no longer be any visible black marking. If there is, do one or more passes until it disappears.
- Look down the center of your blade to make sure that the hollow is in the middle.
- If you feel your skates need to be sharpened get them sharpened!
For additional information on skate sharpening check out these resources:
Skate Sharpening: Radius of Hollow – Sparxhockey.com
Skate Sharpening Guide – bshockey.com
Beginners Guide to Skate Sharpening – newtohockey.com