When you’re looking at inline skates and hockey rollerblades, it’s easy to think that since you basically move forward on wheels strapped to your feet that you’re basically looking at the same piece of equipment. I can’t say I blame you. I mean, from a structural perspective, it seems that there are a lot more they have in common than differences. But upon closer inspection of the actual units as well as paying attention to what they’re used for, the differences are actually quite stark.
Hockey rollerblades, of course, are used for playing indoor or outdoor hockey. You’re not on the ice. You’re rolling around on a solid cement surface and you’re moving at a high rate of speed. You are slapping around a ball to score. It’s like hockey, but with no ice and using rollerblades. It turns out that hockey on a hard non-ice surface requires rollerblades that can take a lot of punishment. Given the amount of pushing and crashing involved, hockey rollerblades need to have the toughness and durability needed by the sport. At the same time, they have to deliver speed and traction. Not exactly an easy package to deliver in light of other street hockey requirements.
The dynamics involved in the sport focus on quick turns. You have to be able to change directions very quickly so you can maneuver the ball to either send it to a teammate who can then hit it to score, or you need to turn quickly so that you, yourself can score. This requires a high rate of speed as well as a lot of agility. You have to be able to turn very, very quickly. Also, you have to stop very quickly as well. Compare this with typical inline skates or rollerblades.
With rollerblades, you basically can go really fast and you can stop, but the mission critical aspects of quick turns and high levels of agility, as well as fast stopping speeds, aren’t really that crucial. When you strap on some inline skates or rollerblades, you’re just out there to have a good time. In many cases, you want to skate a very high rate of speed compared to roller skates.
These functional differences, as well as different purposes, have a very heavy impact on how these sports footwear are designed and engineered. Keep the following differences in mind.
When you’re looking at the total package, hockey blades require a much harder boot. Since you’re going to be moving at a very high rate of speed, your boots have to be very stable. That’s why hockey rollerblades are engineered to be paired with a very stiff boot.
Also, since there is no wiggle space as far as your feet moving around inside your boot, the unit is tied up by laces specifically designed for hockey skates. In other words, we’re looking at a much tighter and tougher package.
Rollerblades, on the other hand, show a much wider variety in terms of the outer shell that it uses. Since these types of skates are not necessarily competitive in nature and are just meant for general purpose, the focus is different. The focus is more on providing a lot of comfort for the person wearing these skates. Accordingly, the overall footwear is made of softer material. The main emphasis here is comfort.
The same applies to the shoelace it uses. You can use either a speed lace or a shoelace. The speed lace can be put in place with just one pull and it’s kept in place by a buckle piece located near the ankle. An alternative design uses a shoelace.
So there’s a lot more flexibility as far as inline skates are concerned because the primary focus is comfort. With hockey rollerblades, on the other hand, the focus is on speed, maneuverability and winning. So the wearer is expected to sacrifice a little bit of comfort for a high level of maneuverability, that’s why the boots tend to be stiffer and the laces are designed to be tighter.
Another key point of differentiation between hockey rollerblades and inline skates is the size of their blades. While the placements are the same, meaning there is one line of rubber wheels, hockey blades’ wheels tend to be smaller.
Also, they have a shorter overall frame. These design differences from inline skates are intentional because when you have a shorter frame, you are able to execute tighter and faster turns. You’re also given much more agility overall compared to general or conventional rollerblades.
Rollerblades, on the other hand, usually have bigger wheels and their frames tend to be longer. While these sports footwear tend to be much faster than roller skates, they are less maneuverable compared to hockey rollerblades.
In terms of wheel differences, hockey blades have different levels of hardness or softness. It depends on whether you’re using them for outdoors or indoors. For indoor use, hockey blades’ wheels tend to be very soft. In an outdoor setting, and given the fact that there are surface issues or cracks on the surface of the pavement where the outdoor street hockey is happening, the wheels are designed to be really tough and hard. On the other hand, regular rollerblades generally have hard wheels, and the more expensive the unit, the harder the wheels get.
Simply put, street hockey footwear does not have brakes. It sounds crazy, but there’s actually a method to the madness. There is no brake because you need to be able to execute tight turns. You need to be able to do them quickly.
Also, they’re designed in such a way that you can stop without brakes anyway. General rollerblades do have rubber brakes, which enable you to stop much faster and easier. This is necessary because you can reach a really high rate of speed with rollerblades or inline skates. You have to do this with precision to ensure you position the ball to win.