Friday, September 25, 2009

Hockey Wheels

Being a roller hockey player, one of the pieces of equipment that I am quite familiar with are roller hockey wheels. I've said many times that if you are an inline hockey player, then your skates are probably the most important piece of hockey gear you will ever own. Your skates can make you or break you as a player. I've gone threw many problems and found some solutions over the years regarding my wheels and bearings. I'm basically going to break down this post into a few sections. One being the hockey wheels themselves and the type that I like to buy and the best and worst performing brands. Then I will get in to the whole bearings issue and talk about what I'd done wrong there for years. There's bunch of things to cover when talking about your skate wheels, some of it I already went over, but I'll reiterate so people reading this won't have to go back and search like a million paragraphs of material.

Hockey Wheels

My first experience with inline skate wheels was actually not on a pair of hockey skates. It was on a pair of roller blades. Those wheels were terrible. Back then, I didn't even know about the bearings in the wheels because I was a novice when it came to knowing about hockey gear. A fellow hockey player turned me on to those not long after I started playing, but for awhile, I was clueless. These roller blade wheels rattled on and on where ever I would skate. I couldn't gain any speed and compete with the people who had real hockey skates. Eventually these wheels would split and become bumpy. A tip for everyone out there, you'll never be that good a hockey player if your wheels are making noise and feel bumpy. There is just no way to compete against other people with a real pair of skates, not unless everyone else had noisey crappy hockey wheels.

My 2nd pair of skates did the same thing. They were a pair of buckle skates made by CCM. Me being naive, I thought that because they had the CCM logo on them, they were hockey skates. They weren't. They made noise, the wheels rattled on and on and eventually split. Keep in mind that CCM does make some great hockey gear and were actually bought out by Reebok, but I think these were some generic brand of skates for recreational consumers, not sports players. Like everything in life, I learned about skates the hard way. It cost me some time and some money to eventually start to get to the right place when it came to playing hockey. The good news is that I think I succeeded and over came my ignorance to the sport of roller hockey many years ago.

My 3rd pair of skates were by Bauer and by this time I started getting hip to the whole idea of different hockey wheels for the skates. I signed up for an indoor league that had a sport court surface. Before this I had always gotten clear skate wheels because I thought that they felt smoother. In most cases, these clear wheels were probably indoor wheels made of a softer material to grip the surface. I used those clear on outdoor surfaces, which wore them down fast. Again, it was my ignorance that did this. For the indoor league though they said we NEEDED to have clear wheels or sport court wheels. I thought wow, there's a difference in material? I went to the local Play It Again Sports store and looked specifically for sport court wheels. I found a really cool orange pair. I don't remember the name. They may have been either Hyper wheels or Kryptonics wheels. I started reading the back of the packet and saw that indoor wheels were soft. The softer they were, the more control you had with stopping and turning. The harder the wheels were, the faster you went, but you didn't have as much control. This was some cool stuff and it got me into experimentation.

A friend of mine who was a really good hockey player always had the best equipment. He kept up to date on all things roller hockey. I noticed one day he had the front and back wheel the same and the two inner wheels a different brand. I asked him what the hell that was for. He told me that the front and back wheels were harder hockey wheels for speed and that the inner wheels were soft for control. I had to try out this little theory and low and behold, I had the best hockey games of my life that way. I outskated everyone and manuevered around the rink with ease. I suggest for any inline hockey player who is a speed freak to try it out. I was extremely satisified with the results.

As for the bearings inside my skates. I had a pair that came with abec 3 bearings, but I usually switched them out for something slightly higher. I think the Bauer skates I put abec 5s in. Then later on I added some abec 7 bearings. The way I cleaned my bearings were completely wrong. I used to add WD40 to them. Well, I sprayed it on them. I thought it would clean them, but what it would do is dry them up and get rid of the good bearing grease that would actually cause them to rotate faster. This was a huge mistake and thankfully I know to never do it again. The best thing to do is to just buy some hockey skate bearing lubricant.

Now I'd like to give some words of wisdom to some people who play indoor hockey. I've played on sport courts and I've said that softer wheels help you grip. Normally these wheels are great for indoor hockey with one exception. If you are playing inside a roller skating rink, you might want to think twice about the type of wheels you get. Usually, public skating rinks are not outfitted with a hockey sport court surface, so the indoor hockey wheels may have a different effect. In my case, the rink surface was hardwood flooring, almost like a basketball gym floor. The first game or two that I played the softer hockey wheels worked fine. After that, it seems that the sticky softness of the wheels picked up a soot like dust around the entire wheel. It looked as though I had skated in ashes and they actually stuck to the wheels. This became a huge problem. I couldn't wash this off, it was like dusty scuffiness that clinged to the wheels. Why was this so bad for my hockey playing? The wheels lost their stickiness because of the soot like covering. It looked as though I had skated out the street and the wheels got dirty, but when I tried to skate forward and go faster, I would actually slide and slip to the side and sometimes fall. Think of it as trying to ice skate in normal sneakers or shoes with no blade to glide on and that was the feeling. My feet would just slide out from under me and if I did gain enough momentum forget about turns. The only thing cool about that was that I could hockey stop like on ice skates and it would slide a little bit. All in all though, it was frustrating.

My theory on wooden surfaces is that I maybe should've used hard wheels, like outdoor wheels. If you think about it, the public skating rink is filled with people who skate outdoors and possibly don't clean their skates. The rinks themselves probably aren't as thoroughly cleaned and taken care of as actual sport court surfaces. So, if you roller hockey play at a public skating rink, make sure that you have hard hockey wheels.

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