When I first heard of heated skate blades I thought, well there’s a way of skating that sounds like it is cheating. You see, skating is a way of putting all your weight on two small skate blades. All this pressure makes the ice on the top turn to water, thus making skates more slippery. Obviously heating the blades, is going to make the skates even more slippery.
All this got played out in the NHL 15 years ago. 5 players tried it and only one thought the heated blades were better. So the study was expanded to 50 players. I couldn’t find any results with this expanded study. Perhaps someone with better google fu than me can find this. Regardless, the results mustn’t have been good if this is the last we’re hearing about it.
The specific claim that the company wanted to make is that with their blades it should take less energy and be faster at getting to top speed. That’s the theory anyhow.
But testing this would be easier in the sport of speed skating. There would have to be a different design to the heated blades simply because speed skating blades are different. But this wouldn’t be impossible. It wouldn’t just be an NHLer saying ‘I couldn’t tell the difference.’ Speed skating is a sport of 1/100ths of a second. If there is any real benefit, I think that sport can settle things once and for all.
Of course things couldn’t be decided just there. There is also the skater and what they are used to. Perhaps the skater needs to begin as a heated blade skater, so they are truly master of their different blades. So if the company that makes these heated skate blades, really wants to find out if they offer an advantage, they should go on a long term study with speed skaters.
However, patents only last about 20 years. It’s my understanding that the company that offers heated blades, sells them to junior skaters and anyone who just wants a pair. They might even have gone under. Again anyone with better google fu than me might enlighten us.
So, in a few years the national speed skating associations can develop and start distributing these to some in their system. Then we can finally see if they make any difference at the speed skating level.
I doubt the difference can be calculated on how they feel to an NHL player who has spent their life on unheated skates. Winning by those 1/100ths of a second in speed skating, might be a more concrete example of the blade’s superiority.
Who knows? Maybe the heated blade will find a home in figure skating. Perhaps the extra slipperiness will make the weaker skaters fall more often. In which case, it may be enforced from the top to the bottom.