How funny that for a game played on ice in the cold, one of the first things to do to prepare your tools for the game—as in new skates—is to BAKE them in an oven!* Yes, baking skates reduces out-of-the box stiffness by enabling your foot to conform better to the interior of the boot. This reduces pressure points that cause friction and blistering and improves comfort.
Now imagine your skates are feeling good when your coach tells you to switch skates with a teammate. Let’s say your coach even chooses a player who is similar in size and whose foot is approximately the same size as yours. How does that feel?
No doubt, standing in someone else’s skates feels awkward and uncomfortable. Skating in them is even worse. Using equipment not suited to you is distracting and irritating. Performance suffers.
The importance of a comfortable skate fit is as essential to successful game play as understanding your best contributions to your team and being comfortable with them. Are you the player who moves at warped speed every shift? The one who checks fearlessly no matter how big the opponent? The one who lightens the mood on the bench when tension is high? The one who remembers his line and passes when he should instead of going for the glory shot?
Whatever you have the innate capacity to do, figure it out. Master it. Give it away. If you are not tall, then play to your compensatory strength and make it work for you, and your team. If you are not a vocal leader, then support your team in a quiet way more suited to your personality. If you are not a speed demon, then be a brick wall no one can bypass.
In other words, wear your own skates! As in, identify YOUR stride, YOUR style, YOUR shot, YOUR grip…YOUR best assets to your team. Then “wear them” until they fit, like a skate baked for your foot.
* Most hockey pro shops have a skate baking oven, so get yours baked there. You risk damaging your skates if you improperly bake them at home. You will also void the warranty.