Your skates, while important, are not as important as your boots. A pair of low figure skates of the correct size and shape does not have to be expensive or even moderately expensive to be perfectly satisfactory for a long while. I skated for several years and learned all my fundamental figures on ordinary five dollar figure skates, which today would cost approximately ten dollars.
So that you will know for yourself whether you are being sold the right blades, pick up the skates on the counter and examine them carefully. Ask for a hockey skate and hold it in your left hand. Now ask for a figure skate and hold it in your right hand. The first thing you will notice is that the hockey skate has a plain pointed end in front, while the figure skate has a series of "teeth," or "picks." Hold the plate of the skates in your hands with the blades facing upward, and turn the blades to the light.
You will notice that the hockey skate, in your left hand, has an absolutely straight narrow blade - that is, the length of the blade is straight from heel to toe and the width of the blade is perfectly straight across. Now look at the figure blade. You will notice that from heel to toe the blade is set on a slight curve. This is called the "radius" of the skate, and most figure skates today are set on a 7-foot radius.
Look at and feel the blade itself. You will notice that there is a hollow ridge down the center of the skate, leaving two higher edges at each side of it. This hollow ridge is called the "concave" of the skate and is what is meant by the term "hollow-ground" as applied to figure skates. The sides of the hollow ridge are the so-called "edges" of the skate, and when you have your outfit on, the edge of the skate that is nearest the inside of your foot is called the "inside edge," and the edge nearest the outside is correspondingly called the "outside edge." It is well to memorize these terms, for the actual skating figures are named according to which edge of the skate you use to trace them.
To get back to the skates you are holding in your hands, grasp the blades firmly with the skates perfectly level and near together. You will immediately notice that the shoe plate of the hockey skate is higher than that of the figure skate, and if you look more closely, you will see that the two upright pieces that join the toe plate and the heel plate to the blade (in other words, the "stanchions") are much higher on the hockey skate than on the figure skate. This is important. The higher your foot is from the ice, the harder it is to keep your ankle upright. It is much the same principle as stilt walking; the lower your center of gravity, naturally the easier it is to balance.
Therefore it stands to reason that it is easier to learn to skate on the low figure skates than on the high hockey skates. Even if you are not sure you ever want to try figures, even if you think you will be content to plain skate round and round the village pond or city rink, you will find it ever so much easier to learn to navigate over the ice on figure skates. You can play everything except top drawer hockey on figure skates, but you can never trace even the simplest figures correctly or dance an ice waltz on hockey skates.
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