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In Hockey, What is the Difference Between Player Skates and Goalie Skates?

Skates for goaltenders have protective guards on the exterior.
Hockey player wearing player skates.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Because regular hockey players — such as forwards and defensemen — skate in such a different manner than goalies, the type of skate used by goalies is much different form that of other players. While player skates and goalie skates both feature metal blades used for moving over the surface of the ice, goalie skates feature a blade that is much flatter than player skates. In addition, both types of skates feature a boot that provides stability and protection for the feet, but goalie skate boots are much shorter to allow ankle movement. They also feature a hard plastic shell to protect against the oncoming puck.

Player skates and goalie skates both serve similar functions: to allow for control over the surface of the ice, provide protection against pucks and other impacts, and provide support to the foot and ankle. While player skates inhibit the movement of the player’s ankle — preventing the player from rolling his or her ankle while turning or stopping hard — goalie skates allow for ankle movement.

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One of the major differences between the two types of skates is that goalies want to be able to move their ankles so they can more accurately control their leg pads and move side to side. Regular players who skate the length of the ice do not want their ankles to move, but rather rely on the stiff, high ankle of the boot to keep their foot and ankle in place in order to skate faster and more accurately. Side to side movement is not as vital to a player as it is to a goalie.

A second vital difference between player skates and goalie skates centers on the blade. Player skates feature a blade that is curved from toe to heel to accommodate shifting weight and quick cornering. The blade is sharpened in such a manner that the edges become extremely sharp, again to aid in cornering and quick stopping. A goalie skate’s blade is flatter and features far less of a curve from toe to heel. This encourages more balance for quick movements and severe weight shifts side to side. In addition, the skates are sharpened differently: goalie skates are sharpened at less of an angle than player skates to accommodate side to side sliding across the ice. Many goalies will go so far as to scuff the sides of their blades after a sharpening to dull them slightly, thereby aiding in side to side sliding while in goal.

One last difference between these skates is the level of protection. Goalie skates feature a hard plastic shell around much of the boot that is absent on player skates. Because goalies are most often in the path of speeding pucks, they require extra protection around the foot, particularly in the toe. Goalie skates accommodate for this by placing the boot inside a hard shell that covers the toe and majority of the rest of the foot.

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