Pros: Top Quality, T-Blade Advantage
Cons: Pro-level boot, not suitable for beginners
PREFACE - When the tech at the skate shop told me I had about six sharpening left on my old Ultra Tacks, I did what anyone would, I said Replace the steel! but when he responded with I cant get steel for that dinosaur, youll need to replace the entire holder. I thought it might be time for a new pair of skates.
WHY THE T-BLADE? - Where I live, the only place around that does a reliable job at sharpening is about a ? hour away. To drive there to get your skates sharpened is at least an hour and a half round trip. (You can't just have your skates sharpened, you have to look at the sticks, check out the latest gear est.)The idea of changing blades myself in 5 minutes as apposed to running over there was intriguing. So after reading more on the T-Blades I decided I would give them a shot.
SELECTION - This limited my selection to the CCM Vector line or the Graf 735. I think part of the reason the T-Blades have not caught on here in America is because they simply arent offered on a lot of skates. Of the 35 to 40 different models that were on the wall only 3 had the T-Blade holders.
WHY GRAF OVER CCM? - I initially tried the Vectors, because I have been a CCM guy since the apple hit Newton on the head. My dealer also carries the Graf line so I figured Id give them a shot. (Why not, right? If Federov can where Graf, I guess theyre good enough for me.) Well to make a long story short, the CCM is a top quality boot, and they are all the rage with space age look, but the Graf quite simply felt more comfortable. They were more snug through out the foot but still had plenty of toe room, and the Graf boot had a higher instep which felt better to me. The other thing is that Graf makes there skates in several widths, so anyone should be able to find a pair that fits. (I fit into a 9 ? regular, but the do offer a 9 ? wide)
THE BOOT - Not the evil guy in the wheel chair that tied Virginia Mayo in the basement! The boot on the skate! Sorry, youd need to be an old film buff to get it. Graf officially entered the lightweight wars with the G-series, (G5, G3), but these skates are light. (Due in part to the T-Blade system, but more on that later) Bauer started the whole thing with the Vapor line but these skates, Supra 735s are pretty close. They are much much lighter than my old CCMs. If you absolutely have to have the lightest skates out there, than you will need to look at the G5 versus the Vapor, versus the Vector Pro. If you dont care about 75 - 100 grams, i.e.: the weight of your average hostess cupcake, then read on .
NAME DROPPING - Puckmuggers review gets into the construction of the boot fairly well so Im not going to cover that here. Partly because he knows what hes talking about, and I havent got a clue! I will tell you a few of the basics however .The toecap is solid plastic, this is nice because you dont have a nylon covering to get scuffed and cut up. The boot is pitched forward more aggressively than the CCM. In the CCM you feel like you are flat on the ice, the Graf boot lifts the heel up to transfer your weight more to the balls of your feet. It takes a little getting use to, but it helps for hockey. This is a nice touch. The picture shows that the boot appears to be a silvery blue color. The light must have been hitting the boot at just the right angle when they took the picture, in real life it looks shiny black. The design is nothing fancy, but that would only be a negative if you were wearing them to a fashion show. In a hockey game these skates perform. Which brings me to my next point:
These skates are not for beginners! This is a serious skate. The boots are really stiff, and unless you play regularly you may have a long break in period, so be forewarned. Ive had mine a few weeks now and Im still working on them. They are more skate than I need, but everyone needs to treat themselves once in a while right? The boots fit like a glove around the foot, but the padding on the back side of both inside ankles is still bothering me a little. When I bought them the tech said the one nice thing about the Graf skates is that they can be baked several times for refits without any problems, where CCM and Bauer dont really recommend doing it more than 2 or 3 times. Not that anyone should need to have them re-baked 6 or 7 times!
ALSO: The skate dries out quickly which is nice, especially if you skate several times a week, The tongue is a heavy padded felt and in combination with the high instep, lace bite should not be a problem for anyone in these skates. Although the boot is very stiff there is plenty of ankle flexibility. The Graf boot seems to be cut a little lower than the CCM. It felt to me like it was missing one set of eyelets. If you really like your ankles snugged in, this boot may not be for you. Now on to the main reason I bought them
THE T-BLADE SYSTEM - The blade holder was the main reason I initially looked at these skates, never having to worry about a bad sharpening again was a strong selling point for me. Its very frustrating to spend an hour driving over to get a sharpening, only to skate out onto the ice that night for a game and realize one of your inside edges is messed up. Never again! (Insert sinister laugh)
Puckmugger lists the T-Blades as the one con for the 735's , but I'd have to disagree on this point. The transition period for most should only be 2 or 3 skating sessions. The T-Blades themselves are not a con, I think he was referring to the transition time; which is minimal considering how often the average player buys new skates. 2 or 3 hours of transition time is a small price to pay for 2 or more years with a nice set of skates. (Considering how old my Ultra Tacks are, I'll probably still have my 735's when they perfect time travel!)
OVERVIEW - What makes the T-Blade so different? - The T-Blade is essentially the Gillette Mach 3 of skates. Not only is it the coolest looking holder, when the blades get dull, you throw them out and slap on another set. Yes thats right, disposable blades, just like your razor!
The T-Blade is also the lightest holder currently on the market, which contributes to the light overall weight of the 735s. The reason for this is that the actual steel of the blade is only 1mm thick! The rest is ABS plastic and fiber resin! The blade attaches to the holder with 6 screws and a special wrench. You can literally change the blades on your skates in less than 5 minutes. The T-Blade system comprises three parts .
THE HOLDER - This is the bulk of what you see. It attaches to the boot of the skates and is the coolest looking holder on the market. The literature says it is of a plastic and fiber resin. It appears to be very strong, and from what research I could do, I have not heard of anyone having problems with this holder.
THE STABILIZER - The stabilizer is a two piece unit that holds the screws and nuts, it wraps around the blade and holds the blade to the holder. The stabilizer is available in several colors. (It's the chrome piece just above the blade in the picture) The one thing I was concerned with was the fact that the blades are so easy to take off with the wrench, and the screws are so short. I was worried about the screws coming loose and falling out during a game. Ive worn my skates a dozen times and checked them after each session (Im paranoid like that). I havent detected any loosening of the screws at all.
THE BLADE - Be prepared for a whole different ride. The blade on these skates is unlike any conventional blade. For one, the blade is highly polished, were talking mirror finish here. If youre a woodworker (as I am) then you will know, the more polished the edge, the sharper the edge can be finished. However, when it comes to skating there is a two fold difference, and this is what I mean when I say it takes getting use to; because the blade is so highly polished, you will literally think some one oiled your blades. They glide on the ice surface effortlessly. You cant, not notice it. (Did I phrase that correctly?) To give you a comparison; the next time you go skiing, try it with a few 6 inch wide strips of particle board instead of your skis, because thats what conventional blades feel like compared to these. At the same time, the blade grips the ice that much better, picture a new Corvette Z06 doing lapse a your local speedway. The skates come with a set of 13mm blades. The 13mm represents the grind, or diameter of the hollow. I tried a pair of 11mm which gives me a steeper grind, i.e.: more traction, and I am hooked. The blade is a thin 1mm strip bonded to the black ABS plastic you see in the picture. It is not a steel blade wrapped in plastic! this is what gives the holder a considerable weight advantage. There is very little heavy steel. In woodworking terms, the steel is almost like a veneer applied to a plastic blade.
You will want to try these out at a public skate before you venture out for a game, but I guarantee youll be hooked once you get use to them. Also because the blades more highly polished, and the steel is a higher quality. These blades are suppose to last up to six times as long as a conventional sharpening $5 x six sharpening = $30. T-Blade replacement blades?? $15 I use to get my skates sharpened after every 10 to 12 hours of ice time, I hit 12 hours on these new skates this week and havent noticed one Iota of a difference in blade sharpness. So far so good.
FEEL FREE TO EXPERIMENT - Another nice feature of the T-blade system is the relative cheap cost of trying a different radius, and grind. For $15 you can completely change the radius and grind of your skate. Blades are available in short, medium or long rockers (9ft, 11ft, and 13ft). Grind diameters are 9mm, 11mm, 13mm, 15mm, 18mm, and 21mm. Most pro shops use a standard 7/16" grind which corresponds to a 13mm hollow. Lighter folks may want to try a narrower hollow because they don't have the body weight to dig the blade edge in as much as a heavier person. Heavier guys might like the feel of a wider grind. The bottom line is, it comes down to personal preference, and the T-Blade system allows the skater to easily and affordably try different set ups: something that before only Pro's or guys with a lot of extra cash had the time or patience for.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: This is a pro level boot of the highest quality. If you dont mind a stiff stiff boot, you cant go wrong with this skate. Unlike some other brands, Graf doesnt make two different skates for each model: one that the pros wear, and a watered down consumer version. The Graf skate that you buy in the store is the same Graf skate that Federov, Yzerman, and Lindstrom wear. The T-Blades take a little getting use to, but you will like the change. I was a little weary of the durability, but they seem pretty strong. Also remember that although the T-Blade is new here in America, from what I have read, it has been in use in Canada and Europe for almost a decade now.
TIPS - A few tips Ive heard from other guys. To extend the life of your blades even longer, when you start feeling a difference in sharpness, swap the blades between skates. The inside edges always wear first. Swap the blades and the inside edge on your right skate is now the outside edge on your left skate! I havent tried it myself, but it makes sense. Also when you finally do swap the blades for a fresh set, save your old ones, and slap them on when you hit the cranberry bog for the day. Pond ice is a lot softer and your old set of blades should still be sharp enough for a season of bog hockey.
UPDATE - I've had my Graf 735's 4 months now, and I wouldn't change my purchase, these are the nicest skates I have ever owned. As far as the T-Blades go: I'm still on my original set of blades! I can't believe it. I'm averaging 3 to 4 hours of ice time a week and they still feel fine. I bought a set of replacement blades a few weeks ago because, It had to be time : but then I said to myself, What am I doing? The original blades still feel sharp as well you know! Id have to say the T-Blade claim is true, I would have easily sharpened my old skates at least 5, probably 6 times by now. I estimate Ill probably get, at least another 2 or 3 weeks out of my original blades.