I know that skate sharpening is a personal preference for all hockey players. Some like their blades to be razor-sharp while others will go days, weeks, or even a month without sharpening their edges. It's always interesting to see when an NHL player runs down the ramp to go get their skates sharpened as the speculation of injury creeps in. Announcers keep their eyes on the bench, and if a guy heads down the ramp, it's either an injury or an equipment adjustment. The problem, though, is that there is no sharpening instrument that one can use on the bench to reclaim the edge on their skate blades... or so I thought.
I hadn't heard of the Sweet-Stick until a friend sent me a YouTube video of Kelly Hrudey and Roberto Luongo talking. He sent it because he was surprised that Hrudey commented that Mike Vernon got his skates sharpened only once a month. To me, like James, it seems incredible that a guy can go that long without improving the edge on his skates at the NHL level. However, what caught my attention was Luongo's accidental commercial for this Sweet-Stick product. Take a look:
So what is this Sweet-Stick thing?
According to the website, it is a plastic handle containing two ceramic pieces that, when applied to the skate blade, "roll the edges in slightly which maintains the same sharpness and BITE angle". Because the ceramic does all the work, little pressure is needed for the Sweet-Stick to do its thing. The flat side of the Sweet-Stick also removes burrs on the blade, giving the skater an even better edge.
This seems to be almost too good to be true, but the Sweet-Stick website claims that "a player loses between 15-25% of their edge efficiency for every hour on the ice". I would imagine that players who make harder turns wear down their edges faster, so this seems reasonable. For goaltenders like Roberto Luongo, edges mean everything when pushing laterally across the ice.
While I have never once seen a professional hockey team employ the Sweet-Stick, it would seem that the Canucks do have one on their bench. I can't comment on how many other teams use it as I couldn't find any evidence of any other team employing this tool. While the cost isn't that high for a Sweet-Stick - coming in around $19 USD - it seems that it would make sense for equipment managers to have one of these handy.
And it would seem a lot more practical than having a superstar run down the ramp into the dressing room area, have him remove his skate, run it through the sharpener, and then have him back on the bench. Not only would he miss one or two shifts at minimum, but it would also tie up the equipment manager for that period of time. If the Sweet-Stick was used, the player could sit at the end of the bench and have the equipment manager simply run the tool over his skate blade a few times. It's faster and more practical... something that every player and equipment manager would want, I would assume.
The Sweet-Stick does not replace proper sharpenings, though. It is simply a tool to increase the edge of the blades during a game. If you regularly have your skates sharpened once a week, please continue to do so. The Sweet-Stick should only be used for 4-6 swipes on the skate blade before a regular sharpening is needed. Let me repeat this: IT DOES NOT REPLACE SKATE SHARPENINGS. Sweet-Stick recommends using the tool after 8-10 hours of skating, and to have your skates sharpened regularly.
So my question to you, readers and fans: have any of you used this product? Does it do what they claim it does? Is it worth the $20? Let me know in the comments. I'm interested to see exactly how effective this product is.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!