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The Gear

Carbon-graphite sticks, aluminum shafts, and fiberglass/kevlar goalie masks are a few of the technological advances that have changed hockey gear, and consequently the game itself. In the game of hockey, the gear is uniquely personalized and meticulously prepared. The gear, like the players themselves, is placed in a hostile environment and receives a lot of abuse. Players, equipment managers, and scientists talk about the sticks, skates, pads, helmets, and other gear that help protect players and play a role in the game itself.

In this section, there are RealAudio and video clips from Sharks Equipment Manager Mike Aldrich, Exploratorium Scientist Thomas Humphrey, Sharks defenseman Doug Bodger, and goalie Kelly Hrudey .

The "Hollow-Grind"

Everyone knows that skate blades are made of steel. What most people don't know is that the surface of the blade is not flat, but concave. A process called hollow-grinding carves out the center steel in a blade and produces two sharp edges. These edges give players the ability to dig into the ice--to stop, start, or change direction.

Sharpening Skates
Sharks Equipment Manager Mike Aldrich shows how to sharpen a skate.
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More on the "Hollow"

Each team's equipment manager is responsible for sharpening the team's skates, and even the referees' skates during a home game. Sharks equipment manager Mike Aldrich took us through the process. The skate--consists of a boot, the blade holder, and a steel blade, with the holder attached to the boot with rivets. Once the skate is assembled it is taken over to the sharpener.

The sharpener has a rotating stone wheel that creates the "hollow." The stone wheel itself is first shaped with a diamond tip, then the skate blade is passed over the stone a couple of times to identify the exact center point of the wheel. Once the center point is established, the skate blade is passed over the wheel a number of times, each time becoming smoother. A final pass is made with a light coat of oil to give the blade a polish and to remove any excess debris. The skate then gets a couple of passes with a hand stone and then it is wiped clean with a cloth.

Each player has his own personal preference as to how much hollow he has in his skates. Goalies, for example, like less hollow in their skates. This makes sense since they need to move quickly from side to side, and a deeper hollow may cause an edge to catch in the ice. Each player also has his own preference as to how often his skates are sharpened. Some players may go a couple of games between sharpenings, while others may even request that their skates are sharpened between periods. Occasionally, a player will even change the depth of his hollow depending on ice conditions.

San Jose Shark Doug Bodger
Doug Bodger explains what happens when a player loses an edge
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Losing an Edge

When these edges get dulled, players will sometimes have their skates come out from under them. This phenomenon is called "losing an edge." A variety of factors can contribute to losing an edge. Sometimes the skate blade will come in contact with sand or dirt in the bench area or with a goal post. Most commonly, the skate comes in contact with another skate blade, during a collision or rough play near the boards. Players usually don't realize their blade has been dulled until they try to make a sharp turn or a stop and find themselves sprawled out on the ice.

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