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How Sharp Are Ice Hockey Skates?

By Dipak BK / 2 November 2023 11:04 AM

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Ice Hockey skates are not so sharp that they can cut you at a simple touch but they will do some damage when swung at high speeds.

The ice hockey blades are short and curved to facilitate quick turns and focus more on speed and agility while the figure skating blades are long and flatter and come with a toe pick, there to help with jumps and provide more stability. 

The word blade is somewhat misleading in the context of ice hockey skates as for most people, what pops up into their head when they hear the word "blade" is a knife. The ice hockey blades, generally 4-5mm thick, do not cut your fingers if you slowly run them over the blade.

The blades do cut when they're coming at you at high speeds, and most recently, Adam Johnson of the Nottingham Panthers lost his life in an accident.

How sharp are ice skating blades?

How sharp are ice skating blades? Well, they are dull blades usually around 4 to 5 mm thick that become sharp enough to cut you when moving at high speeds

The ice skating blades are no good if they are too sharp as they will dig into the ice making movements more difficult on the ice. The figure skating blades and hockey skates are different as they feature different designs with the hockey skates short curved design focusing more on speed and agility.

Unlike a knife with a single sharp edge, the ice skating blades have an upside-down U shape. The inside of the U shape is rounded and hollow, aptly called "the hollow". 

The blades depending on the depth of the hollow, provide more or less glide and bite. The blade will provide more glide as the hollow gets shallower and more bite as it the hollow gets deeper.

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The figure skating boots are high-cut boots made with thick leather with an emphasis on precision and flair, and designed to provide more stability during routines. The blades are more extended and flatter than ice hockey blades and include toe picks to stabilize during jumps and spins.

Toe Picks are not included in ice hockey skating boots whose blades are short and curved. The shoes are low cut, usually made using a combination of leather and synthetics, with the design more focused on speed, agility, and protection for the skaters. 

The blades need to be correctly maintained and regularly sharpened and will require the help of a skilled professional in most cases. The sharpening method of the blades of ice hockey skates and figure skating skates is different as the design of the blades is different.

How often do hockey players get cut by skates?

Hockey players get cut by skates occasionally, but serious injuries resulting from a blade cut are rare, although such incidents are not non-existent.

There have been instances of players getting severe injuries after getting cut by the blade of the skate in hockey. One such example was in 2008 when the Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik's common carotid Artery was severed accidentally.

The incident happened when the Panthers were playing the Buffalo Sabres, and fortunately, his injury was tended to quickly by the paramedics, who are on standby at every NHL game. Here are some instances when the blades of the ice hockey skates cut players.

  • Alec Martinez, with the Los Angeles Kings at the time, had to get surgery on his wrist after being cut accidentally by San Jose Shark's Melker Karlsson. Martinez now skates for the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers was cut accidentally on the wrist by the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Pat Maroon in 2022.

Such incidents are not limited to those mentioned above two, and a more detailed report on skate cuts done by The Athletic can be found here

Most recently, Adam Johnson, the Nottingham Panthers forward, lost his life in what was described as a "freak accident'' by the Elite Ice Hockey League based out of England.

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Johnson, the former Penguins player, was skating for the Panthers against the Sheffield Steelers.

The Johnson incident is a rare case, and there have been very few incidents of serious injury caused by the blade of ice hockey skates. However, that does not mean they are non-existent and has triggered a conversation about the usage of neck guards in professional Skating leagues.

Neck guards are mandated for all levels in the English league beginning in 2024, according to the Elite Ice Hockey Association, which oversees the sport below the Elite League.

The OHL and the QMJHL have made neck guards mandatory, but most major North American Professional Hockey Leagues, like the NHL or the WHL, have not made such mandates yet.

Are figure skates sharper than hockey skates?

Yes, Figure skates are sharper than hockey skates. The blades used in figure skating boots are longer and flatter than ice hockey skates' short and curved ones.

The blades used in figure skating are sharp enough to warrant caution when handling them as skaters who are not careful enough may suffer from cuts. The blades are generally recommended to be covered up to avoid unintentional injuries. 

The focus for figure skaters is on artistry and elegance, unlike Hockey which requires skaters to focus more on speed, agility, and quick acceleration. The boots for both of these ice sports are designed with those factors in mind to allow the skaters to perform at their best. 

A figure skater uses the toe pick, a distinguishing feature of the figure skates to launch themselves for spins and jumps which are essential parts of their routine. The toe pick provides more of a grip and control on the ice which is not necessary for hockey players. 

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The design of the figure skating boots revolves around providing a good balance and support for skaters allowing them to perform complicated spins and jumps. The figure skates are heavier than hockey skates as they are made of leather. 

The blades require different sharpening methods for hockey skates and figure skates as the designs of the blades are different. Figure skating blades require a more delicate process for sharpening due to the nature of their design. 

Most professional figure skaters go to a skilled technician to get their blades sharpened. They also visit the professional sharpener who generally charges between 10 to 25 dollars per pair, before competitions to make sure their skates are in tip-top condition.

Can you figure skate in hockey skates?

You can figure skate in hockey skates but it is neither advisable nor safe to do so. Figure Skates have longer blades designed to provide more balance and control. 

The nature of the sport is very different for figure skating compared to Hockey and requires skaters to glide on the ice performing complex movements with precision and grace. The boots for figure skating are designed with those aspects in mind and provide a very different experience from hockey skates. 

While it is possible to perform basic figure skating moves using hockey boots, it won't be easy to perform more complex moves as they are not designed to do so. The sharper blades of figure skating boots provide more control and flexibility to skaters, helping them perform moves more easily than hockey skates.

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One of the most distinguishing features of the figure skates is the existence of the toe-pick, which helps with jumps and spins. Hockey skates do not have a toe-pick, which makes for a difficult transition if one starts figure skating on hockey boots and wants to switch to figure skating boots.

The blade on the figure skating boots features longer blades and is differently shaped than the short, curved blades used in hockey boots. So, if one gets used to performing moves on hockey boots, then they will have to relearn most things when they make the switch to figure skating boots.

The figure skating boots make building velocity easier and provide a better grip to maintain balance on the ice. Additionally, they allow for more fluid motions like spins and twists, which is not a feature of hockey skates.