You are only as good on the ice as your skate blades allow you. Let your blades get dull, and you’ll start noticing that you lose control and maneuverability.
Today, I’m going to explain the importance of regular ice hockey skate sharpening. Sharpened hockey skates are a must for any hockey player, whether amateur or professional.
Additionally, I’ll give you some directions as to how to sharpen hockey skates.
But first, let’s try to understand why skate blades need sharpening in the first place!
Why Do Skate Blades Need Sharpening?
Sharpening hockey skate blades is one of those things that are easy to neglect. This is what happened to me when I got into hockey – the blades of my very first hockey skates remained untreated for way longer than they should have.
And as you could have guessed, I soon figured out that unsharpened skates don’t turn well, struggle to glide and chop a lot.
I had to learn the importance of skate sharpening on my own mistakes. That’s how things are for many of us – you don’t realize how important a problem is until it hits you in the face one day.
Anyway, you need to sharpen hockey skates to maintain the shape of the hollow.
If you are an owner of hockey skates, then you probably know what the hollow is. You must have researched that stuff when buying skates.
If you don’t know for some reason, the hollow is the groove cut at the bottom of the blade. To the sides of the hollow are the blade edges.
The hollow is what allows hockey players to glide on the ice. The ice melts under the skater’s weight, and the water that accumulates in the hollow enables smooth gliding. The depth of the hollow determines how the skates feel and perform on the ice.
Deeper hollows (typically from 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch):
- Let you make tighter turns.
- Stop quicker.
- Have more bite.
- Have a higher drag.
- Offer higher push-off potential.
- Are prone to chatter when stopping abruptly.
In contrast, shallow hollows (from 5/8 to 7/8 of an inch):
- Have greater gliding potential.
- Offer a smoother skating experience.
- Have slower, longer, less abrupt stops.
- Have lower drag.
- Offer higher speed.
Optimal radius of hollow depends on your experience and preference and is an entirely different topic. Today, what matters for us is that when the skates are dull, the blades will not have a hollow to melt the ice.
How Often Should Skate Blades Be Sharpened?
So how often to sharpen your skates?
Well, it depends on a few things:
- How you are using your skates. If you make tight turns, stop abruptly, or skate fast, you are going to wear out the blades sooner. Because of this, experienced players who are more confident or aggressive on the ice may need to sharpen their blades more often.
- Your weight. Heavier people put more pressure on the blade, which dulls them faster.
- Ice hardness. Hard ice wears out blades faster. Ice is typically harder in outdoor rinks or rinks that keep their ice at a lower temperature.
With that, the skate sharpening frequency is highly individual, and you need to figure out when to treat your blades yourself.
As a rule of thumb, sharpen your blades after every 15 to 20 hours of use. Besides, sharpen them if you spot the following:
- The blades don’t bite into the ice well.
- You struggle with making turns.
- The blade has imperfections and feels dull.
- The blades chatter or pull you to the side.
- You see a reflection on the blade’s edge under bright light.
Basically, if you feel that your skates don’t perform as they should, it might be time for sharpening.
You shouldn’t sharpen your skate blades too often since this will wear them prematurely. When sharpening, you remove material from the blades. Since there is a finite amount of material in the blades, you should try to sharpen them as infrequently as possible.
On the other hand, don’t sharpen the blades too rarely – dull blades will impair your performance on the ice.
You’ll have to figure out an optimal sharpening frequency on your own. Keep an eye on how your skates feel on the ice, and sharpen the blades when your performance worsens.
How To Sharpen Ice Skates
There are two ways to go about skate blade sharpening:
- You could do it yourself.
- Or you could have a professional sharpen your skates for you.
I feel that for most people, the second option is more reasonable. Sharpening blades takes a lot of skill and time.
Aside from that, sharpening involves multiple steps:
- Removal of rust, dings, or nicks.
- Applying the desired hollow with a sharpening stone or grinding wheel.
- Deburring the blade.
Just have a look at this skate sharpening guide from wikiHow that covers both machine and manual sharpening. You need a lot of tools to get started! But even if you do have the tools, are you sure that you will sharpen your skate blades properly?
For a better demonstration, watch this video from Hockey Tutorial on YouTube. Here, NHL gear customizer Marco Argentino shows how he sharpens hockey skates.
I could give you a step-by-step guide, but I think you shouldn’t bother and should instead just take your skates to a professional.
Trained skate sharpeners employ specialized skate sharpener machines to restore the hollow in the blade. These machines require significant investment and aren’t easy to find. I’d say that only someone who is going to make money by skate sharpening should invest in something like this.
Aside from equipment, since your performance on the ice depends on the blades, a lousy job could ruin your skates, which is why I think serious athletes should have a professional sharpen their skates.
I personally don’t really have time to sharpen my hockey skate blades myself. It’s just too time-consuming for my schedule. Neither would I do a better job than someone who has sharpened hundreds of skate blades with proper equipment.
Some tools make skate sharpening pretty easy, though:
- Blade barber skate sharpener. This sharpener is available in several hollows. You just pass the sharpener along the blade to sharpen it.
- sharpens skates in 30 seconds
- available in most popular hollows 7/16 “ , 1/2...
- 3-4 passes per edge
- works on all blade types (hockey, figure, goalie)...
- will sharpen 25-30 pairs of skates before dulling
- A&R Sports The Re-Edger. The Re-Edger is intended to sharpen blade edges – it doesn’t change the hollow in any way.
- Handheld Multi-Function Skate Blade Sharpener
- Includes Ceramic Steel and Replaceable Honing...
- Perfect for On-the-Fly Skate Blade Repairs
- From A&R Sports, the leading brand in sports...
- Edge Again Manual Skate Sharpener. This one again just sharpens the edges without touching the hollow.
- maintains and keeps edges sharp
- 3-10 seconds needed to restore a damaged skate...
- no need to take off the skate
- restores all 2 edges
- doesn't affect the blade's hollow or radius
You could actually use the edge sharpeners for touch-up right before the game. As for the Blade Barber hollow sharpener, you could give it a try, but a skate sharpener machine operated by a pro will probably do a better job.
The 3rd Period
And that is it for my hockey skate sharpening guide!
The key takeaway is that you should regularly have your skates sharpened. Besides, most people should probably take their skates to a trained skate sharpener. Unless you have tools, don’t try it yourself – you may ruin the blades beyond repair.