Having the proper edge on your hockey skates helps you maneuver and skate smoothly. But what comprises a proper edge is not always cut and dried. The length of time between sharpenings varies between experienced skaters and skate sharpeners. How often you skate, what level you play at and what position you play can all factor into your decision of when to sharpen your skates.
Players in the NHL usually sharpen their skates before every game, either before or after the morning skate-around. Some players even like their skates resharpened between periods. But other professional skaters only sharpen their skates several times a season. In general, skates lose their edge in four to eight hours of time on the ice.
Types of Edges
There are many ways to sharpen a skate. The most sophisticated techniques today involve "profiling," which is delineating a certain segment of the skate blade that is most heavily used, usually a section near the middle of the blade about 20-60 mm in length. Then, along the course of the blade, a hollow of variable width is honed into the bottom of the blade to give it two edges. The wider the hollow, the sharper the edges become and the easier that maneuvering gets. A narrower hollow offers decreased maneuvering ability, but also affords a smoother glide and less exhausting skating. How often you want your skates resharpened can depend on what type of edges you are most comfortable with. A wider or deeper hollow (for sharper turning) will require more frequent sharpening.
Defensemen tend to choose deeper grooves in their skates, which allow them increased mobility in tight quarters. Forwards are more likely to choose shallower grooves, which helps their speed and allows them to skate more smoothly and with less exertion. Goalkeepers sometimes prefer extremely dull blades that allow them to slide from side to side in the goal mouth. The sharper and deeper your edges and grooves, the more often you will need your skates sharpened. Ultimately, it is a question of personal choice.