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Equipment Chronicles - Part II: Skates and Gloves

The speedy process for a sharp blade and the steady cycle of drying gloves

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

For Stan Wilson, it's a big numbers game for his Coyotes, who use thousands of rolls of tape and sticks per season, not to mention players using up to three sets of gloves a period and even a few different skate blades. 

Head equipment manager Wilson has been with the franchise since 1990, six years before the team relocated from Winnipeg to Phoenix. He has prepared franchise teams for more than 2,000 NHL games. Come along for a three-part series chronicling the fundamental workings of the Coyotes' equipment operations:

Part I: Sticks and tape

Part II: Skates and gloves

Part III: Training camp and acquired players

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When it comes to skate blade innovations, Wilson recalls Martin Hanzal.

The Coyotes were in Los Angeles playing the Kings. Hanzal, who spent nine-plus years in the organization, was in the middle of a shift when the whistle blew. He had a bad edge, but never missed a moment of ice time.

"[Hanzal] jumped on the bench and we clicked [in a new] blade and coach [Dave Tippett] told him to jump right back out there," Wilson said. "There wasn't even another play that had taken place -- and he went out on the ice and scored on that shift. He would've been off getting his skate sharpened at that point if it was how it used to be."

Martin Hanzal deflects puck past Quick

Anyone who has played hockey -- or has a hockey child -- knows the time and inconvenience it usually takes to get skates sharpened. In the far past, players and equipment managers used skate stones to even out a chipped blade. It is no surprise that replaceable skate blades have made the biggest difference for the Coyotes' longtime equipment manager and his staff.

Wilson has sharpened thousands upon thousands of blades over the years and was quick to pinpoint the modernized process.

"The big thing now, really, is the changeable blade," he stressed. "That's changed the whole skate sharpening world, to be honest, for the player and for the equipment manager. Now, when a player has a bad edge, you don't have to take him off [the ice] or take off his skate and run in and sharpen. We just click a new [pre-sharpened blade] in, it's literally 30 seconds at the most. The guy just kicks his foot up on the bench, we pop out the one blade and click in the other blade and he doesn't have to miss a shift."

Similar to a NASCAR pit tire crew, in a sense.

Of course, blades are sharpened to each player's preference. Wilson keeps one or two back-up sets ready.

"We have a box that specifically has each player's custom blade in a box on the bench. It's right there, ready to go if we need to change over."

Said Wilson: "Fans or other people wouldn't realize the direct impact that it's had on the game. You might have a power play and your power play specialist is off getting his skate sharpened, and now you don't have [to worry about] that. A guy doesn't miss a shift because of sharpening. It's been a huge change.

"For the player, it doesn't break his concentration. That's the huge part."

While skate blades now are changed on the fly, gloves are, too. And much like skate blades, the glove cycle comes down to feel.

"A lot of guys switch [their gloves] at the middle commercial break of each period, so at the 10-minute mark," Wilson said. "A lot of guys will run two pair and switch every commercial break. Or other guys at the halfway mark of the period."

With gloves, it mostly comes down to sense, handle, and weight.

"It's kind of personal preference, again," Wilson said. "Some guys want [their gloves] bone dry; some guys want them a little bit damp, and other guys just wear the same gloves the whole game - they don't worry about it.

"For instance, we have one guy, he's a faceoff centerman, he switches through three pairs of gloves each of the periods," Wilson said. "So he's constantly switching. He wants them dry for the grip when he's taking a faceoff, so we probably change his gloves sometimes every five minutes on the ice."

Gloves usually are the first order of equipment business during an intermission.

"When they start coming off [the ice], that's the main thing -- the gloves," Wilson said. [Equipment assistants] Jason [Rudee], Tony [Silva], or Denver [Wilson] start grabbing gloves and they all go in the dryer. Not everybody wants them dried, but some guys do."

The time between periods can be relatively relaxing if all is well.

"If everything is going right, nothing goes on with me during intermission, to be honest," Wilson said. "We just relax and go back out. But if anybody has an issue of any kind we're jumping to get that fixed. Generally, it's pretty quiet at intermission unless a guy breaks a skate blade or something like that. You might sharpen a few blades, dry the gloves, and that's really it, it's pretty quiet."

Next: Part III - Training camp and acquired players

Lead Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit [Blade Change]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Third Photo Credit [Chychrun Skate]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Fourth Photo Credit [Chychrun Gloves]: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Fifth Photo Credit [Gloves]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Video Highlight: NHL // GIF Highilight Footage: FOX Sports Arizona

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