January is usually the start of one of the best times of year for a hockey player… outdoor rinks or odrs open up! Depending on your area, that means free hockey or low-cost hockey. It also means several pond hockey tournaments and events all over the upper portion of the United States and Canada! Outdoor hockey is one of the best things about playing hockey, but due to the elements, it isn’t as kind to your steel as an indoor rink. It is advised to have a second set of skate blades or get skates sharpened frequently if on the ponds to avoid damage to your steel.
Here are some insights into pond steel that I have gathered from playing lots of outdoor hockey and sharpening hundreds of pairs of skate blades!
Beware of small sediment pieces
Outdoor rinks are great, but most aren’t resurfaced or taken as well care of as indoor rinks. While the ice shouldn’t be an issue, there could be small sediment pieces or sand on the rink that might bubble up from the pond or parking lot that is the “base” for the rink. Skating over this might not cause harm if it’s only a few times but if you’re playing a game, it could knick your blade.
Outdoor ice is usually a lot harder than indoor ice. While this doesn’t ruin blades, people might need their skates sharpened a hair sharper to dig in on those extremely cold mornings. For example, I usually skate 13/16ths and for pond go to 5/8s . It also might feel like your skates are “dull” due to the lack of depth you get on a harder ice surface.
There are no dressing rooms…
Be careful where you put on your skates! Some places have warming huts with walkouts. Some rinks have just the bank of the pond. Be sure to watch where you step in your skates. Some banks might be muddy or have dirt and some walkways might be wooden planks. Just be mindful of the surface you’re walking over to get to the rink and that the surface could do more damage than the ice itself.
Don’t try to walk in your guards
With that said, if you have hard plastic guards don’t try to walk down to the rink in those. It would be better to put the skates on, on the pond. I have seen folks ruin steel by thinking they could put their skates on somewhere with a bench or warming hut and then walk to the rink in their guards and then destroy their steel as small rocks and gravel sediment got into their guards.
Outdoor hockey in the winter is one of the best things about playing this sport. Hopefully, these tips, help you take great care of your skate blades!