It's certainly no secret that hockey goalies require a lot of special gear (more than their teammates), but the most pivotal item is the hockey skate. Necessary for simply stepping onto the ice, skates are often overlooked when it comes to purchasing and caring for equipment.
Since the goalie is the only player who can legally block shots with the closed up space above the blade, goalie skates differ from those worn by forwards and defenders. They feature a much flatter blade, a shorter boot (which allows greater ankle movement) and a protective plastic shell.
A great pair of goalie skates can be purchased for under $200, and they are generally a good investment for both your feet and your game.
Here are some factors to consider when purchasing your next pair:
Go with the highest quality skates you can afford. After all, they are your feet, and they will be kicking at quite a few pucks.
Never size down with a skate. A better rule of thumb is to size up. The extra space in the boot will help prevent your feet from being cramped or zinged by a hard shot.
Once you buy your skates, it's extremely important to break them in. This requires wearing them a few times to get used to them, and tweaking the preferred tightness of your laces. Remember, you have a flat blade, so don't try to be a forward during drills.
You may want to add modifications to personalize your skates. You can insert padding inside at pressure points, or add tape around the front top of the blade to avoid having the goalie strap wear through or break from puck impacts. A side benefit of adding tape is that it can stop the occasional puck from deflecting off your skate and into the net.
Once your skates are purchased, broken in and modified, take the time to care for them properly. You wash your pads and other equipment after each game. Why should you just throw your skates around?
Here are some good maintenance tips to remember:
• Sharpening. Your teammates may not need to sharpen their skate blades, but as a goalie, you need to maintain the sliding edge. Most goalies want a dull inner and outer edge on their blades. Keep a skate sharpening stone for your inner edges, at least to "dig in" on the front half, and to remove any nicks from the edges, which can occur when the blade meets the goalposts or other players' skates during skirmishes.
• Laces. Knot the tops of your laces after you've laced them through to the highest preferred point on your boots. You may choose not to lace through the top one or two sets of holes, since it may affect your crouch position.
• Airing out. If there is leather inside the boot, always "air out" your skates. When they are completely dry, use a bit of olive oil to keep the leather from cracking or breaking. Using powder or cornstarch is optional. This also works well on the leather of your hockey gloves, at wear-out points such as the palms.
• Dry time. Hang your skates up outside your equipment bag to fully dry. This will reduce the possibility of mold or fungus, which can cause infections.
Remember, take care of your skates and they will take good care of you!
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