The process of fitting goalies skates is the same as for fitting player skates. Generally, goalie skates fit between 1 and 1½ sizes smaller than sneakers. For children, it's ok to go up an additional half size to accommodate growing feet. Any larger than that and your young goalie is likely to develop blisters. A skate that's too large will also make balancing and lateral movement more difficult.
When trying on skates:
- Wear skate socks or the socks you plan to wear during a game to ensure an accurate fit.
- Next, push the foot as far forward as possible. You should be able to fit your index finger between the goalie's heel and the back of the boot. If you can fit two fingers, the skate is too large. If you can't fit in one finger, the skate is too small.
- Then, kick the heel firmly to the back of the boot and lace it up. When lacing, make sure the foot is flat on the ground. In a properly fitted and laced skate, the eyelets should be parallel from toe to ankle and you should not be able to see the edge of the tongue. If the eyelets bow or you can see the edge of the tongue, or worse—the skater's foot—the skate is too small. When properly laced, the goalie's heel should not lift.
- After snugly lacing the boots, walk around to make sure the fit is comfortable.
Remember, skates are designed to be stiff and will soften with continued wear. Thermoformable skates will provide a custom fit after baking and will break in twice as quickly as non-thermoformable skates.
Goalie Skates vs. Hockey Skates
Though the fitting process is the same for goalie and player skates, goalie skates are not identical to player skates structurally. And that makes sense, considering the goalie is not called on to skate like the rest of the team. Instead, the skate must afford the goalie the flexibility and mobility necessary to maintain his stance and move laterally. And though goalies are called on with increasing frequency to skate outside the crease, goalie skates are designed to perform inside the crease.
Goalie skates differ from hockey skates in three main ways:
- Cowling—The cowling protects the goalie's toes and heel from impacts and holds the blade to the boot. Newer skates often lack a cowling, but include an extra durable toe guard.
- Blade—The blade on a typical goalie skate is longer and flatter, creating more contact with the ice than a player skate, useful for balance and pushing laterally.
- Ankle/Tendon Guard—The ankle on a goalie skate is short and lacks the tall tendon guard player skates have, to accommodate the goalie's leg pads, and his need to crouch and move side to side.
Aside from these three features, goalie skates are more or less identical to player skates, with many of the same construction features depending on the price point—a variety of boot materials, plush tongues, and lush, moisture-wicking liners.
Goalie Skate Sharpening
As with any skate, you'll need to sharpen your goalie skate blades periodically. But how often you should sharpen them can be a little mystifying.
If you're a beginner goalie who's on the ice only a couple times a month or once a week, check your blades and sharpen them (or have them sharpened at the local sporting goods store) if necessary after every 7 to 10 hours of on-ice time.
If you're an advanced goalie who's on the ice frequently, think about sharpening your blades every after five to seven hours of on-ice play, or whenever your skates come into contact with the goal post.
It's a smart idea to carry a honing stone or a blade sharpener in your hockey bag for a little on-the-spot care. If you're able to swap your blades yourself, carrying extra steel runners can be a time saver, too. Just be sure your extra blades go with your skates before purchasing. And to extend your blade life, protect them with blade covers.
Half the fun of playing a specialized position is the opportunity to wear all the unique gear that comes with the job, and goalie skates are part of every goalie uniform. Getting a good fit is essential. Remember to wear your game socks when you try them on and, if you follow our advice, you'll soon be rockin' a perfect pair.