Are Hockey Skates Sharp? – Hockey Skate Sharpening Guide

Brandon McNally

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Hockey Skates

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting in the world of ice hockey, one thing is certain: the sharpness of your hockey skates can make or break your game. 

Skating is the foundation of this exhilarating sport, and a well-maintained, sharp pair of skates can be the difference between gliding gracefully across the ice and struggling to stay on your feet. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the critical topic of skate sharpness and provide you with essential insights on edge checkers for hockey skates in prime condition. So, stay focused. 

Is It Necessary for Hockey Skates to Be Sharper?

Yes, it is necessary for hockey skates to be sharp. Skate sharpening is a crucial aspect of ice hockey equipment maintenance for several reasons. Firstly, sharp skates provide better grip and control on the ice, allowing players to maneuver, accelerate, and stop more effectively. This enhanced agility is essential for competitive gameplay.

Secondly, sharp skates reduce the risk of injuries by preventing slips and falls. Dull skates can lead to unstable footing, increasing the chances of collisions or strains.

Furthermore, sharp edges on the skates help players execute precise moves, such as sharp turns and quick direction changes, which are vital for both offensive and defensive strategies in hockey.

Skate sharpening is essential for optimizing performance, reducing injury risks, and enabling players to excel in the fast-paced and demanding sport of ice hockey.

How Sharp Should Hockey Skates Be?

The sharpness of hockey skates is a matter of personal preference and can vary depending on a player’s skill level, position, and ice conditions. Generally, the sharpness of skates is measured using the “hollow” or “radius of hollow” (ROH) concept. 

The ROH refers to the curvature of the skate blade’s cut, and it is typically measured in inches or millimeters.

Common ROH values for hockey skates range from 3/8 inch (9.525 mm) to 5/8 inch (15.875 mm), with 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) being a standard starting point. Here’s a basic guideline:

Shallower Hollow (e.g., 5/8 inch)

Offers less resistance and allows for smoother gliding and speed. It’s favored by players who want to maximize speed and agility but might sacrifice some stability.

Deeper Hollow (e.g., 3/8 inch)

Provides more bite into the ice, offering better maneuverability and control. It’s preferred by players who prioritize sharp cuts, quick stops, and precise movements.

The ideal skate sharpness depends on a player’s comfort and playing style. Many players experiment with different ROH values to find what works best for them. Factors like ice temperature and personal skill level also influence skate sharpness preferences.

Signs Your Skates Need Sharpening

Signs Your Skates Need Sharpening

Recognizing when your hockey skates need sharpening is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and safety on the ice. Here are some signs that indicate your skates may need sharpening:

Reduced Grip

If you notice a decrease in your ability to grip the ice and you’re slipping more frequently, it’s a clear sign that your skates have become dull.

Difficulty Stopping

When you struggle to come to a stop or execute sharp turns without skidding, your blades likely need sharpening to regain their stopping power and control.

Uneven Wear

Inspect your skate blades for signs of uneven wear. If one edge of the blade is noticeably more worn than the other, it’s a sign that your skates may need sharpening to restore balance and symmetry.

Reduced Maneuverability

If your agility and ability to make quick, precise movements have diminished, it could be due to dull skates. Sharper blades enable better maneuverability.

Sluggish Performance

If you feel like you’re working harder than usual to maintain your speed and momentum, it may be time for a sharpening. Sharp skates allow for smoother, more efficient strides.

Increased Fatigue

Dull skates can force you to use more energy to skate, leading to faster fatigue during a game or practice session. If you’re feeling tired sooner than usual, consider sharpening your skates.

Chattering or Vibrations

When your skates make a chattering or vibrating noise while you skate, it’s often a sign of dull blades not making proper contact with the ice.

Inconsistent Puck Handling

Hockey players who handle the puck may notice that their passes and shots are less accurate when their skates are dull. Sharp skates improve stability and control, enhancing puck-handling skills.

Visual Inspection

Sometimes, a simple visual inspection can reveal dullness. If the edges of your skate blades look rounded or significantly worn, it’s time for sharpening.

Frequent Falls or Slips

If you’re experiencing an unusual number of falls or slips during games or practices, it’s a strong indicator that your skates need attention.

Paying attention to changes in your skating performance and the condition of your skate blades is essential.

How Often Should You Sharpen Your Skates?

The frequency of skate sharpening depends on several factors, including your playing style, skill level, ice conditions, and personal preference. There is no fixed schedule that applies to all players, but here are some general guidelines to help you determine when to sharpen your hockey skates:


If you’re a frequent player who spends several hours on the ice each week, you may need to sharpen your skates more often than someone who plays infrequently. Consider sharpening your skates every 10-15 hours of ice time as a starting point.

Playing Surface

The condition of the ice can affect the rate at which your skates dull. Rough or dirty ice surfaces can wear down your blades faster, so if you often play on less-than-ideal ice, you may need more frequent sharpening.

Skill Level

Advanced players may notice the effects of dull skates sooner than beginners, as they rely on precise movements and quick transitions. If you’re an experienced player, you might need to sharpen your skates more frequently.


Some players have a specific preference for how sharp they like their skates. Pay attention to how your skates feel on the ice and sharpen them according to your comfort and performance standards.

Signs of Dullness

As mentioned earlier, pay attention to signs that your skates need sharpening, such as reduced grip, difficulty stopping, or decreased maneuverability. If you notice these signs, it’s time to sharpen your skates.


Establishing a regular maintenance routine can help ensure your skates are consistently in good condition. Some players choose to sharpen their skates at the beginning of each season, while others sharpen them every few weeks.

The best approach is to develop a sense of when your skates need sharpening based on your personal experience and preferences. 

Keep in mind that it’s better to sharpen your skates a little sooner than to wait until they become significantly dull, as excessively dull blades can affect your performance and increase the risk of injury.

Hockey Skate Sharpening Guide

Properly sharpening your hockey skates is essential for maintaining peak performance and safety on the ice. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you sharpen your skates or understand the process if you’re having it done professionally:

Tools You’ll Need

  • Skate sharpening machine (if doing it yourself).
  • Grinding wheel with the desired radius of hollow (ROH).
  • Dressing wheel for cleaning and truing the grinding wheel.
  • Skate holder or vise.
  • A slatestone or honing stone for finishing touches.
  • Towel or cloth for cleaning.

Prepare the Skates

  • Ensure the skates are clean and free of any debris or rust.
  • If needed, remove the laces and any protective covers from the blades.

Select the ROH

Determine the ROH you want based on your playing style, skill level, and preference. Common ROH values range from 3/8 inch to 5/8 inch, with 1/2 inch being a standard starting point.

Secure the Skates

Place the skates in a skate holder or vise, ensuring they are level and secure.


  • If you’re doing it yourself, use the skate sharpening machine with the appropriate grinding wheel for your chosen ROH.
  • Make smooth, consistent passes along the length of the blade. Keep the grinding wheel in contact with the blade to avoid uneven sharpening.
  • Typically, you’ll make three to four passes on each side of the blade.
  • Avoid overheating the blades by allowing them to cool between passes.

Check for Balance

After grinding, inspect the blades to ensure they are even and balanced. Look for any irregularities in the sharpened edge.


Use a skate stone or honing stone to remove any burrs or rough edges from the sharpened blades. Gently run the stone along the edges to smooth them out.

Clean and Dry

Wipe the blades clean with a towel or cloth to remove any metal shavings or debris. Ensure the blades are dry to prevent rust.

Reassemble and Test

  • Re-lace your skates and make sure they are securely fastened.
  • Test your skates on the ice to ensure they feel comfortable and provide the desired level of grip and control.

Regular Maintenance

Pay attention to how your skates feel on the ice during play. If you notice signs of dullness, follow this process again or take your skates to a professional for sharpening.

Professional Services

If you’re uncertain about sharpening or prefer to have it done by experts, many sporting goods stores and skate shops offer professional skate sharpening services.

Remember that skate sharpening is a skill that can take time to master. If you’re new to sharpening skates, consider seeking guidance from a professional skate technician, especially when choosing the appropriate ROH for your playing style and needs.

Hockey Skates Maintenance and Care

Maintaining and caring for your hockey skates is crucial to ensure their longevity, performance, and safety on the ice. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to properly care for and maintain your hockey skates:

Regular Cleaning

  • After each use, wipe down your skates with a clean, dry cloth to remove moisture and prevent rust.
  • Inspect the blades for any debris, such as ice shavings or dirt, and remove it carefully.


  • Never leave your skates in a damp or wet bag. Remove them from your bag after use and let them air dry. Open up the skate tongue to allow air circulation inside.
  • Avoid using direct heat sources like heaters or radiators to dry your skates, as excessive heat can damage the materials.

Blade Guards

Use blade guards to protect the sharpness of your skate blades when walking on surfaces other than the ice. Be sure to remove them before skating.


  • Check your skate laces regularly for signs of wear and replace them as needed.
  • When lacing your skates, ensure they are snug but not overly tight to avoid discomfort and pressure points.

Blade Inspection

Periodically inspect your skate blades for any signs of damage, nicks, or uneven wear. If you notice issues, consult a professional for repair or replacement.


As discussed in a previous response, maintain a regular schedule for skate sharpening based on your usage and performance preferences. Dull blades can impact your game and increase the risk of injury.

Blade Alignment

Ensure that the blades are properly aligned on the boot. Misaligned blades can affect your stability and maneuverability.

Boot Care

  • Clean the boot’s exterior with a damp cloth or mild detergent when necessary.
  • Inspect the boot for any signs of damage, including cracks or separation between the sole and the upper. Address any issues promptly.

Proper Storage

  • Store your skates in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Use skate guards or a skate bag to protect your skates from dust and potential damage during storage.

Insole and Footbeds

If your skates have removable insoles or footbeds, remove and clean them regularly. Replace them if they become worn or lose their cushioning properties.

Toe Cap and Blade Covers

  • Use toe caps to protect the toe area of your skates from impacts and damage.
  • Blade covers can help protect your blades during transportation and storage.

Professional Maintenance

If you’re uncertain about any aspect of skate maintenance or if your skates require repair or adjustment, consult a professional skate technician or a reputable skate shop.

Properly cared for skates not only extend their lifespan but also contribute to your overall comfort and performance on the ice.


How fast do hockey players skate?

Hockey players can reach impressive speeds on the ice. NHL players, for example, can skate at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) during a game. Skating speed varies depending on factors like skill level, ice conditions, and position.

How often should I sharpen my hockey skates?

Skate sharpening frequency varies depending on factors like usage, playing style, and personal preference. As a general guideline, sharpen your skates every 10-15 hours of ice time, but adjust this based on your experience and how your skates feel on the ice.

What’s the ideal radius of hollow (ROH) for hockey skates?

The ideal ROH varies from player to player. Shallower ROH values (e.g., 5/8 inch) offer more speed, while deeper ROH values (e.g., 3/8 inch) provide more control and agility. A 1/2-inch ROH is a common starting point, but many players experiment to find their preference.

How to Clean Hockey Skates?

Cleaning your hockey skates involves wiping them down with a clean, dry cloth after each use to remove moisture and debris. For stubborn dirt or ice buildup, use a damp cloth or mild detergent. Avoid direct heat sources for drying.

Can I sharpen my hockey skates at home, or should I seek professional help?

You can sharpen your skates at home with the right equipment and knowledge, but it’s crucial to be cautious and precise. Many players prefer professional skate technicians for consistent, high-quality results, especially when choosing the ROH.

Wrapping Up

Your hockey skates are your most vital equipment in the world of ice hockey, and their sharpness plays a pivotal role in your performance. 

By understanding the nuances of skate sharpening, you can tailor your skates to your playing style and maintain them effectively. 

With the knowledge gained from this guide and the answers to common questions like “How fast do hockey players skate?” and “How to clean hockey skates?” you’re now equipped to take your game to the next level while gliding gracefully on the ice. Remember, sharp skates can be the edge you need to dominate the rink. Thank you. 

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Brandon McNally

I have been playing hockey my whole life. I am currently a professional hockey player with the Calgary Flames. I am also a part time coach at the University of Calgary and the head coach of the Calgary Northstars Minor Hockey Association. I have always wanted to be an NHL player and I am very excited to be one! My hobbies are playing hockey, coaching, and spending time with my family. LinkedIn

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