Cigar Aficionado

In the sport of ice hockey, speed kills. Fast skaters force coaches to change game plans, turn goalies into insomniacs and leave defensemen searching for their jock strap at the blue line. Short of natural ability and years of training, the lead-footed may look to a new breed of lighter, more stable and responsive skates to gain the quickness they crave.

Easton’s Stealth S17 (right, combines extreme lightness—700 grams—with superlative responsiveness from its Coil Technology, a one-piece carbon-fiber composite that makes up the core of the boot. It features a unique rubber toecap constructed of Vibram, the same stiff rubber guard used in construction boots. Right out of the box, the skate fits right, and you can feel the boot flex and pull with the foot. The heel is raised higher than the toe on the Stealth S17, so weight naturally falls onto the balls of the feet, promoting a forward-leaning stance. At the end of each stride, a snapping sensation seems to add spring to the step.

Earlier this year, hockey giant Bauer added the new X:60 skate (left, to its much-lauded Vapor line. The series has always been for the player who loves to burn. The X:60 not only fulfills this expectation, but adds a large measure of comfort with its anatomical Form 2 Fit molded tongue. An internal channel stops the tongue from rotating on the foot and alleviates “lace bite,” the sharp pain from ankle to big toe that some players feel when breaking in new skates. The boot of the X:60 also forces the skater to lean forward because its cut is aggressive. Though this allows him to flex the boot easily, a skater with a more upright stance may find it feels unnatural.

Reebok’s latest, the 11K Pump (center,, is the company’s lightest skate to date. Built for speed as well as comfort, the 11K features Skatelock lacing, which allows players to tighten the top three eyelets independently from the forefoot. Reebok’s proprietary Pump Technology permits on-the-fly comfort adjustments. The Pump fills an internal bladder located in the ankle part of the skate. As air fills this bladder, gaps around the ankle are closed and the heel is locked in place, improving stability and response.