So why is there (and what is) an intermediate hockey skate size and do we really need them?
I remember a conversation with a Rep a few years ago talking about how there was such a jump in size between a Youth XL and a Junior Small Pad.There was a significant enough pocket between the two so that a more advanced young travel player with smaller arms who only fit in the youth size was lacking in the amount of protection provided while a larger Learn to Play child who was just starting out was left with no choice but to buy the more expensive Junior Model which was probably a bit of overkill (by way of being stiffer and a bit bulkier) for that point in his/her progression. As Manufacturers in the hockey industry continue to look for better ways of servicing the customer the subject of fit is one of the main areas of continuing development. Adding an Intermediate category has changed the way the "Middle Sizes" (Sizes 4 - 6.5) are made, discarding unneeded features while leaving no cornerstones wanting.
Introducing an Intermediate Size Run for skates is a relatively new concept and may take a bit of getting used to, so to better understand the concept, let’s take a look at the benefits of adding Intermediate Sizing in the skate category and why this is being done.
First what do we consider to be "Intermediate"? There are 2 key groups:
1. Youth Skaters with a Larger Foot who need the same type of support and benefits a "Senior" Skate provides.
2. Skaters with a Smaller Foot who need better performance in a not so cumbersome and inflexible package.
Essentially, letting the skate do what it is designed to do for the specific player it's designed to do it for.
Take an elite level Female Skater needing a new pair of skates. In past years that player would have two choices: A Junior Size which would not provide the support or features needed for the rigors of skating 6-7 days per week or the desperate jump to a size Senior Skate which just didn't fit properly, not only because it was to large but compounded by the fact that it was built using a model that's potentially in a Size 13+ Boot. And no, wearing a thick sock is not the answer for a College player, or almost anyone else for that matter. Consequently the "feel" that is needed for a required level of performance would be wanting and let’s face it nobody wants a new pair of skates that don't feel right.
We also experience the opposite issue in our retail stores: A young skater new to the sport with more body mass in a size 5.5 or 6 Shoe needs more support than the traditional size 4 or 4.5 skate might provide them and will benefit from the standard features of an Intermediate Skate. At the end of the day, comfort (and by default development, enjoyment, etc) will play a large part in that young player’s decision to continue to play the sport.
The addition of the Intermediate Fit adds a dimension of customization without the price. Players are much more likely to find that common ground between the two sizes (Junior and Senior) that they need for their specific level. It is the same model used with Sticks which has become even more important recently as players look for that sweet spot in stick flex and more players of all levels sing the virtues of a easier to flex (whippy) hockey stick.
Product Development Wizards have looked at the Middle Price Points (what we call "Big Junior Sizes") and said, "What can we do to make these sizes more targeted for what the players that wear them need as opposed to continuing to produce a skate that excludes key types of skaters who make up substantial numbers of the hockey community?" Like Intermediate Protective and Intermediate Sticks before them, Intermediate Skates are an idea whose time has come. The results are even greater options when it comes to skate fit.
If you're looking for a skate built around the concept of "build the skate for the skater and not the other way around" checkout just some of the intermediate skate builds offered by companies like Bauer and CCM at the links below.