To many, playing hockey is as much part of life as attending school. It will pay dividends then to become familiar with the basics of hockey, which of course means skating. Skating is to hockey as running is to football. Starting fast, changing pace and direction, bursting into top speed, and keeping good balance are common to both games. The blades on hockey skates and the cleats on football shoes provide gripping and braking surfaces which allow short, digging, breakaway steps and sure-footed, sudden stops.
But there is a great difference between the two sports, which is noticed particularly by the beginner. Running is natural – something you have done since you could first walk; skating, which requires a push-glide-push-glide succession of moves, is at first unnatural.
Once balance has been mastered, you can skate with much less effort than you can run. And you can skate at about twice your running speed, too. National Hockey League players have been clocked at 29 miles per hour. Compare this with the 15 miles per hour that a four-minute miler runs.
You and Your Skates
When you first learn to skate, the skates will not want to remain firmly under your feet. Your feet wobble, and your ankles cave in so that you stand on your ankles instead of on your feet. This “going over on the ankles” is caused by two things: lack of strength in your ankles and feet, and the condition of your skate boots.
Before each hockey season starts, check your skates before going on the ice. The fit of the skate boot is all-important for good, strong skating. If you wear a size eight street shoe, try on a size eight or eight and one-half skate boot, wearing wool socks for the fitting.
Hockey skates are a player’s most important piece of equipment, and he should use the utmost care in selecting and caring for them.
You will probably need a new pair of skates each year for as long as your feet keep growing. It is a real mistake for both your feet and your skating to buy skates two sizes too large, in order to grow into them two years from now.
You are better off going to a skate exchange, or using a big brother’s hand-me-down, to make sure of an exact fit. In buying used boots, be sure the leather tops provide good, stiff support and have not been stretched too much.
You should have your skate blades rockered. This is the term for rounding off the toes and heels of skate blades, which you can have done when getting your skates sharpened. Actually, if you hold your skates up to the light with edge meeting edge, only about one inch of the blades should contact each other. This shaping of the blades is most important for quick weight shifts and maintenance of speed when making tight turns.
You soon will lose the sharp edges of your blades if you walk carelessly on concrete or asphalt. And it takes just one tiny burr, or nick, to send you into one swan dive after another. To protect your blades’ sharp edges, use skate guards to get you from the dressing room to the ice, if rubber mats are not provided.
Enjoy this wonderful sport safely with the right equipment and the right attitude. Have fun!