What could be better than gliding over ice like a bird on the breeze? Or would you rather lace up and carve the ice as you shoot towards a terrified goalie? However you take to the ice, you know you need a great pair of ice skates to get the job done. But what makes a great pair of skates? Which features are right for your game, your built, your skill level? How do you tell skates apart, to find the one that's right for you?
Ice skates, in one form or another, have been helping people glide across frozen lakes, rivers, ponds, creeks, and rinks since as far back as 3000 B.C. Now, I doubt that the original ice skates made of animal bones and leather were used by ancient man to play hockey or perform triple axles, but the basic principle of using a strong, sharp object, attached to the feet, to propel oneself over ice remains the same even today. Thankfully though, our methods, materials, techniques, and uses have evolved just a bit.
Modern ice skates use a strong, sharp metal blade, attached to a comfortable and stiff boot, instead of bone and leather. Ice skaters use their legs, ankles, and feet to propel themselves across the ice, similar to the motion of roller skating or roller blading. Although the motion is simple, when you add sport or style to it, it starts to get complicated.
The latest ice skates are technological achievements in engineering, metallurgy, and design of the highest order, although to the untrained eye, they may all seem to look the same. Admittedly, most modern ice skates do have a similar general construction (blade, boot, laces, etc.).
In the ice skating world, there are two main types of skates (and skaters) out there; ice hockey and figure skating. Besides their obvious differences in use, these two types have plenty of visible, design, and material differences.
Characterized by a longer blade, with small teeth at the front end, called a toe pick, and an extending length of blade at the end, called a tail. Toe picks are used to stop, as pivot points when the skater spins, or as take off or landing points for jumps. They are also easy to trip over for beginners.
Characterized by a shorter, less complicated blade with no tail or toe pick. Hockey skate blades have a curved front and rear to increase speed, maneuverability, and agility, when skating backwards or forwards. These blades are also typically narrower than figure skate blades.