How To Sharpen Your Hockey Skates

Sharp skates are an essential part of any hockey equipment set. Unfortunately, the more you play, the more your skate blades wear down, until they become dull. When this happens, you’ll need to sharpen your hockey skates in order to bring the edges back. Below, we’ll tell you what you need to know about sharpening your hockey skates so that you can always have crisp edges.

Signs You Need to Sharpen Your Hockey Skates

Sharpen Your Hockey Skates
Image by Joao Viegas is licensed with Unsplash License

There are a few signs that will signify it’s time to sharpen your hockey skates. Most noticeably, if you find that you’re falling on the ice more than usual, this is likely the result of dull blades. When you’re skating, you want your skates to bite into the ice, rather than just slide along it.

If you’re a parent, you may have a hard time noticing whether your young child is falling more often than usual, as they fall a decent amount as it is. In this case, you’ll want to closely examine the blade with your eyes. Check for nicks or gouges along the blade, and if any appear, it’s time to get the blade sharpened for your kid.

Another sign when looking at the blade is if one side seems higher than the other. Stare down the length of the blade and look to see if both edges are the same height. You should be able to balance a flat object on the top of the blade, such as a coin, without it tilting to one side or the other.

Finally, you can use your fingernail to detect dull blades. Place your thumbnail on the edge of your blade and gently pull it down and away. If you have a sharp blade, it should scrape off a small amount of your fingernail and leave the remnants on the blade. If the blade appears clean after this test, it’s likely time for some sharpening.

The Hollow of a Hockey Skate

Hockey Skate Hollow Diagram

An important concept to know about when sharpening your skates is the hollow. Your skate blade isn’t a single edge that cuts into the ice. Instead, there are two edges with a small, rounded gap in between. When examining the length of the blade, you’ll notice this shallow upside-down U shape, creating the two edges.

This indent in the blade is known as the hollow. Hollows can come in a variety of depths, based on the radius of the circle. Conventional hollow options tend to range from 1″. the most shallow, to 3/8″, the deepest. When you take your skates to get sharpened, you can request a hollow measurement that best complements your style of game.

How the Hollow Impacts Your Game

The hollow of a skate impacts how it interacts with the ice. For example, deeper hollows tend to dig into the ice more, which can allow you to make sharper turns. On the other hand, shallower hollows help to distribute your weight better throughout the blade, which results in better speeds.

If you’re not sure what hollow to get, start with either 7/16″, 1/2″, or 5/8″. These are the default measurements and, therefore, the most common. Younger players also tend to go with a hollow around 3/8″ to 1/2″, while older players might prefer hollows around 5/8″ due to their extra weight. Remember that you can always adjust your hollow later on as you identify what works for you or you gain more experience.

Getting Your Hockey Skates Sharpened

There are a few methods you can choose to get your hockey skates sharpened. The most common option is to bring your skates to a local hockey equipment shop. They typically have the equipment on hand to sharpen skates properly, along with the expertise to answer any questions you may have. Experts can also help you pick out the right hollow for your skate if you’re unsure of what to get.

A popular choice for skate sharpening is Pure Hockey. They have locations throughout the country, so there may be one near you. As a store dedicated to hockey equipment, they can not only help you sharpen your skates, but with any other equipment-related questions or needs.

If you don’t have a local hockey equipment shop, some major sporting good chains also provide skate sharpening services. For example, some Dick’s Sporting Goods location provide skate sharpening and there are locations all over the country.

Finally, if you play on a team with an equipment manager, talk to them about your options. This person may have access to a skate sharpening tool and be able to sharpen your skates for you. If not, they may have recommendations on where you can go for quality skate sharpening services.

Issues to Look Out For

After you sharpen your hockey skates, there are a few signs you might want to be on the lookout for. These signs will tell you that your skates weren’t sharpened properly and that you need to make some more adjustments. Common issues include:

An Over-Sharp Tip or Tail

Ideally, the middle two-thirds of a hockey skate are relatively flat. Then, the blade rounds at the ends to improve agility. If the person sharpening your blade spends too much time on either end, this can result in the blade becoming more rounded over time. Eventually, less of the blade touches the ice and you’ll get decreased performance.

Bad Alignment

Improper alignment can occur when the sharpener doesn’t correctly align the blade with the grinding wheel. If this happens, you’ll have no trouble stopping or turning in one direction, as your skates will still have plenty of bite. However, if you attempt to go the other direction, you’ll feel like the skates are slipping.

Not Enough Finishing

When sharpening skates, there are two types of wheels that the sharpener uses. The first is a cross-grinding wheel, which is much coarser and removes more of the blade. The sharpener typically uses this wheel first to reset the blade until it’s flat. Then, they use the other wheel, called a finishing wheel. It’s this wheel that gives the blade its sharp edges.

Sometimes, the sharpener doesn’t spend enough time using the finishing wheel. The result is that your blades don’t have good edges. You can identify this problem before you step on the ice by looking closely at the blade. If you see two thin lines running down the blades in two different colors, this is a sign that the blade needs some more time with the finishing wheel.

Tips for Maintaining Your Hockey Skate Blades

Finally, there are a few things you can do to keep your blades in great shape in between sharpening sessions. For starters, you can purchase a honing stone. With a honing stone, you can quickly smooth out any burrs or nicks on the sides of your blades. These imperfections can slow you down on the ice so occasionally smoothing them out is a good habit to get into.

Another tool you can get is a re-edging tool. These tools are designed to improve the edges on your hockey skate blades. However, most of these tools only create a temporary edge and should not be used as a long-term solution. Instead, look to use a re-edging tool as a quick fix in between sharpening sessions.

Finally, find a sharpening schedule that works for you. Some players prefer to sharpen their skates after just a few hours of ice time, while others may go weeks without sharpening their skates. More often than not though, players sharpen their blades after around 8 to 12 hours on the ice. At the end of the day though, this is a personal preference sort of choice, so you’ll have to decide how often to sharpen your skates.