Getting Started In Masters Speed Skating

with thanks to Ross Hanham for developing this resource

What is Masters Speed Skating?

“Masters” is an age category that starts at 30 years old, and has no upper limit. You can participate as long as you are able. The highest age category for which Canadian records have been established is 80-84, and internationally, there are records up to the 85-89 category.

Who can participate?

Some masters speed skaters are former Olympic athletes, and some have been participating in the sport since they were children, but there are lots of masters skaters who are new to the sport, and even new to skating. Often, new masters skaters are parents of children in speed skating development programs and often, they end up on the ice helping to coach them.

The sport is open to all ages and abilities, though for competition, the formal age classes start at 30. It’s a great sport for the older athlete, as the demands on the body are less severe than many other sports. At the 16th Masters International Speed Skating Games, held in Calgary in February 2007, the oldest competitor was 86!

Where to skate?

In Canada, the sport is governed by Speed Skating Canada. If you go to its website, you’ll see that it has links to most of the provincial and territorial associations. Each of those associations will likely have links to, or phone numbers for, the individual clubs within its jurisdiction. Find the club closest to you and give them a shout.

Not all clubs have masters programs, so ask first. Many are small and have limited ice time, so all abilities and ages have to skate together. Some of the larger clubs have sessions devoted specifically to masters (adults). Some clubs don’t allow masters because they have lower-cost ice subsidized by the municipality on the basis that the club’s program is for youth only.

What to skate on?

Most clubs in Canada skate short-track (indoors on a 111 m oval in a hockey arena) as there are only a few long track (400 m oval) venues in Canada. The exceptions to this are Calgary, Québec City, Halifax and Fort St John where there are artificial 400 m ovals. In some locations where it’s cold enough in the winter, outdoor natural ovals may be available for a few weeks. Check with your local club.

For skating on the 111 m oval (short track), you’ll need some safety equipment – helmet, eye protection, ankle protection, bib-style neck protector, shin-pads, cut-resistant gloves and knee pads.

Ankle, eye, hand and shin protection is required for mass start training and competition on the 333m or 400 m oval (long track). Only ankle protection is required for long track Olympic style training and competition. Additional safety equipment, similar to that required for short track, is also recommended for use while long track skating.

The blades of speed skates are ground flat on the runner surface (not hollow ground like a hockey or figure skate) and have less rocker (curvature of the blade from tip to heel) – usually 7 to 9 m for the 111 m oval (short track) and 18 to 25 m for the 333 or 400 m oval (long track). Many clubs can provide speed skates for you to try the first one or two times, and then rent to you if you want to join and keep going.

If you want to invest in your own better equipment, there are several sources to consider:

The Trail Shop (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Devault Sports (Repentigny, Quebec)

Shoei Creations (Cambridge, Ontario)

Red River Speed (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

VH Speed Skating (Calgary, Alberta and Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Zt Sports (Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario)

Il Peleton (Ottawa, Ontario)

SkateNowShop (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Do I need to compete?

If you’ve ever participated in your local 5K run, or been part of a War Canoe team, you know how much fun a competition can be. It gives you a goal to work towards, and benchmarks to track your improvement. But many masters speed skaters join a club just to spend time skating, and work on improving their skills.

If you do want to compete, there are short track, long track, and marathon events that masters speed skaters can participate in.

Stick with it

Speed skating is a very technical sport and novices should not expect to master it quickly even if they are in good athletic condition. Give it time and focus on skating well, rather than hard or fast. In time, the speed will come.