Ever wondered if hockey skates are any different from regular ice skates? Or where hockey skates came from? Find out fun facts about skates in this condensed history of the blades that power the sport.
The very first ice skate didn’t have a blade; it was made simply from an animal bone fastened to a boot with a piece of animal hide. The bone didn’t cut into the surface of the ice like today’s blades but rather slid across the top of the ice. Skaters needed poles to propel themselves across the ice with these crude renditions. Needless to say, the game of hockey was yet to be invented.
Sometime in the 1500s, bone was replaced with metal for a smoother experience. Double-edged and attached to a wooden block, the metal blades were then able to slice through the surface and get skaters across the ice much faster. No more poles were necessary because the blades themselves propelled the skater, pushing off from one foot and then the other to keep going.
E.V. Bushnell’s skate design in 1848 ditched the method of tying the blade on. Bushnell created a mechanism that clamped the blade onto the boot instead. In 1863, John Forbes and Thomas Bateman invented a self-fastening lever which further made the leather straps obsolete. Also in the 1860s, a skater named Jackson Haines designed a much lighter, sharper blade by using two steel plates. In 1870, designers started including a jagged edge at the front called a toe pick, which allowed skaters to perform jumps.
Around 300 years after metal replaced the bone in ice skates, Canadians invented hockey by modifying a field sport and playing it on frozen ponds. Unlike the delicate moves preferred by figure skaters, hockey calls for a thicker, more enduring blade on its skates. Hockey skates lost the toe pick, and the blade evolved into a much thicker width for endurance. Hockey skates are also reinforced with hollow tubing, unlike figure skates. They also feature reinforcement at the heel and toe to protect players’ feet from injury from other skaters’ blades.