|In the dressing room, suiting up, lacing up, hamming it up with team mates while the coach goes through the chalk talk and motivational speech. Pumping up the mind in preparation for the game. They hit the ice with thoughts of victory and shouts of We're number one. A couple of laps around the ice as a warm-up when reality hits like a brick wall . . . I SHOULD HAVE GOT MY SKATES SHARPENED!
It is precisely at that point that the players realize that whatever was expected from their skates, the most expensive and the most important pieces of equipment will not be forthcoming. Hours upon hours of games, practices, hockey and power skating schools have conditioned players to know intuitively exactly what their skates will do on the ice and how they will perform throughout the game. Skating, such a critical part of the game and yet, many hockey players can't answer the question, "Are my skates sharp?" until it is perhaps, too late - on the ice.
Here is a technique that may assist you in knowing before it is too late.
Just what do players expect from their skates? Well for starters, to be able to stop exactly when and where they want. While going full tilt, to be able to shift body weight and change direction. To be able to lean into a turn, at an angle defying laws of gravity and physics and propel themselves out the other side. To be able to dig their skates in and accelerate. And it is not going to happen!
With a little knowledge and practice of a new skill, this kind of situation can be avoided by knowing what sharp skates are supposed to feel like before stepping onto the ice.
- Make sure skate blades and your hands are dry and warm. This is important because cold hands will limit the sense of touch and any moisture will "lubricate" the edges to the extent where a true reading will not be possible.
- Turn one skate upside down and turn it facing away from you so you are looking down the length of the blade. You can rest it on a table or your knees.
- Place the inside of your thumbs on the edges (one inside edge, one outside edge) and lightly drag your thumbs over and off the side of the blade. Repeat this at several (4 to 6) places along the length of the blade. If the blade is sharp, you'll notice a definite "drag" on the skin of your thumbs. This will be consistent on the inside and outside edges and down the length of the blade.
- If the blade has lost its edge at any point, the "drag" will be significantly less or not there at all. Repeat this for the other skate.
To gain a 'feel', this little exercise must be practiced. The best time to practice it is right after a sharpening, so you can develop a 'feel' for just how the edges should be. If you develop that 'feel', try using your fingertips. Hold one skate in your hand, upside down, and draw the four fingertips of the other hand off the blade, very lightly. Do both edges and both skates.
- As a guideline, inside edges tend to wear more quickly than the outside edges, the front half of the blade more so than the back half. Keep this in mind as you inspect your skates between sharpening.
- Some of the high-end, more costly and skates have blades made with stainless steel content. As the edges wear on these temper-hardened blades, the edges "chip" away because the steel is brittle. This can't readily be seen but can be felt with 'trained' fingertips.
- On the slightly softer, carbon-based blades (still quite common) the edges bend with wear creating "burrs" at wear points along the blade. Used properly, a honing or sharpening stone will shave off the burrs and, in effect, "prop up" the edge for continued use.
Used regularly, these stones can lengthen the time between sharpening by 20 to 40 percent.
- On the stainless blades, honing is less effective but does smooth out larger nicks that might be picked up by skates colliding or running into goal posts.
And there you have it, not a difficult thing to do. It just requires a little practice and discipline (something familiar to most hockey players) to be able to determine if your skates are sharp.
And just how should skates be sharpened? To discover this & other realities, cruise the Library documents.
|Are My Skates Sharp ?|