June 05, 2017

The anatomy of a hockey skate.

If you haven't ever seen a hockey skate up close, this post should help you understand some of the fancy footwork of hockey players.

A hockey skate is composed of two basic pieces: the boot and the blade.

The boot is just what it sounds like. It is the part that supports the foot. Each player will prefer one fit or brand over another, and they will lace their skates in varying degrees of tightness, depending upon what is supportive and comfortable for them.

But the blade is, at least to me, the fascinating part of a hockey skate. We'll look at two aspects of the blade, the rocker and the edges.

First the rocker:

The bottom of the blade is curved, like a rocker, and only part of the blade is on the ice at any one time. If a skater likes just a very small part of the blade to touch the ice, it is considered to be more "rocked." This allows the skater to turn very quickly, but it costs the skater speed because there is less blade to push against the ice.

Now we'll look at the edges.

A lot of people think a skate blade is sharp like a knife. But each blade actually has two edges, with a hollow in the middle. The edges are called the inside edge and the outside edge. The inside edge is the edge closest to the big toe, and the outside edge is closest to the pinky toe.

View 1, below, illustrates a skate blade sitting flat on the ice. This is a good illustration, but a skater very seldom has their skate positioned like this on the ice.

View 2 shows the skate blade with one edge pushed against the ice.

This is what gives a skater speed; a sharp thrust against the ice propels the skater forward or backward.

When you see a skater turning by crossing one foot over the other, they are pushing with the inside edge of the outer foot and the outside edge of the inner foot. If they are turning left, the right foot is the outer foot, and if they are turning right, the left foot is on the outside. (I wish I could draw a picture of this for you, but that's way outside my skill set.)

When a skater is first learning to skate they need to practice turns like this until they become second nature.

Sometimes, when you are watching a hockey game on TV and a player falls, the commentator says the skater "lost an edge." This generally means the player's skate edge hit at too great an angle to the ice and it slipped. It could also happen if the skater hits a rut in the ice.

I became pretty well acquainted with hockey skate edges and the way skilled players use them, because I skated with and coached some pretty skilled skaters (all waaay more skilled than me).

I hope this adds to your enjoyment of the game. Just know that skilled skaters make hockey look way easier than it really is!

(Corrections, questions, or comments? Just type them below.)