MONTREAL -- Maxim Lapierre never has had any reason to see how the other half lives.
From the age of 8, when he got his first pair of skates -- some hand-me-down CCM Tacks he got from a family friend -- the sparkplug Montreal Canadiens center has remained loyal to the only skate brand he ever has worn. (ALSO:CCM skate photos)
"I just need to feel good, that my ankle is well supported and that I feel like I have direct contact with the ice underneath my feet," Lapierre said of his criteria for a good skate. "It's pretty simple. Different companies do have different levels of inclination, but I'm good with CCM."
He'd better be, because Lapierre makes his living with those blades on the bottom of his feet.
CCM ice hockey skates (Getty Images)
One of the League's faster north-south skaters, Lapierre knows his best asset as a hockey player is his ability to chase down defensemen on the forecheck by outskating them.
"I'd say it's 80 percent of my game," Lapierre said. "If my skating isn't there, my game isn't there."
And for that, he wants to make sure he always has a fresh pair on his feet, going through "at least" 10 pairs of CCM U-Plus series skates per season. That's a pair every eight games, tops.
It wasn't always like that for Lapierre, however, as his parents surely would have forced him to quit the game if he went through skates at that pace as a youngster.
In fact, his parents made sure they got the biggest bang for their buck when Lapierre was growing up, so when he reached the major junior ranks he was in for a big shock when he slipped on his first pair of freebies.
"We always bought skates that were a little too big so I could wear them a bit longer," Lapierre said. "But when I got to junior and we started getting skates that actually fit, it was pretty weird to be wearing skates where my toe touched the end of the boot. I was used to having an inch or two to spare at the end."
Lapierre was looking forward to having a breakthrough season in 2009-10, after he showed glimpses of greatness in 2008-09 with 15 goals and 13 assists in a limited role with the Canadiens.
But he was hampered most of last season with a nagging ankle injury that he forced himself to play through. While it was painful and most of the difficulty playing with that injury remained, CCM made it a bit easier by customizing his skate to allow more room for the swelling that was omnipresent around the ankle for the better part of the first half of last season.
"I just need to feel good, that my ankle is well supported and that I feel like I have direct contact with the ice underneath my feet. It's pretty simple. Different companies do have different levels of inclination, but I'm good with CCM." --Maxim Lapierre
Playing through the pain -- and never telling anyone about it -- led to a lot of criticism for his dip in play. But Lapierre showed ultimately it was worth it once he got healthy and picked up his game at the end of the season.
He rode that wave into the postseason when he was called upon by coach Jacques Martin with more regularity and became a key component in Montreal's improbable ride to the Eastern Conference Final, though the statistics don't always show it.
One such instance was Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals. With the Canadiens clinging to a 1-0 lead late in the third period, a puck was dumped into the Washington zone. Capitals defenseman Mike Green appeared to be on his way to safely retrieving it until Lapierre suddenly came barreling down on him.
With Green forced to fend off the on-rushing Lapierre, Dominic Moore swooped in, grabbed the loose puck and scored what turned out to be the series-winning goal with under four minutes to play in regulation.
It was just another example of how Lapierre's speed makes him such an effective player, and that speed is due -- at least in part -- to the blades on his feet.