Updated: Jul 24, 2020
I’ve made just about every wrong decision a person can make when it comes to purchasing hockey skates. The first pair I ‘owned’ were a hand-me-down pair of the legendary CCM Tacks. They weighed 142 pounds, were made mostly of leather and were the most uncomfortable devices imaginable. When I returned to the game in 2012, technology had vastly impacted the sport of hockey and there was no greater more evident area of impact than when it pertained to hockey skates.
During my re-education period, I attempted to rely on the chestnuts of knowledge gleaned from being surrounded by hockey players through my formative adolescence and even my mid-life renaissance where I truly committed to the sport. Rules of thumb like “your skate size is one size smaller than your shoe size” and “you have to spend at least $XXX on skates or you’re buying garbage”. 7 years and 8 pairs of skates later, I can honestly say that I’ve finally arrived at several tried and true lessons to purchasing the right skates. In this post, I’ll be sharing the DON’TS (I'll post the Do's later).
Skate Size = Shoe size - 1
My first pair of skates as an adult were a mid-level Reebok ‘Pump’ skates from 2011. I felt like a kid at Christmas because they were on clearance at the rink Pro-shop and were clearly more skate than I had ever owned. They were roomy, comfortable and had this cool pump button on the side which tightened the boot around your ankle, an especially great feature if you were trash at tying your own skates (an art form to be discussed later). I attempted to re-learn how to skate in these boots not knowing that they were 2 ½ sizes too big, made for a foot much wider than mine in the heel, and that in trying to get the oversized boot to fit my tiny ankle, I would blow out the air bladder in the pump system rendering it useless. ($300 down the tubes). Moral of the story - don’t follow a rule of thumb. Prove the equation with knowledge and fact - if I had done the appropriate research at this point, I would never have purchased these skates.
"When I was 15 I did this…. So………"
I probably would have stayed with my $300 Reeboks (which after a few months fit like ‘57 Chevys on my feet) until they fell apart, except for one factor - they fell apart. More specifically, I irreparably damaged the skates with my ignorance. When I was a kid and watched my cool hockey playing friends lace up their expensive, brand new leather skates, they would all wrap their excess laces around the ankle of the boot and tie them off. I thought this was the most legitimate indicator of being a true hockey player. On the rare occasion where I would go to a public skate, all the kids with the laces tied around their ankles were the real deal when it came to skating.
Fast forward to my mid-life crisi-fascination with hockey, I decided to do likewise with my Rebooks. Little did I know that the new materials in hockey skates don’t hold up to repeated abrasion very well. They’re light, durable, and impact resistant (compared to leather) but they don’t appreciate the equivalent of a rope saw being applied under stress. I essentially sawed through the ankle and metatarsal guard of my Reebok pump skates and couldn’t find a cobbler or shoe repair person willing to take on the project. I buried my Reebok pumps in private and dignified ceremony.
"Why Buy 1 when you can Buy 2 at twice the price..."
Early in my relationship with the Reebok Pumps, I started casually dating any skate I could afford from the local hockey shops. I tried on the latest and the greatest, but always beyond reach (in price mostly) were the Easton EQ50’s. The top of the line skate from Easton at the time and as elegant as they were fast-looking, I determined that one day I would own such a magnificent pair of skates.
As my Reeboks were failing, it just so happened that the EQ50’s started going on clearance. I picked up a pair for $300 by ordering online, a full size smaller than my Reeboks. When the EQ50’s arrived, I found them to be narrow, stiff, and quite painful. I worked with my local hockey guy to proceed to make these boots work. I had them stretched, punched out, you name it. If there’s a procedure a skate can withstand, I subjected the EQ50’s to it. I was skating more than ever and started actually playing in lower level leagues at this point in my ‘Adult Rec League’ (fancy term for ‘Beer League’). Though my skating was improving with the stiffness of the boot, they still felt awkward and though the punching out and stretching had made them more comfortable they were still too long. Adding insult to injury, one price drop later I found myself the proud owner of a SECOND pair of EQ50s, this time spending $150 for a half size smaller. Long story short, same pain, better fit in the toe.
"I Never Seen a Skate So Soff"
After the extremely stiff and painful EQ50’s I found a brand I hadn’t tried the CCM U+ skates. They were ridiculously discounted - $500 skates for $179 so I picked them up. Down to a size 7 from my original 8.5, I found these skates as comfortable as an old pair of Vans’, extremely light and the pitch on the holder put my weight perfectly on the balls of my feet. These skates took one oven bake and two weeks to break in, but when they did they were PERFECT. They were perfect for a month. The boots broke down so quickly and were eventually so soft they no longer supported my ankle and became so unstable I had to use them for coaching and return to my EQ50’s (which I was fortunate to have held on to).
This tale of woe has a happy ending, I’ll be including it in the following episode: