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The word on converting to wheels

March 16, 2011 Equipment No Comments

By Paul Chapey

Paul Chapey

John Black coached the RHI Portland Rage to a second- place finish last year, but is moving on to coach the Sac-ramento River Rats. That means he’ll be going from the second-best team in the league to the second-worst. Last season he had to teach all his recruits from the ice hockey minor leagues how to in-line skate, so I asked him about the many aspects of converting from ice skates to in-lines.

“I’ve found that professional ice hockey players make the conversion in approximately 4-to-10 days, depending upon their own athletic ability and skating level. Remember, they’re getting paid to train. There’s tremendous motivation to learn and make the cut.

“The pros are focused on skating before trying to play.”

The pros, unlike many amateurs, are also learning on the right equipment.

“Most of them want the same boot they’re using in ice. That’s why the top pros and amateurs aren’t using off the shelf, marketed for in-line skates. They want the best boots and I also think they want an ice hockey look and not some weird design that someone thinks represents roller hockey.

“Most pros are comfortable with stuff that looks and feels like ice hockey (gear), and doesn’t have some graphic designer’s roller hockey touch to it.”

How about wheels?

“I find that it’s very important to learn on the right wheel. Initially, you should sacrifice speed for grip so you can feel comfortable on your edges. You’re used to digging into the ice, and on in-lines you’re not digging into anything and you have a tendency to slide a little bit when you put the same amount of pressure on in-line skates. So with a tighter or grippier wheel you get your edging and strides a little quicker.

“When you get into stopping and more advanced techniques, then you want to get a wheel that has a tendency to give just before stopping.”

I remember the first full season in RHI (1993) when most of the pros were wearing an open grill design aluminum plate that had a very wide wheel base. Did that affect learning because a different stride was necessary?

“That frame was like a cross country skiing effect. The good ice hockey players couldn’t duplicate their same strides because the wheel base was too long.

“The chassis should be mounted back far enough so that the front wheel is underneath the boot. The test is simply run the boot and chassis against a wall. If the boot hits first, it’s right. If the equipment is right, you can learn the edging and strides quickly. What takes time is stopping, and playing under game conditions where you’re darting left, darting right, quick spins and getting bumped in the process, especially in a full-check game like RHI. There’s no substitute for repetitious skating drills.

“They’re gonna fall and fall and then gradually get it.”

Necessary adjustments

What about any adjustments on wheel placement?

“The back three wheels can be 76 mm and the front 72. Or go with 72 and rocker the front wheel. This helps duplicate the feeling of skating on an ice blade because you actually skate on just a few inches of ice blade.”

If all these components are right, do you feel a good ice hockey skater can change over wholesale and not have to change stride?

“Yeah, but it only takes part of the formula to be out of place to warrant a different stride and therefore a more difficult learning process.

And then there are the tools.

“You’ve got to carry allen wrenches, a plate wrench, extra wheels, extra bearings, quick-change tools, wheel cleaner, lubricant, a whole bunch of accessories. Pros have equipment managers, but amateur players better have all this stuff or they’ll find themselves sitting during a game because of a skate problem.”

Does the skating surface affect the learning process?

“I’ve found that most players don’t like to learn on a real tight surface. But it’s after they become good skaters that they appreciate a good skating surface. My players last year liked Sport Court at the Portland Memorial Coliseum when they were learning. But as time went by and they became very proficient skaters and could do everything at will and play the game without thinking, they grew to dislike Sport Court and liked our practice facility and arenas with a roll-on type coating.

“They loved the Vancouver Aggrodome, which was roll-on. On roll-on surfaces they were able to hit greater speed and deeper edges, accelerate and stop and really come close to the action of a blade on ice. They could use narrower wheels that are more blade like and stop on a dime. You can’t stop on Sport Court, you have to sort of side slide.”

This first appeared in the 04/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2011 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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