Almost all hockey players know that their ice skates need to be sharpened from time to time, but are there ways to tell exactly when to drop them off at the local pro-shop for a sharpening? While there is no magic formula to tell you exactly when it’s time, there are some signs you should be aware of that will let you know that it’s time to sharpen your ice hockey skates.
In this post, we’ll discus everything you need to know about how often you need to sharpen hockey skates and give you tips on knowing when it’s time.
Why do Ice Hockey Skates Require Sharpening?
Even the blades on the best ice hockey skates on the market wear out eventually. They dig into the ice and provide grip that allows you to push off, retain balance while turning and dig in to the ice surface to stop. There are two sharp edges on the outsides of each blade for optimal dig when putting pressure on the skates in one direction or the other. Over time, these edges will start to wear down and won’t dig effectively. If your blades become too dull, you won’t be able to push off to gain speed, you’ll risk falling when turning and you may not be able to stop as quickly as necessary.
When Should I Sharpen My Skates?
If you’re looking for a quick answer to when hockey skates should be sharpened, the simple answer is: “When they need it.”
How do you know when they need sharpening? Here’s a few quick clues to look for:
- When you notice reduced acceleration when skating
- If you feel like you’re slipping when turning
- If you struggle to stop
- When you’ve put in a large amount of hours on the ice
- If you notice nicks or other damage to the blade
- The fingernail test
Identifying Performance Issues Due to Dull Hockey Skate Blades
If you’ve been playing hockey for a while, you’ll have a pretty good feel about how your skates perform during sprints, turns and stops. If you’ve noticed issues with these types of movements, especially if there’s a difference between one foot and the other or you slip more while turning right than left, then you probably need your skates sharpened.
Each edge will dull at different rates depending on how you’ve been skating and the situations you’ve been in, so noticing a difference between similar movements is key to recognizing a dull skate. Just note that not every ice surface is the same. You may encounter a situation where the ice is softer or harder than your home ice hockey rink. If you have an overall different feel to the way you skate, it may not necessarily be due to the sharpness of your skates.
Log the Number of Hours on the Ice
Some hockey players will have their skates sharpened after a predetermined number of hours. It may be a good idea to log the number of hours you spend on the ice in relation to seeing the signs they are beginning to dull.
Casual skaters, youth ice hockey players and lighter players will probably want to sharpen their skates somewhere between every 10 to 15 hours spent on the ice. Hockey players in intense competition, skaters whose home ice is colder and harder and heavier hockey players may wish to lower that number to every 5 to 10 hours.
Examining Ice Hockey Skate Blade for Damage
You should examine your skate blades for damage after every practice or game. If you notice substantial nicks in your blades, you’ll want to have them taken care of before any further damage can be done. A small nick can spread and cause the entire edge to dull.
Be aware that nicks in certain areas of your blade can greatly affect performance. If you have several nicks in the front and back areas of your blade, you’ll notice that acceleration when moving forward or backward may be reduced. This is due to a section of your skate blade that is not gripping the ice surface.
Nicks in the center of your blades can reduce your stability when turning or stopping. If a section of your blade is not digging into the ice you risk slipping and potentially losing your edge.
The Fingernail Test
You can also use something known as the fingernail test to gauge how sharp your ice hockey skate blades are.
This test is fairly quick and easy, simply scrape your thumbnail or fingernail counter to the edge of your blade. Make sure that you’re running you nail down the blade vertically towards the runners rather than along the blade from toe to heel. If the blade grips your fingernail and shaves it, then your skates are probably ok. If your nail slides smoothly at several different points along your ice hockey skate blade edges, then you may be due for a sharpening.
While the fingernail test can help ascertain the sharpness of your blade, be aware that any pressure on the blade can also cause it to dull, so don’t be too forceful when using this method.
Where to Sharpen Your Skates
Athletes new to ice hockey often ask where is the best place to get their skates sharpened or if there’s a way to sharpen skates at home.
If you’re new to hockey, the best place to get your ice skates sharpened is at the pro-shop at your local ice rink or a business that specializes in hockey equipment. They have the equipment and experience to provide the best skate sharpening service.
However, if you have the money to invest and the time to learn how to do the job properly, it is possible to sharpen your hockey skates at home. There are a few versions of professional ice hockey skate sharpeners that are on the market that have been tailored for home use. Some of these are automatic, so all you have to do is lock your skates into the machine and let it do the work. Home ice skate sharpening machines can be rather costly, and they do require a substantial investment over time as grinding wheels and other parts must be replaced due to wear and tear. If you’re the lone skater in your household, relying on the local pro-shop may be your most cost effective option.
For more information, check out our guide on how to sharpen hockey skates here.
We hope that helps clear up a few of your questions about how frequently to get your skates sharpened. As with most questions it depends on a number of different factors and so the correct answer will be different for each player.
Just make sure to keep an eye on your blades after every game. Learn to feel the differences when you’re on the ice and don’t wait to get them sharpened when you need it. Good luck!