This won't come as a surprise to most people but a hockey player's skates are by far their most important piece of equipment. Proper fitting skates are the difference between a young player enjoying the sport or quitting it all together. It's also the difference between getting to the puck in time, or most often being late. As an athlete I can't think of another piece of equipment for a sport that is more important than skates are for a hockey player (you can add skates for a figure skater too, but you get the idea). A poorly stringed tennis racket or awful 3 iron in golf will hurt one's game, but at least the player can get to the ball. Always being a step behind and getting blisters is not fun.
How does someone choose the right skates? Should skates be bigger, the same size or smaller than shoe sizes? I see people wrapping skate laces around their ankles, or taping their ankles - is this a good idea? Will proper skates hurt for a while until they are broken in?
These are common questions and the answers are fairly simple. Your first stop in Canada is a store like Sportchek, Cleve's Source for Sports or Pro Hockey Life. You'll find skates at many different price points. But the most important quality in skates is the fit. They need to fit properly. As a rule a proper fit is generally 2 sizes smaller than one's shoe size, but this could push the player's toe into the toe cap, or still leave too much room. Start at 2 sizes smaller than a shoe size though and adjust from there.
In my opinion one of the worst things a player can do is wrap their laces or tape around their ankles. Our ankles are spectacularly engineered. They can move up and down, roll in a circle and move side to side. By putting on skates and wrapping our ankles we can't move them as well as they would be able to naturally. Truly a hockey player needs to be able to move in all directions, and often quite quickly. Free the ankles!
Lastly, a proper fitted skate should be ready to wear in a practice or a game as soon as you leave the store. (If you are changing brands or models the boot and blade may feel slightly off so a practice or two might be more necessary, but generally you'll be good to go.) Today a skate oven is pretty standard in most pro shops. Once you choose the proper fitted skate a sales associate will bake them for a couple of minutes, then return them to you to put on and sit with them on your feet for a couple of minutes in the store. After this get them sharpened and head home. They should feel great the next time you are on the ice.
NHL hall of famer, Paul Coffey is known for wearing skates that were 2 sizes too small for him. He wanted to feel the boot squeeze his foot so he could move along the ice more quickly and efficiently. Other players don't lace the skate all the way to the top, leaving one, two or three eyelets open to give themselves maximum flexibility in their ankle. While these probably work well for these players the most important factor to consider when buying skates is fit...and don't forget to free the ankles.