- Be fitted for skates only at specialty hockey shops. They are knowledgeable about skates and will help you find the skates to best meet your needs.
- When being fitted for new boots, wear the same weight of sock you will wear when skating. A sock of a different weight can change the fit. Do not wear two pairs of socks as this “disconnects” your feet from the boots.
- Before putting your feet into skates, unlace them most of the way. Trying to jam your foot into a boot that is three-quarters laced is an exercise in frustration—your feet just won’t go in and you’ll think the boots are too small.
- When the skates are laced up, there should be a spread of 1.5 to 2 inches between the eyelets on the same row. If the laces are closer together than this, the boots are too wide for your feet and your ankles will cave inward when skating. If you heels slip or you can lift them the skates are too long.
- Your toes should come up to the fronts of the boots but should not be pinched or curled up on one another.
- Boots should fit snugly at the insteps and across the balls of the feet. If you can move your feet sideways within the boots, they are too wide. If you can lift your heels when you lean forward, the boots are too long.
Other skate-fitting tips include:
- Today’s skates tend to be extremely stiff and difficult to break in. High-level players who skate hard and wear them for hours at a time prefer stiff boots because they last longer. But youngsters, small adults, females and recreational skaters will have a hard time breaking them in. These skaters should consider a brand or model this is a bit less stiff.
- Another option is to buy secondhand skates that are in good condition. It’s better to have good-quality used skates than poor-quality new skates. When choosing used skates, be sure the blades are in good condition and not sharpened down excessively. Many hockey shops carry used skates. Hockey associations often hold skate swaps, usually at the beginning of the hockey season.
- It’s fine to wear corrective orthotics in your skates—they will improve your balance and performance. But the size of the boots must accommodate the orthotics so bring them along when being fitted for new skates.
- Skate sizes usually differ from street shoe sizes and from one brand to another. Each manufacturer builds boots on a different mold, so one brand might fit well but others might not.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Laura Stamm of Laura Stamm Power Skating for this story.
To kick off our “Skates: Your Most Important Piece of Hockey Equipment” series, Laura Stamm of Laura Stamm Power Skating explains the importance of good boots in preventing ankle pain, ensuring good skating form and protecting feet from sticks and pucks. (Hint: This fancy boot shown will not work!) The quality, fit, manner of lacing, sharpening and maintenance of your skates will affect performance. A cheap pair of skates is a bad investment. When it comes to the boot:
- To skate well, hockey players must have well-constructed boots that fit properly with blades made of well-tempered steel, properly sharpened.
- The skate boots support the feet firmly while allowing skaters to lean their boots inward and outward. Good boots have reinforcing material in the counter (instep) area. The reinforcing material makes that area of the boots especially supportive for the arches and ankles. If boots are well made, you should not be able to squeeze the counter and ankle areas together.
- Top-of-the-line boots fit better, provide more support, last longer and offer better protection against injury from pucks or sticks. Choose your skates wisely—they are instrumental in preparing you to develop the skating skills necessary for speed, agility and power.
- Lack of good ankle support almost guarantees that skating will be difficult and uncomfortable. Ankles that cave in cause pain!
Note that unless there has been a specific injury to the foot, weak ankles are generally a myth. If ankles cave in, the cause is usually boots that are ill-fitting or have poorly constructed counters.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Laura Stamm of Laura Stamm Power Skating for this story.
“We are excited to launch the first genuine hockey equipment recycling effort in North America,” says Michael Benoit, president and CEO of Total Hockey.
HockeyGreen provides players with an incentive to recycle their broken and unusable composite hockey sticks instead of just throwing them away. HockeyGreen rewards customers for going green. Every broken composite hockey stick is eligible for a $10 credit towards a qualifying stick purchase at Total Hockey. Beginning June 1, customers are asked to bring broken sticks to their local Total Hockey retail store. In early August, customers will be able to recycle their old sticks online at hockeygreen.com and apply the $10 credit towards online stick purchases.
The goal of the program is to collect broken composite hockey sticks from hockey players around the nation to build a large inventory that can be used in the research and development of discovering a way to capture and extract the carbon fiber and develop a method to reuse these materials in the creation of new products.
“We have wrestled with this concept for the last 18 months because of the evident challenges of reclaiming carbon fiber from stick materials. We finally decided not to wait any longer,” Benoit says. “Instead, we are offering the recycling industry a chance to capture the T Prize, an award aimed at incenting engineers and material processors to uncover the secrets of carbon fiber recapture from composite hockey sticks.”
In an effort to find a way to recycle carbon fiber, Total Hockey is taking on the task of collecting and housing large amounts of carbon fiber materials to provide to organizations focused on the research and development process of recycling these materials. The third-party organizations will focus on either the reuse of carbon fiber materials or the use of carbon fiber materials in experimental research.
The T Prize is a $100,000 award being offered by Total Hockey for the individual or company that can develop an economically viable process for the extraction and reuse of carbon fibers from composite hockey sticks.
“Total Hockey is in the process of recruiting and assembling a small team of experts to help us define the specific requirements for T Prize qualification and we expect to release the specifics before the end of the year,” Benoit states.
HockeyGreen.com will feature updates on the T Prize, including the announcements on the expert panel selection, specific parameters for qualification for eligibility for the T Prize and delivering the award planned for late 2012.
“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to do something about the environment within our sport. It is wonderful to recycle bottles, cans and paper, but to be a pioneer in a major initiative involving the recycling of hockey gear itself is fantastic,” says Benoit.
Total Hockey is committed to demonstrating progress in environmental understanding and practices to help reduce its ecological impact in the world. The hockey retailer is actively pursuing avenues to engage the hockey community in its green efforts to not only raise awareness, but also provide solutions to minimize the organization’s carbon footprint. These endeavors focus on implementing strategies to further reuse, recycle and reduce products and services at Total Hockey.
Editor’s Note: Total Hockey is the title sponsor for Grow the Game: Passionate About Growing the Game of Hockey and the exclusive ice hockey equipment retailer of USA Hockey.
About five years ago, USA Hockey issued a suggestion that the Blue Puck be used for Squirts and a requirement that it be used for Mites. So just exactly what is a Blue Puck, and why don’t we see more of them?
A regular puck weighs six ounces; the blue one is 25 percent less. For kids that are still a few years away from getting their strength, a Blue Puck is easier to handle, easier to pass, and much easier to shoot. Going “top shelf” becomes possible. The idea behind USA Hockey’s recommendation is that making the game more fun for more players at the beginning levels will result in accelerated skill development and increased retention.
Followers of the NHL know the league isn’t just for North Americans like it was through the 1970s. Rosters today include scores of Scandinavians, Russians, and Czechs. Finns and Swedes play Blue Puck through age 10, and Czechs use it too but it is not required.
Critics cite tradition (“we don’t have any problems with the black puck”) and logistics (“just one more thing to keep track of”), but usually focus mainly on the different playing characteristics of the Blue Puck. Simply put, it bounces. I grew up playing lots of outdoor hockey with no gear. As a result, there were no “lifters.” Sometimes we would mix it up and play with a tennis ball or ultra-light “sponge” puck. These too have far different playing characteristics, but I can assure you it was just as much fun.
USA Hockey terms this a mandate and not just a recommendation. Recently they have made it a point of emphasis to monitor use of the Blue Puck at the Mite level. It is still unclear what penalty will be for noncompliance, but don’t be surprised if you see more of the Blue Puck in the future. Our sport’s national governing body has asked that everyone give it a chance, at least long enough to let the kids decide if they like it.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to John Conley of the Florida Youth Hockey Report: The Fire for this story. Click here to see back issues of The Fire.
Stay dry and rash free…
Long-sleeve shirts and leggings in synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics keep players dry. “If it keeps the sweat off of you, you’re not going to get a rash or anything like that from sweat buildup,” says Keegan, a roller and ice hockey player from Northern Utah and creator of schoolyardpuck.com.
…but only if you sweat in the first place.
A synthetic base layer is not a requirement for hockey. Jeremy, a longtime Canadian player and creator of howtohockey.com, only recommends a base layer for players once they hit puberty and start sweating more. “Unless you’re sweating profusely you wouldn’t really need to wear it. If you have young children and they’re not really going to break a sweat, it’s just an added expense,” he says. (Unless, of course, you’re facing the aforementioned eczema situation.)
Do you need the brand name?
High-end brands can run $40 for the top, $30 to $40 for the leggings and $10 for skate socks. Do you need to add that expense to an already costly sport? Not really. “UnderArmour is the first, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better brand out there that’s making something better for cheaper. I would give the other products a try,” says Jeremy.
Many parents say the brand names hold up (to repeated washings, skate blades, Velcro and more) better than discount store brands such as Champion. But at a quarter of the price, you can buy more (meaning fewer laundry needs) and replace them as growth requires.
Keegan also stresses to not let the lack of a base layer stop children from playing the game. “Don’t let equipment cost hinder your opportunity to play. Don’t think you have to wait until you have all the right gear to play. I remember I started out with pants that had huge holes on each leg. It didn’t matter; I just really wanted to play,” he says.
Tips from the Trenches
Whatever kind of base layer a player wears—whether an old cotton T-shirt or a high-tech compression shirt—you’re going to need to wash it. Often.
- Buy at least two pairs so you can wash one, wear one.
- Remember to switch the clean and dirty set as soon as you get home.
- Consider a color other than black so you can find it in your black hole of a bag.
- For males, look for synthetic leggings or compression shorts that can hold a cup, so they serve as a jock as well.
- According to Total Hockey, for best fit under your pads and top mobility, be sure your base layer is snug and doesn’t bunch or gather.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Rose Conry, an intern with the Grow the Game Initiative, for this story. Rose studies journalism at Northwestern University, loves all sports and sails competitively with the university’s club team.
For information, I talked to Robert Hineline at the Skater’s Edge. Despite working with nationally ranked figure skaters and hockey players, Hineline is full of practical tips for parents of players at any age or level.
Start with the Sock
Don’t even go skate shopping without the right socks. “Thick socks can add a full size and create sliding within the skate,” says Hineline. Robert and his wife Cathy recommend a thin men’s dress sock for skating. Knowing that my kid will never be the dork in the locker room in the black nylon socks, I suggest skate socks by Underarmour, Easton or CCM — or even the Champion athletic socks at Target. Hineline agrees these are ideal as they also draw moisture away from the foot.
Hineline warns against the old myth of skating barefoot. “The reason skates smell is that rotting skin is left behind. This gets back on the feet and causes athlete’s foot,” he says.
The easiest, and probably most pricey, thing to do is march into a hockey store, be fitted and have the skates molded there. But when working with hand-me-downs, skates at resale shops or skates bought online, you may need to check out the fit yourself. For starters:
- Bauer and Nike skates tend to be narrow.
- Easton skates are generally medium width.
- CCM skates run wide, but they also offer narrow widths.
Tip: Rather than taking the time to cram a kid’s feet into a bunch of skates, you can pull out the insole and let your player stand on it to check the width.
Hineline notes that getting fitted is important because, “What some people think is wide not wide at all. It’s a proportion issue.” This is why a professional fitting may pay off. You can pay $10 or so at a skate shop for a fitting and still search for skates online or at resale shops.
If you’re “buying big” for a younger player:
- If dad can slide the flat side of a finger in around the ankle, that’s the perfect amount of growing space. If you can turn your finger to the wide side, however, that’s too big. (Sorry moms, this test works best with man-size hands.)
- According to coach Rich Kennedy, buying skates a half-size larger than the current skates usually works best for 8 and under players.
Hineline notes that if the skate is too big, it will cause bone spurs, bunions and corns. (Believe me, I’ve seen this. He’s not saying it to sell more skates!) Also, if the skate fits, but a kid is complaining about the toe box, it can be stretched.
Parents may opt for used skates or hand-me-downs for the first few years of play, particularly if a player is experimenting with hockey or deciding among multiple sports. According to Hineline, after three or four years of skating, kids need the performance of skates really fitted to them. In the meantime, his top tips for checking out used skates include:
- Stitching: The stitching around the skate should be consistent; gaps indicate tears.
- Rivets: Pull out the insole and check the condition of the rivets. They are likely to be rusted, but the tangs should be there and be gripping the skate.
- Blade life: Sharpening affects the life of the blade, removing a little bit each time. If the blade is only 3/8” tall, it’s life is too short and you will need new blades.
- Chipped blades: In a recent two- to five-year span, the metal mix from some manufacturers had too much nickel, leading to chipping on the blade edges. Avoid these.
- Solid blades: A solid blade without a gap is stronger, particularly for the shorter blades Mites use.
- Screws: Look at the screws holding the blade to the skate. If the skates click when you walk, the screws need tightened.
- Remold: Used skates are molded to someone else’s feet, whether by intent or wear. Since everyone’s ankle bones are in a slightly different position, Hineline recommends that you remold used skates.
The first time you wear a new pair of skates, guess what? They’re used, too. To take care of any pair of skates, keep in mind:
- Get sharp: For new skates, the first sharpening is the most important so make sure it’s done professionally. Used skates are almost sure to need a sharpening before wear.
- Rosie rivets: Take out the insole and dab the rivets with metal paint to prevent rust and slow wear. (Hineline admits that clear nail polish will work if you don’t have time for a special run to Lowe’s or Home Depot for metal paint.)
- Guards: If the blades do not say "stainless steel," they can rust. In this case, do not use hard plastic guards. If you’re putting skates in storage for a month or so, leave the guards off regardless of the metal.
- Insoles: After every use, and particularly for storage, pull out those insoles to dry.
As a parting note, Robert and Cathy Hineline — who have no agenda as they don’t actually sell hockey skates — note that you should check over skates bought online as carefully as skates purchased in a store or purchased used. Be sure they’re in top condition before you wear them. Now get started breaking those skates in!
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Kordes Anton for this story.
Only the NIKE BAUER SUPREME ONE50 JUNIOR STICK is affected by this notice.
Bauer is also conducting an extensive review of our other stick products to verify compliance with the applicable regulations and will advise the results as soon as available in the coming days.
You should immediately stop any further sales of the NIKE BAUER SUPREME ONE50 JUNIOR hockey sticks and return any remaining inventory to Bauer under our normal customer return policy for a full credit. In the coming days we will communicate the full recall program and process to our retailers and consumers.
What you’ll need:
- 200" of ¾ PVC pipe (often sold in 10’ lengths so you can just buy two )
- Pipe fittings/connectors (quantities shown in diagram)
- A large bag of 8" cable ties
- Optional: sand and epoxy
- A free Saturday morning
Grab your hacksaw and saw all your PVC piping to the appropriate length. As the old carpentry saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.” I’ve found the easiest way to assemble the pieces is by creating to U shapes. The diagram is color coded to help you visualize what I mean. Once the two U shapes are connected, insert the crossbar. Note: you might find the crossbar needs to be cut down just a little. My crossbar is probably closer to 30.5".
Finally attach the mesh net using your zip ties. As far as netting goes, you have a lot of options. The goal in the picture uses cheap fishing netting purchased from eBay. I would only recommend this if you plan to play with a ball. A puck would be to heavy for this wimpy net.
If you want to add a little weight to your goal, fill it with sand and seal the tubes to the connectors using epoxy.
Update: For a larger goal that is 54" x 44" x 24" use 1½" PVC and refer to the conversion chart below.
Editor's Note: Thanks to SchoolyardPuck.com for this story.