Friday, December 5, 2014


Although I passed Ice Dance level 1 way back when (been so long I'd have to re-read my own blog to remember exactly when) and passed level 2 at the end of September, it took forever for the rink to order the badges.  I finally got 'em this afternoon at the start of a public session.  Better late than never!
Beyond that I can report that after putting slightly over 20 hours on my new boots and blades my single foot spin finally reported for duty this afternoon.  It was drunk and disorderly but at least it showed up.  My new boots are a half size smaller and the new blades are a quarter inch longer than the old equipage so the location of the spin rocker is in a slightly different place alone the blade.  I still haven't jumped in the new boots since the blades are still on the temporary screws; I haven't quite decided whether or not I'm happy with the blade position but I guess I'm growing accustomed to the place (sorry, couldn't resist).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Punching out.

I now have a little under twenty hours in my new boots.  Most of the pressure points associated with new, stiff boots have worked themselves out but there are still a couple areas, namely around the pinky toe of each boot which continue to annoy me.  I asked Mike to punch out those areas.  For those reading this post who are not familiar with the process of "punching out", it's basically a way of removing pressure points in boots by locally stretching the offending area. Figure skate boots have to be stiff and close fitting in order to support the ankle during jump landings and spins.  At the same time, the ankle must be able to bend deeply in order to get and hold the strong edges required by most skating elements.  It's not exactly a mutually exclusive scenario but sometimes it can feel that way. Bottom line: if the boots are eating your feet, you're not a happy skater.

My right boot getting punched out on the outside edge near the toe box.  My pinky toe is much happier now.
Want to see a boot punch in action?  Check out this youtube video:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sometimes Hockey Boyz Have All the Fun.

Don't believe me?  Check out these way Kool rollergards

The rollergard folks say that they're working on a model for figure skates. I'll be checking back!

Still not convinced?    Take a look at these neat-o Skaboots

I could go for a pair of the florescent green ones!
Again, it appears that these are currently off the figure skate radar screen.  Bummer!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Breaking in is so, so very hard to do.

Apologies to Paul Anka for today's post title.  Yesterday was a big day for your old diarist: my new skates were in at Skater's Paradise, so directly after my ice dance lesson it was time to point the bow of the might Volvo station wagon south towards Waldorf.  I arrived just after 1pm to discover my new heat moldable boots were already in the oven.  Mike brought them into the fitting room and warned me to mind the hooks (Hot!) as I put them on.  He laced up the boots to a tension which he liked and told me to enjoy the cooling process while he and Joan attended to other customers.  Every so often he'd come over and feel one of the boots and after 20 minutes or so he had me slip them off.  He then took the boots to the rink snack bar's freezer room where he parked them for 10 minutes to quickly remove the latent heat and lock in the shape which my feet had left inside the boot interiors.

After that, I told him I wanted to take a tracing of the blades before he sharpened them.  This would give me a reference point after future sharpenings.  Each sharpening removes a bit of metal and over time the overall rocker profile as well as the location of the spin rocker part of that overall profile tend to change and flatten out.  And although I plan to return to Skater's Paradise for sharpenings, one can't predict that I'll always live close by or indeed how many more years Mike and Joan will remain in business.  It only takes one bad sharpening to ruin a pair of blades.

My new Ultima Aspire XP blade profile before the 1st sharpening.  Mike humored me.
After the sharpening it was time to go out on the ice to check blade positioning.  I kinda hoped I wouldn't make a total fool of myself--new blades are always a bit spooky at first; your muscle memory has become accustomed to the old blades which over the course of many sharpening have lost a bit of the rocker.  I stepped gingerly onto the ice with the master watching.  I took a few strokes and it felt like I was a raw beginner!  I perimeter stroked a couple laps and as I did the blades started to feel a little better under foot but whoa baby, compared to my old blades the new ones were like the difference between a Ferrari and a pickup truck.  I tried an outside forward three turn (in my "good" direction) and almost bought the farm.  After a few more laps I tried doing some power pulls and felt a lot steadier.  I T-stopped in front of Mike and he said "you were going at a pretty fast clip.  I was hoping you wouldn't have to slam on the brakes."  It was a public session and yepper depper, there were a fair number of ice tourists on the rink.  Funny, it felt like I was crawling--sort of deceptive, like driving a new powerful but quiet car and discovering that you're doing 80 when you thought you were at the speed limit.  Back we went into the shop.  Mike adjusted the blades slightly and put in enough screws to keep things from moving until I have the boots broken in.  As for the boots, they're much stiffer than my old ones even though they're the same model.  Besides being new, boot designs (even within the same model) constantly evolve.  I told Mike I wanted to skate the public session long enough to see if there were any spots in the boots that needed punching out before I left.  He told me that although he could slip me out on the ice for a few minutes for test purposes, if I wanted to skate longer I'd need to buy a pass.  Fair enough.

A little friendly reminder from rink management on the public session wrist band.  Kinda reminds me of the disclaimers at the end of ads for the latest offerings from a pharmaceutical company: "be sure to ask your doctor if death, bodily injury or property damage are right for you..."

Anyway, I got back out on the ice and skated the last 30 minutes of the session.  That was just about the right amount of time for me to gain back most of my forward skills and learn what parts of the boots I needed to have punched out.  It also gave me the opportunity to test whether going down a half-size in boots would eliminate the dreaded heel slippage which has been part and parcel of my old ones practically from the first day.  In the new boots my heels felt locked down even though the laces were only "snug" rather than in "as tight as I can physically make them" mode; and the top hooks were left undone in the interests of ankle bend; and I didn't have bunga pads on (an obligate requirement to take up the slop in the old boots). Whoot! Whoot!  It will probably take a couple weeks to break in the boots and adjust to the new blades but after that, Look Out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A new beginning

With every visit I discover something new.  How I missed this poster during my first visit is a mystery.  Skater's Paradise, it seems, isn't exclusively about figure skating.  The Cunninghams have their share of admirers in the NHL.  Here we see Bobby Orr in full flight.

Back in the 1970s, I was in the Coast Guard, attached to the Cutter Sherman which in those days called Boston her home port.  When the ship was in port I was occasionally lucky enough to see Bobby Orr skate for the Bruins.

But skater's Paradise isn't all about the past.  Here's a brochure for the USFSA Championships which take place this coming January in Greensboro, North Carolina.

This leaflet looks even further into the future.

 So, OK, today I went to my fitting appointment for new boots.  My current boots and blades will be three years old this coming February--which I've been told is an eternity for figure skating boots.  Either that or I'm just hard on my equipment.  Mike suggested that I should stay with Jackson boots since I have wide feet.  Interestingly, after measuring my feet he reduced the boot size from nine and a half to size nine.  We discussed various Jackson models.  I'm currently in the Freestyle model.  Mike recommended that I stay with that since the next boot above the Freestyle model is quite a bit stiffer.  Female skaters have an intermediate stiffness boot within the Jackson line up but males do not.  Mike didn't want to "over boot" me and I told him that he was the doctor, so another pair of Freestyles, abet a half size, smaller it is.

He suggested that I move up to Aspire blades with cross cut toe picks.  This is a step up from my current Mirage blades which have straight cut picks.  Both the Mirage and Aspire feature an 8 foot rocker and have 1/2" radius of hollow so I shouldn't notice a big difference in blade feel.  New generation Freestyle boots come standard with Aspire straight cut picks.  Hopefully the slightly smaller boots will eliminate the heel slop I've dealt with almost from the beginning with my current boots.  The new Freestyles also have much better padding for the tongue of the boots than the previous boots, as well as a rolled and padded collar area around the top of the boots for a bit more comfort when deeply bending the ankle.  The boots and blades should arrive in a week or so.  I'm looking forward to having new, potentially better fitting boots.  I'm hoping the break-in period is swift and not too painful.  It remains to be seen what, if any, difference the cross cut picks will make.  Bottom line is not a lot of change.  The $64,000 question is will the small, incremental changes to slightly smaller (better fitting) boots and slightly more aggressive blades add up to a measurably improved geezer skater?  We shall soon see!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Did you know? dept.

Did you know that the earliest Zamboni ice resurfacers were built on top of WW II military surplus Jeeps?  Now you do!

The Zamboni Model C.
Your can read more Zamboni history here.

The story of the oldest surviving Zamboni, a Model B is recounted in this account from Zamboni Newsletter Vol 5, April 1974

Twenty-five years have elapsed since Frank Zamboni completed his first successful Ice Resurfacer in 1949.  These 25 years have witnessed a tremendous change and growth in ice skating and Frank J. Zamboni & Co. is pleased to have been a part of this expanding industry.  Time has certainly flown by since 1949 and an incident that occurred last year helped bring back memories of the earlier years of resurfacing machine development.  In June, 1973, we received a phone call from Ted Dunn of the Los Alamos Skating Association in New Mexico telling us that their Zamboni® machine was involved in a fire at their rink and they required assistance in rebuilding it for the coming skating season.  When we realized that their resurfacer was the fourth machine that Frank had built and, up until the fire, was to our knowledge the oldest unit in regular operation, we decided that we ought to obtain it, rebuild it and reconstruct the story of its much-traveled history.

The first few Zamboni Ice Resurfacers were:
Unit   Model   Delivered   Purchaser                              Disposition
No. 1   A           1949         Iceland, Paramount              Dismantled
No.2    B           1950         Pasadena Winter Garden      Dismantled
No.3    B           1951         Sonja Henie Ice Revue         Unknown
No.4    B           1952         Ice Capades

The No. 4 machine was delivered to the Pan Pacific Auditorium on May 6, 1952, and was used in the Ice Capades show for the first time two days later. It was then shipped to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it began a ten month tour of 22 cities in the United States, as well as appearances in Toronto and Montreal.  When travelling between cities, the conditioner was lifted into the snow tank by a chain hoist and the machine was then driven into a railroad baggage car.  Its operator and chief mechanic was Robert Skrak, who also skated in the show and demonstrated the machine in various arenas when requested to do so.  Bob operated the No. 4 machine and its replacement No. 16 for many years and is presently the General Manager of the Iceland Skating Arena in Berkeley,
California. Between May and July of 1953 the machine was again in Los Angeles and received a complete factory checkup prior to rejoining the show again in Atlantic City. The 1953-1954 Ice Capades Show again trouped No. 4 in the United States and Canada and the machine made its last show appearance in May, 1954, at the Denver Stockyard's Stadium. Ice Capades took delivery of the first Zamboni Model E machine in July 1954 and No.4 was traded in on this new machine.  Following factory renovation, the No. 4 was sold to the Iceland Skating Arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico. W.C. "Bill" Snelson had a fire at his original Albuquerque ice arena in 1953 and decided to rebuild at another location. He was able to reopen in November 1954, and did so with the recently rebuilt Zamboni No.4. The machine was operated by Bill Snelson and Mack Griffin at this rink until it closed in August 1960. Much of the equipment, including the Zamboni, was then sold to the Los Alamos Skating Association, whose development is an interesting story worth telling.

During World War II, Los Alamos, New Mexico (present site of the Los Alamos Skating Association), changed dramatically. From a private ranch-school for boys, it grew into a super-secret city of 15,000 scientists, technicians and military personnel with the assignment of unlocking the secret of atomic power and harnessing it as a weapon. Located at 7100 feet on the sunny mesas and deep, eroded canyons of the northern New Mexico Jemez Mountain range, the Los Alamos community had to make the best of local recreational opportunities. This included a 60' x 110' oval ice rink in nearby Los Alamos canyon, which was created by flooding and damming a tiny canyon
creek. Its buildings consisted of two 14 foot square shacks and a woodburning, pot-bellied stove. Its
Skating Club subsisted on a meager budget which basically relied on a 100-plus enthusiasts at $1.00 per season membership fee.

The creation of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1947 made Los Alamos the world's foremost research and development laboratory in nuclear weaponry and it also diversified its interest into many peaceful uses of nuclear energy; including solutions to the world's energy crisis. With this change, Los Alamos became a normal community with families instead of G.l.'s.  The old ranch-school skating oval was enlarged to a hockey rink of 78' x 178' in 1950 and was moved 800' down Los Alamos canyon to find better shade. Another rebuilding in 1959 made the rink 90' x 210' and it now featured a 20' x 100' wing of an old dormitory at the rink site. The non-profit Los Alamos Skating Assn., in spite of their limited funds, became interested in acquiring a Zamboni. Through the travels
of their amateur adult hockey teams they became familiar with the Jeep-mounted ice making machine.  The rig intrigued the Los Alamos players because their open rink was maintained through snow, unseasonable rain and excessive weekend use, with an army surplus Fordson tractor, brush and lots of volunteer labor.

May 1961 prompted high hopes when a decision was reached in Albuquerque to convert Bill Snelson's rink to uses other than skating. Although stymied at first by a lack of funds and their policy not to borrow, the Association remained hopeful and on a Friday in August received a phone call saying they could have the machine and other rink equipment not attached to the building for their original offer of $1,500. The one stipulation was - that everything they wanted had to be removed by 6 p.m. the following Sunday. On Sunday, a caravan of Los Alamos hockey players and figure skaters (in a variety of vehicles) descended from the Jemez Mountains and arrived at the Albuquerque rink at dawn after a 2-hour, 98-mile trek. Fifteen hundred dollars changed hands about noon and by mid-afternoon the caravan replete with rubber floor tile old rental skates and other rink paraphernalia "took to the hills". Earlier in the day, No.4 departed with Association President Wally McCracken in the Zamboni driver's seat with pick-ups fore and aft to begm their 20-mile an hour return to Los Alamos. The Los Alamos rink had its Zamboni!  Through twelve skating seasons the machine operated faithfully and diligently. At 1 o'clock on a cold Sunday morning in February last year Ted Dunn was awakened by a fire call from the ice rink. By the time he arrived, the garage which housed the Zamboni and their old Jeep-plow was in flames. A loft above the machine also stored such inflammables as rubber flooring and hockey sticks. Amid the smoke and flames the old Jeep was driven out the door onto the ice. The firemen were about ready to give up on No.4 when Ted asked to give one more try to removing it from the burning garage. Soaked by the fire hoses, he re-entered the garage, threw a dampened canvas over the engine and after having to quickly tighten the battery terminals, got the engine started. Signaling to the firemen to push the burning loft up, he drove out the door, carrying burning hockey sticks, part of the garage door and other debris with him.  As a point of interest, No. 4 has been rebuilt to. its original condition, 22 years young and hopefully its travels are not yet complete.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mon Dieu! Catastrophe!

Ever have one of those days when despite your best efforts things just seem to spiral out of orbit?  I proudly arrived at the rink with enough time, for once, to warm up my legs before my ice dance lesson by walking around Allen Pond at a brisk clip.  I entered the lobby of the rink full of sweat and purpose.  Feeling ready for a productive session, I carefully pulled on my boots (newly inspired after a trip of Skater's Paradise) and as I was removing the slack from the laces of my left boot, the leather around one of the top eyelets tore through!  This was 5 minutes before the lesson.  With no good alternatives, I skipped those eyelets, (telegraphing even more tension to the remaining good eyelets), and told myself I still had plenty of support--so suck it up buttercup.  I was able to stagger through the lesson in reasonable form, and afterwards took my injured boot to a local cobbler.  The lady looked at the boot, shook her head worryingly and then, after discussing various patching strategies, told me "$15 dollar, you pay now.  Boot ready Tuesday."  English is not her first language, hopefully leather repair is.  So that's it.  No skating until Tuesday after 4pm--assuming my cobbler remains timely.  I was hoping to delay springing for new boots until after Christmas but I think they're gently telling me that they're tired of the constant punishment, and that they long for retirement.  And what of the lesson itself?  Despite my best intentions, it was kind of a blur.  We worked on partnering and posture.  The only thing I clearly remember is the coach telling me that the female skater is the "picture"; the male skater is the "frame".  Translation:  the judges and the peeps in the bleachers are focusing on the girl in the skimpy costume--the guy in black is just an afterthought!