When the weather turns cold and the ponds freeze over, Danny Proulx goes from selling soccer cleats to sharpening skates for athletes from all over the Upper Valley. A 12-year veteran at local sports shop, Stateline Sports, Danny has honed his skills with the grindstone, sharpening blades season after season. Last week, I had a chance to catch up with him as he was finishing up another set of skates for one of their most loyal customers.
Danny, thanks for sitting down with me today. You’ve been working at Stateline Sports for over a decade. In a world where people change jobs every couple years, why haven’t you moved on to something else?
I love the fact that I get to help people. I used to work at Jake’s Market up the road and I came here looking for a job because someone said they were hiring. Nothing fancy. I keep working here because I like sports, and I love my community and the fact that I get to help people stay active every single day even more.
That's great. That kind of passion is what customers say keeps bringing them back. I’m here today to talk skates. You spend a lot of time with your head down, sharpening blades. How often should someone be refining their edges?
The rule of thumb is every 8 hours of skating, you should be sharpening your blades. For someone, let’s say a high schooler who plays hockey, you should be doing it every week. But it also depends on how rough the surface you are skating on is. For harder, more coarse surfaces like ponds or the synthetic ice, you’re probably going to want to bring them in more often. And everyone is different. You just want to make sure that the blade is running as smooth as possible over whatever surface you're on.
Sparks fly as the grindstone hones the fine edge of this particular blade.
That makes sense. When someone brings a pair of skates into the shop, what’s the first thing you look at?
We are looking for two things 1. the sharpness of the edges and 2. the balance of the blade. If you look at a skate blade from the bottom, it looks U-shaped. It’s hollow down the middle. We use the grindstone and a measuring tool to makes sure that the blade is uniform and even along the entire length so that there aren’t any rough spots no matter what part touches the skating surface or what direction the skater is moving.
Full disclosure, the only skating I’ve done is in the parking lot on the way to my car and that’s something I never knew. Come to think of it, every time I’m in the shop, I hear the soothing hum from the skate sharpening machine. How many blades do you guys sharpen in a week?
It’s tough to say. Every week it’s got to be in the thousands. *laughs* We (the whole team) easily sharpen over 500 blades on our busiest days, so a thousand or more every week on average over the year is a pretty safe bet.
The balancing tool shows Danny exactly where he needs to even out the edge.
Amazing. With that kind of repetition I can see why folks don’t trust anyone else with their skates. You practice sharpening skates more than some guys practice their slap shots!
I know you are a busy man, so I’ll end with this. What is the one piece of advice you would give someone like me, who is thinking about getting started skating but hasn’t yet taken the leap?
Have fun. Don’t start out by investing in the best stuff straight away. Just get a stick and some skates and get out there. There’s plenty of time for competition and everything else that comes with pursuing something you’re passionate about, but the first step, without question, is have fun.