Skate sharpening can be a player or parent’s worst nightmare, but it can also enhance performance if done properly. Here are some lessons Duluth Hockey Company (DHC) has learned over the past 29 years that may be helpful to players and families throughout the State of Hockey.
If you have never seen your service provider’s skate sharpening room, ask them to see it. This will be a telling story. Are the machines kept clean and does it look like pride is taken with their facility? Automated sharpening machines are good for emergency situations. We prefer the traditional method of skate sharpening and machines where a human can make necessary adjustments when required. Calibration of the holders, quality of the sharpening stones and quality of the wheel dressing diamonds all play a factor in a quality sharpening.
Training staff to do quality, timely sharpening can be a challenge. Often, there are several employees who provide the service. But unfortunately, not all are as good as the other. So don’t be afraid to ask your provider about their skate sharpening training program. At DHC our goal is to mentor our staff to become the absolute best. Through ongoing training, quality control, process development and benchmarking with industry experts, our goal is to provide the best without having to preach it.
Sharpening Tip: As players get bigger, stronger and heavier, experiment with less radius of hollow in your sharpening. The goal here is to minimize fatigue and maintain speed/energy.
Just making sparks fly doesn’t cut it. Ask your provider to explain their views on what constitutes a quality skate sharpening. Basic answers would include smooth square and sharp edges. Ask about radius of hollow options and profile concepts to change radius of steel. And how can those two aspects of skate sharpening improve performance?
If you’re able, always have two pairs of steel—one pair in your skates and a sharpened backup pair in your hockey bag, just in case. You never know when you are going to break a blade or lose an edge. Even in non-emergency situations, normal rotation of steel can save you time and provide peace of mind. Mark each pair of steel to keep them together.
Consistency and frequency are key points of emphasis. Be consistent in where you have them sharpened and be frequent in the amount of sharpenings per week. Skating on outdoor ice can require more frequent sharpening. It’s also a good idea to get at least one practice on freshly sharpened skates prior to a game.
Skate sharpening procrastination can be stressful. Try not to be in a rush. As a service provider, I can tell you that invariably, when customers need their skates sharpened the quickest is when we are the busiest. So be respectful to other customers. If you do leave your skates to run some errands, make sure they are tagged with your name so someone else doesn’t take yours by mistake.
We know that a good (or bad) skate sharpening can make a world of difference to performance. Find a highly respected skate sharpening partner, build a relationship with them, and keep your skates sharp. Lastly, we encourage players to experiment with custom profiling as an additional skate performing enhancement. Good luck!