A cutting-edge skate revolution
By Phil Shore
An article on the National Geographic website says that ice skates have been around since 3000 B.C. and were originally made from animal bones. Based on a study from Federico Formenti of the University of Oxford in England, the article said researchers believe the skates were used in Finland for traveling across large frozen lakes.
More than 5,000 years have allowed for a lot of innovations and improvements.
Skates might not be used to help individuals hunt for food anymore, but skates are still important to hockey players.
Steve “Wack” Serwacki, store supervisor at Monkey Sports Superstore in Norwood, Mass., said that now is a great time to be a hockey player because of the advancement in skates and how to buy them.
“Buying skates now, or any piece of gear for that matter, is a luxury. Everyone makes great stuff on the whole, and we have so much information at our disposal, from product videos to online media to demo days to you name it,” Serwacki said. “It’s a great time to play this great game because the gear is made so much better and there’s so much more of it out there. We have options. Back in the day, you didn’t have options like you do now.”
According to Serwacki, the most important thing to consider is how the skate fits. “If the skate doesn’t fit correctly, a myriad of problems can ensue from that,” he said.
Serwacki said there shouldn’t be much wiggle room, especially in the heel. He said the heel should be snug. Also, there is sizing for the width of the boot, and that is important to take into consideration.
“Some people will alter between the two most commonly found widths, that being ‘D’ and ‘EE’ width. These variances are fractions within one another but can make a world of difference when comparing similar sizes,” he said.
“You also have to consider toe cap height, toe box volume and the ‘fill’ of the skate, that being how much your foot recesses down into the heel when you drop your foot in,” he added. “These are all important factors when looking for that great fit.”
The best way to find the right fit is to not be afraid to ask for help. The pros suggest going to a top-notch pro shop and trying on the boots yourself so you know exactly how they fit.
“You have to go to a place that’s reputable and a person that knows what they’re doing when you go for a skate,” said Union College head coach Rick Bennett (Springfield, Mass.), who also played in the NHL for the Rangers.
Many kids go to the skate shop and purchase the same equipment as their favorite players so they can look like them and because “if it’s good enough for the best, then it’s good enough for me.” While using the players to promote equipment is a common marketing technique, the kids might also be interested in the how behind the buying process, not just the what.
What do the pros consider when they need new skates? For all, comfort really is the key.
“I don’t want something digging into my ankle or side of my foot,” said Keith Kinkaid, a goalie with the New Jersey Devils organization. “You don’t want something poking you or being a bother to you.”
Kids will be drawn to a skate because of how it looks, but for a number of pros, the look isn’t nearly as important a factor as how they feel in the skate. “Young kids might get excited about the appearance of the skates. They’ll think of it as an accessory,” said Jon DiSalvatore, who had 28 points for the Syracuse Crunch in the 2013-14 season and has scored 60 points four times in his nine-year AHL career. “It’s fun to look good and fast and more importantly you want to be comfortable, your heel set in the back, the boot isn’t too wide, and your toes are touching the top just a little bit.”
DiSalvatore said it was important to note that going to buy boots isn’t exactly like buying sneakers; the boots run smaller than your average shoe.
“I’m an 11½ shoe and I’m a 9½ skate,” he said. “You don’t want to order them the same size. The width too could be different than what you normally experience in a shoe store. I know there’s all sorts of ways to order online, but I encourage players to try on a bunch of skates, roll their ankles, bend on the edges, see how the foot feels shifting from side to side, because that’s how the game is played.”
It’s also important to break in the skates. Some pro shops these days have a special oven to heat the skates enough so when you put them on right away, they mold to your foot.
“I’ll have them use the skate oven and then you sit there 10 or 15 minutes just sitting, not walking around, and the molding will form to your foot,” Kinkaid said. “You do that two times, use them for two practices, and then you’re ready to go.”
My 1st Skates
How did you get your first pair of skates? Why did you choose the brand or model, or was it a hand-me-down pair? What was your inspiration? New England Hockey Journal asked three pros to chime in. Maybe some of their stories will resonate with you. Share your own “My 1st Skates” tales with us by email at email@example.com.
T.J. BRENNAN | N.Y. Islanders defenseman
“I didn’t start playing ice hockey until I was 11 or 12. I bought a pair of Bauer Supremes from Play It Again Sports. They were probably three sizes too small, but when I first walked in I saw them and they were the pair I wanted. I tried them on and they were way too small, but I told my dad I wanted them. ... It probably crowded my toes, but they were special.”
DREW MACINTYRE | Charlotte Checkers (AHL) goaltender
“I remember my first goalie skates were huge. I thought it was so cool. It was awesome. I was very thankful for it. I was a novice. I don’t know how old I was, but I knew my father was a goalie, so that’s all I wanted to do. It was just a confirmation I was going to be a goalie. That’s what was so exciting.”
JON DISALVATORE | Syracuse Crunch (AHL) left wing, (South Windsor, Conn.)
“I started out as a goalie and was wearing goalie skates. The goalie skates hurt me so much and my feet were so cold. I couldn’t break the skates in because I wasn’t moving. I got out of goal and started playing forward.”
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This article originally appeared in the August edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.