For developing hockey players, attending hockey schools, camps and clinics over the summer has become an expected part the lifestyle. From defensemen camps to summer leagues, finding just the right one for you or your hockey player could be a full-time job.
Regardless of where you choose to go, just getting on the ice when nothing is at stake gives players the opportunity and freedom to try new things without the fear of making mistakes that will be judged by coaches. It's a great time to learn and get better.
This time on the ice during the off-season is the perfect time for players to become more in tune with their skates. It is often overlooked that little changes to a player's skates can make a huge difference in their comfort and performance on the ice. For top NHL players, the summer is time for them to experiment - whether its with new equipment or tweaks to their game - and every player should take a cue from the game's best and try new things in the off-season.
The following three simple summer skating experiments can have extremely positive impacts on your performance next season.
1. Experiment With Your Radius of Hollow
Lots of hockey players don't know what Radius of Hollow they are skating on today. If you're one of them, don't feel bad about it. It's not something that seems to come up a lot in conversation - even with the person sharpening your skates. That said, you should find out. Give the shop you go to a call or ask next time you are there. Once you know what you're skating on, you'll have all the information you need to do a little experimenting.
The Radius of Hollow simply refers to how deep the groove in your skate blade is cut. The smaller the radius (e.g., 3/8"), the deeper the groove. The larger the radius (e.g., 5/8"), the shallower the groove. If you are a quick, agile player, you might benefit from a deeper cut. If you tend to rely on straight-ahead speed, a more shallow cut might be better for you. Every player is different though, and that is why experimenting with the different options available is so important.
Simply changing your Radius of Hollow can dramatically change your ability to turn quicker or skate faster with less effort and fatigue.
2. Try Applying a Custom Profile
There is often confusion between the Radius of Hollow of a blade and the profile (or rocker). Both use the radius of a circle as their measurement, but when referring to the Radius of Hollow (the depth of the groove on the bottom of your skate blade), the measurement is in inches (or centimeters). When referring to the profile of the skate blade, the measurement is in feet.
The radius as it relates to a custom profile, imagines the length of the skate blade (from heel to toe) as part of a larger circle. The most common sizes are a 9 foot radius, an 11 foot radius and a 13 foot radius, although they are not limited to just these. With a smaller radius (9 ft), less of the skate blade comes in contact with the ice. With a larger radius (13 ft), more of the skate blade comes in contact with the ice. Both have their pros and cons and that is why it is important for each individual player to try. Generally speaking a smaller profile radius (9ft) is better for agility and maneuverability and a larger profile radius (13ft) is better for speed, so those might be good things to keep in mind when you're deciding where to begin with your experiment.
3. Try Adjusting the Pitch of Your Skate Blade
Adjusting the pitch (or lie) of the skate blade will effect the posture of the skater. Essentially, you will be adjusting where the center of that 9ft or 11ft circle is as it relates to the skate blade. Move the center backwards and the skater will be up on their toes more. Move it forwards and they'll sit back on their heels. Conventional wisdom would say forwards would prefer to be up on their toes a bit more and defensemen a little more upright, but the truth is it is a very personal preference. Everyone's natural posture varies so finding the right pitch for you will take some trial and error. If you do want to experiment with the pitch of your blade, this is something you would request of your skate sharpener at the same time you are having your profile/rocker applied.
Summer hockey is the perfect time to experiment with each one of these vital aspects to your skating. Experimenting with things like your Radius of Hollow, profile and pitch are things most players would not want to do in season so now is the perfect time to become more in tune with your blades and make next season better than the last!