This page is a compilation of a series of posts I put up in the winter of 2013 as I tried out the Step Extreme blade. I haven't finished experimenting with them and will continue to post info, but I think I have made up my mind about these blades. They are not for everyone, and frankly, they aren't for me as they are when they are brand new. They are too high and too long. However, as you sharpen blades, they get lower and a little shorter, and as this happens with my Step Extremes, I'm liking them more. This explains why I am still going to be posting on this page, and my last post will be when I think they are at the perfect height and length. Of course, I have been playing with the blades for a while now, so my opinion will be somewhat biased. Ask around for other opinions. Briefly, the problem I have found with these blades is that the height creates a lot of sideways wobble, and the length reduces your agility on a number of moves. I don't think the NHL needed to outlaw them, because as they are, not many goalies will use them. However, if I am right about these problems, Step can easily fix them, and don't forget that Step has another blade that is lower, and almost anyone can use them.
step

Sept/2013
As for the Step Extremes. Lots going on there. I wasn't liking them all that much because they just feel too long. Sometimes it feels like you're on skis, and you do lose some pivoting ability (going behind the net, butterfly slide or backdoor move going back). Also, they feel a little too high. They are definitely the extreme of what a blade should be. So I took them off to see what my old blades were like. They are old Step blades worn down to what a normal blade would be when you buy it. I didn't like them either. The Extremes really give you great edge when you are down, and a wide stance is rock solid. So I'm kind of stuck between the two. I'm having the Extremes ground down a bit to hopefully find a height I can work with.

So I had the Extremes ground down and they are much better. I think a little bit more and they'll be perf. I'll have photos and I'll be moving all this stuff to its own page. To get around the NHL, Step should just raise the normal Step blade a little and call it 'intermediate' or something like that. Also, shortening it would be good.

 

If you need some background info on why Step would make a blade like this, read the Graf install page. It is important that you understand why the height and width of a goalie skate is important. Above is a shot of my skates with the new Step Extreme blade, and below is a shot of my skates with the Step regular blade, which is still higher than a normal goalie blade. I have used the Extreme about 10 times and I'm just getting used to it. With the regular Step blade, there was zero break-in time, and that is a big deal when you consider that there is no rocker on the blade yet. I would say that the regular Step blade can be used by any goalie and is a great product. With the Extreme blade, it is extreme. You definitely feel higher and because of this, there is some noticeable ankle wobble. If you use this blade, I'm fairly sure you will have to tape your ankles to control this wobble.

So does this blade deliver more power? Yup; no doubt about it. You can take a wider stance, push off harder, get up easier. For that reason, if you aren't wearing Overdrive, it reduces the need for it a bit. Combined with Overdrive, it makes a great mobility package.
So, assuming you know why higher is better (Graf Install page) and why that makes these blades better, let's look at the downside. I can see only two problems, and neither are that big a deal. (Correction: I now think they are a big deal. J. Sept/13)

1 - Excessive wobble at the ankles can cause sprained ankles. If you are sliding your foot sideways and you catch a rut, it's going to hurt more with these blades because you are higher up and can roll your ankle more. This was why I first started taping my ankles. I got a sprain and it took forever to heal because as soon as it was getting better, I would sprain it again, and each time it took less of a catch to re-sprain it. After taping my ankles, I discovered that I had better control over my edges because I had reduced ankle wobble. I've mentioned it elsewhere on this site that every time your ankles wobble, you shift from one edge to the other. You need total control over your edges, especially the inside edge. This is most noticeable when you are moving laterally. You need your inside edge for those moves, but ankle wobble will shift you from one edge to the other, and that instability will make it harder to focus on the puck and harder to complete the move. When you stop, it will take a split second longer to re-establish your footing. So the simple solution is to tape your ankles, which I recommend to all goalies anyway, whether you wear Overdrive or Step or not. You will protect your ankles and control your moves better. One simple test to find out if you need to tape your ankles is to go skating - without equipment. If you feel wobbly without the pads on (a lot of goalies will), then you need better control of your edges. I'll mention later how I tape mine. On this note, even though I tape my ankles a lot, I still noticed more wobble with the Extreme blade and had to tape them more, but that could be because my boots are getting old and have a few soft spots.

2 - Whenever you get new blades, they will be profiled, but you will have less rocker than your old blades simply because the new ones haven't been sharpened much yet. It's nice to have a long, flat blade, but only to a point. When you go down, it won't be as smooth as with your old blades because the front and back of the blade don't yet have that curve from sharpenings. With the Step Extreme, I notice this a lot. Because the blade is higher, it is also a little bit longer, so you'll have more edge at the front and back of the blade. I found that this caused me to catch my foot a few times as I was getting up. In the past, I've had this problem with new blades, but it went away after one or two games. With these blades, it still feels a little funny after ten games. But, I don't consider this a big deal at all. If it bothered me a lot, I would just have them ground down a bit. As it is, I'm almost used to these blades, and after five sharpenings, the curve on the blades will be fine. I'm keeping these blades and I'm liking them more with every use.

Having raised the subject of taping your ankles, I think I had better put up some info on it, because it is not as simple a subject as you would think. I'll post that below in a week.

Got questions about this? Send me a mail or give me a call.

As I said above, I think it is very important for goalies to tape their ankles, and again, if you aren't sure of why, try skating without equipment to see how much control you have over your edges. You may be surprised at how unstable you feel. This has to be fixed, and until someone finally comes out with a proper goalie boot, you'll have to tape your ankles. As simple as this may sound, there are a number of things to consider. As with everything on this site, take what I say here with a grain of salt, check it out for yourself, and you'll probably come up with something that suits you better.

First of all, what kind of tape to use. I don't like the standard clear plastic tape that all players use. It's too narrow, you have to use half a roll per game, and sometimes the whole thing breaks in the middle of a game. That has happened to me quite a few times. Once it cracks, the whole thing tears and suddenly you're playing as if your skates have come undone. I don't like the standard stick tape either, because it doesn't have enough give. It's narrow, and once your ankles are taped, they feel too tight, and it doesn't allow for the fine sideways roll that you need. The idea is not to lock your ankles into an immoveable position, but to create a solid but slightly flexible bond between you and your skates. What I use is plain old packing tape. Yup; it's not pretty but it works. I get a six-pack at Staples for $7.00. I buy the cheaper stuff because it has more flex. The better stuff doesn't give as much. This tape is wide, almost 3", so the coverage is really good and the price is right.

Now that we have the tape we want, the next problem is how to tape your ankles, and that is not such an easy thing because goalie skates do not tape all that easily. Better control at the ankles is one reason why I put a forward's boot inside a goalie shell. Forward skates sit about one eyelet higher, they have the Achilles extension and a slightly higher tongue. All of these things allow me to tape a tight seal between the boot and the ankle. Goalie boots sit lower and don't have the Achilles extension that gives the tape something to hold on to. The boot just tops out in a blunt edge that makes it hard even to tighten with the laces. Since the tape doesn't have a whole lot to hold on to, it can slip off through constant sideways wiggling. For this reason, if you're wearing goalie boots (99.9% of goalies), then you have to use wide tape that can bridge the gap between the boot and your ankle. I really don't like any of the goalie boots out there. Years ago, Lange made a plastic boot that was higher and had a hinged ankle, and this was pretty close to what goalies need:tighter control at the ankle, some sideways wiggle, and the ability to easily lean forward.

So when you tape your ankles, you need to consider two things: sideways wiggle and forward lean.

1: Sideways wiggle. I can't see a good reason for any more than a few degrees of wiggle to either side. Otherwise, you lose control of your edges on hard lateral moves and you have a greater risk of sprained ankles. This is the main reason for taping your ankles.

2: Forward lean. Taping your ankle restricts forward lean, which you really need for your stance. Also, I use a forward boot in a goalie shell, so my boot is higher, and this also restricts forward lean. I think that one reason goalie boots sit one eyelet lower is because it allows the goalie to lean forward for his stance. In taping your ankles, you have to allow for this. My boot is not anywhere near the top of the line (old Bauer 1000's) which was why I chose it; most forward boots were too stiff. To allow for more forward lean, I never used the eyelet on the plastic piece (letter 'a' above), and eventually I cut the whole thing off. In the photo below to the left, the two green arrows show the two consecutive eyelets I use, and the line between shows the crease that forms to allow forward lean. It's not as good as a hinged boot would be, but it works well enough. If you're wearing regular goalie skates and you tape your ankles, you'll have to allow forward lean somehow, and all I can do here is show you what I did. You'll need to experiment.
Troy Crowder, who played for the Devils and is a very inventive guy, is developing a pretty neat attachment for the top of skates that will solve this problem. He's making it for forwards, but it will also work well for goalies and it's supposed to be out in a few months. When it comes out, I'll post a link, and I highly recommend it for goalies who don't want to put a forward boot on their skates.

Another problem with taping your ankles is actually very serious, and it is something all hockey players need to know about. When you lock your ankles in and have a tight fit on the skates, every time you lean forward, your heel will dig in to the heel of the skate, causing friction, and, over time, a nasty reaction called heel spurs. I got them years ago from an ill-fitting pair of Bauers (regular goalie skates). Heel spurs can be very painful, and if they don't go away, they can ruin your career. What happens is the constant friction causes the bone to react by swelling until you develop a permanent little bump on your heel. Yes, bone can swell, and once it does, it is very, very hard to bring down. I know one forward who had them operated on and they grew back on their own. Take these little guys very seriously. Having learned from my mistake (that's the only way I learn), I solved the problem in a very simple way. If you look at my skate above, you'll see that the screws attaching the boot are not under the heel, but two inches in front of it (red arrow). This allows the boot to lift very slightly when I lean forward, (red line to blue line), so there is no friction on the heel inside the boot. It also adds a bit to the forward lean. All you need is a very slight lift of a mil or two, and you don't lose any control of the skate.

As I tape my ankles, I test it by wiggling my ankles side to side to make sure it's right. I want just a little bit of side-to-side wobble; just enough for those fine moves you need from your edges. I'll also lean forward to make sure I have the right amount of lean. Below is a shot of how I tape my ankles. With the Step blade, I am taping slightly lower for more control. However, the tongues are really weak and need to be replaced, and the counter is softening, so I'm dreading having to replace these boots, but the point is that my boots are a little weaker, hence, the taping job is likely more severe because of it.

Finally, the last problem is getting the tape off. Forget about peeling it off in the usual way, because that will never happen. What I do is score it with a knife tip, but don't cut into your boot, just score it, then lean your ankle forward and the hole thing will split where you scored it. It takes a few seconds and comes off in one piece that you can bundle up and throw at someone who screened you. Below, the red line shows where to score it (not against your leg, please), the left arrow shows a score mark, and the bottom arrow shows the knife tip.

So that's all for now on the Step Blade and taping. I got the blades at Toronto Hockey Repair (aka Goalie Heaven) and Bryden, who is the only person allowed to touch my skates, put them on. I put this piece up kind of quickly, so I wasn't as thorough as I could be, but if something isn't clear or you have questions, please let me know and I'll fix it. Otherwise, this piece will be moving to its own page to make room for my rant on goalie equipment restrictions.

Digg Reddit Del.icio.us Stumble Upon Facebook Twitter Google BlinkList Technorati Mixx Windows Live Bookmark MySpace Yahoo Bookmarks Diigo