We no longer live in the 1970’s, hockey skate sharpening has improved. With all the advances in technology we enjoy today, you shouldn’t be relying on the techniques of someone using hand pressure to freely sharpen your hockey skates, hoping they won’t screw up your skate blades, profile, hollow or anything you like about your skates when they get sharpened. This is especially true for goalies.
We hear this a lot; “I’ll only go to store this, that or the other for sharpening if my favorite person is working”.
In this article, our hockey skate sharpening and profiling expert John will discuss:
- Goalie Skate Sharpening
- Blade thickness
- Sharpening pressure
- Radius of Hollow (ROH)
- ProSharp AS 2001 – why we have one
Goalie skate sharpening
A common complaint we hear from goalies is that it is difficult to get a shop to sharpen their skates consistently; a problem I used to have myself. I would take my Graf skates with aftermarket taller steel to the local shops, and each shop would have a different feel once I hit the ice. Some shops would provide me with even edges, and some would be so bad that I had to scrape the steel on the goalposts to even be able to finish a game. I wasn’t sure what was worse between the sound of skate blade being scraped over the pipe or the fact that I had to pay for this “experience”.
I’m not suggesting that this is due to either malice or incompetence but I do want to explore some of the reasons a typical pro shop has issues with goalie skates.
Did you know that goalie skates may have either a 3mm or 4mm wide blade? Modern skates from companies like Bauer and CCM come with 3mm thick steel, whereas the old designs from these same manufacturers had 4mm thick steel. Companies like True offer 3mm AND 4mm steel depending on the model. This small difference in blade thickness becomes a major challenge as the blade thickness determines which holder should be used to sharpen the steel. Choosing the incorrect holder will cause the steel edges to be uneven, making it very difficult to skate. Ok, maybe that example is slightly related to incompetence; but at least you’re not being sabotaged?
I’ve included below a picture of a brand new goalie skate that was sharpened at a local ice rink pro shop. As you can see, the skate sharpening operator saw that they were goalie skates and put them on their goalie specific holder. Unfortunately, these skates had 3mm steel, just like a player skate. The customer admittedly was rushing the operator, which resulted in a “scorched” blade (as evidence by the brown color on the right, with the left side being untouched by the grinding wheel) and the skate was not sharpened on both edges. This poor unsuspecting goalie suffered an injury.
Recipe for a twisted ankle
The issue with holder selection is human error, not a product design issue. This same issue of human error is the premise of my second point.
Manual sharpening, and even some of the automated machines on the market today can create severe changes in the profile of your steel. Goalies constantly slam their steel onto the posts and this creates gouges in the blade, which can seriously affect feel and performance. We are not affiliated with Edge pro Tech, but these guys have come up with a good solution to help with the post to skate impact problem: Edge ProTech » Designed By Goalies For Goalies.
To remove these gouges the skate sharpening operator must first recognize the problem, then either grind harder or use more passes to correct it. Go to any hockey rink during a tournament and see the lineup of skates sitting there waiting to be sharpened. It is VERY easy for a rushed operator to use increased pressure in the trouble areas to get those gouges out of the steel so they can move onto the next dozen pair of skates. Over time, two issues are created by this. If you’re reading this, chances are good that they have happened to you.
“Banana Blades” occur as the toe and heel of the steel are rounded more and more over time. This is a common issue with both goalie and player steel. Many shops try and get all of the nicks out of the very toe and heel of the blade, thus creating a more rounded blade. Rounding the ends over not only slowly changes your profile over time but significantly reduces the lifespan of the steel before it requires replacement. This is the most common of the issues and one that instantly feels wrong to goalies. Have you ever played in goal using player skates? It’s an awful experience!
We commonly see goalie skates where a section of the steel is sharpened too much and has a concave spot in the middle. This is much harder to notice visually, especially if you’re not looking for it. Due to the fact that goalie blades are flatter, it is a lot easier with a manual sharpening to accidentally create a concave portion in the center of the blade, right at your natural pivot point creating two separate contact patches on the ice. Skating and shuffling become extremely difficult, increases fatigue, and can make your skating unpredictable.
You may not feel it after a single sharpening because it creeps in over time and even worse, the first few times the change will be so slight that your body adjusts ever so slightly and keeps slightly adjusting until all kinds of issues arise.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to diagnose this issue at home; all you do is set each skate on an extremely flat surface, such as a granite countertop, and hold your skate on the countertop as if you were skating. Turn most of the lights off and shine a light from the backside of the blade and see where the blade contacts the countertop. If you have a concave portion in the center of the blade, you will see light shining under the center and two contact points where no light shines through spaced apart.
This will significantly impact things like shuffling and how you pivot your weight on your skates.
After more than 15 sharpening sessions at a big box store, having mismatched profiles from left to right is typical. Sensing that something was wrong, but not sure, the customer from the picture above came in for skate profiling. After resolving the issue with a new profile she reported that her post-hockey lower back pain was greatly improved.
Radius of Hollow
The internet is full of articles discussing Radius of Hollow for hockey skates. I’m not going to beat that drum here. With modern skate sharpeners like our ProSharp AS2001 it is extremely easy to change the hollow each sharpening, with a simple adjustment to the machine. We encourage you to move up and down to explore what fits your style because it really can make a difference.
Approximately half of all hockey players use 1/2″ radius of hollow. A flatter radius (larger number) of hollow offers less grip and more glide. A deep radius of hollow gives you more grip and less glide. The general consensus is that if you are heavy it is best to optimize for more ice contact (flatter radius of hollow), however, if you are lightweight a deeper radius of hollow will give you more bite. Also, remember that it is easy to step or down with each skate sharpening.
ProSharp AS 2001 – why we have one
We are confident that our customers will not have any of the issues described above. In 2019 when we decided to upgrade our machine, we did the homework before deciding on the ProSharp AS2001. We made the investment because we feel that it can deliver the consistency and quality that our customers demand.
The key benefits for us were:
- Offer any complexity skate profile
- Easily change the radius of the hollow between sharpening
- Straight centered cuts every time, no matter the operator
- It’s very easy to be consistent with the grinding force because the AS2001 uses a counterweight on a lever arm to apply pressure to the wheel.
For the reasons mentioned, ProSharp is trusted by many professional teams. Our favorite NHL team is using ProSharp. https://prosharp.us/pages/about-us
Thank you for reading our article, if you have any questions or comments please send us an email at Sales@simmonshockey.com
If you like this article please check out our other blog posts or our skate service page: