3 Skate Sharpening Insights from Hanging Out With The Pros

Back in June, we had the opportunity to bring Sparx in front of arguably the toughest audience imaginable; The Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers, or SPHEM.
For us, this was both a milestone; as we were able to showcase our product for NHL equipment managers, and an introduction into their somewhat mysterious profession.

Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to spend some quality time with quite a few of those folks. It has been both interesting and educational.

We thought we’d share a few of our observations with you.

There is no “right” way to deburr

We’ve written, in depth, about the deburring process. One common misconception is that there is a “right” way to do it. The fact is, we have not run into two professional equipment managers that use the same process. Instead, each draws on their own experience and the feedback they receive from players to develop their unique way of deburring. Some are unyielding in their pursuit to remove all evidence of the burr, while others will run the stone down each side of the blade their set number of times, do a quick tactile test by running their fingers along the edge and, barring any obvious imperfections, move on to the next skate.

The range of ROH being used in the NHL is vast

While it is still safe to say the majority of players request the common ½” ROH or ⅝” ROH, the broader spectrum of players runs the gamut with ⅜” ROH being popular with goalies and hollows as flat as 1 ½” being the preference of others. While conventional wisdom has said deeper hollows (e.g., ⅜”) are well-suited for smaller or less experienced skaters and larger hollows (e.g., ¾” and up) are better suited for larger or more experienced players, NHL rosters prove that rule does not always apply and that it really comes down to trying different things and figuring out what works best for the individual. 

Edge checkers are not Infallable and therefore not always mandatory

Edge checkers are an important tool (& they love ours!), but not necessarily always used on every pair of skates. Again, it is important to note that every professional is a little different. That said, we’ve learned first-hand, there is confidence among the best of the best that if they get within .001” of perfect, according to an edge checker, on a few skates, they are comfortable with the alignment of their sharpener. This implicit message that within .001” is close enough, foots with the blind testing we did a while back where we determined that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for an experienced hockey player to distinguish between perfectly even edges and edges that were off-set by up to .002”, when on the ice. This also seems like a reasonable practice given the edge checker itself is not free from potential flaws; flaws created through wear and tear or flaws created during manufacturing. Remember .001” is ¼ the thickness of a Post-it Note. When we think of it that way, leaving that much room for error doesn’t sound so crazy.

As we continue to learn, we'll continue to share these lessons with you. We also welcome your thoughts and encourage you to share them in the comments below.