I would like to give some advice as well to all the great comments that have been made on here. I have had four kids play and I didn't learn to skate until my 40's.
Just to survive financially I had to become an expert on gear and also learn cost effective ways to improve.
My first comment is basically a moral argument to support your local dealer. I was an audio dealer for many years and experienced similar situations to this often. So I say that for someone to go to a hockey shop to try on skates with the notion that you will buy them elsewhere at a discount is fine unless you are asking for help or advice from the personnel. That is stealing. Sorry just had to get that off my chest. Deceitfully using the hockey shop's wisdom and experience costs them and you will be very sorry to lose that resource for help when you really need it.
You need proper instruction. You need examples of people correctly executing the strides and moves. You are not going to get this without lessons... unless you are willing to become a student. That means studying...Duh!
So instructional tapes, (Robbie Glantz, Laura Stamm) websites that concentrate on coaching, and careful observation will go a long way to help.
Why would I say this?............................................. ............
We have all heard the saying "practice make perfect". Well nothing could be more wrong than the thinking behind that saying. "If I just practice enough I will greatly improve."
NO. NO. NO!!!
"practice only makes permanent!"
Only perfect practice will make perfect. Most of us who started out as adults trying to skate went out there and basically tried to become as comfortable as possible with all these new feelings of skating. I would describe it as the principle of the path of least resistance. The problem is as many have stated , that path will lead you will pick up many bad habits.
I my case I had to relearn how to skate on parking lots, and stick times and free skates and in front of mirrors and I put a lot of time into it. This was roller but the same holds for ice. You need to know in your mind what a good stride looks like and copy that in spite of how it feels. The feeling will follow in time.
I can tell you this works as in my fourth season playing in a roller league I was the top scorer (mostly assists) and it was after about a year of skating. I could do all my transitions on both sides with and without the puck because that is what I practiced. Same with stick-handling. Practice correctly and go s-l-o-w. All my problems had to do with impatience and trying to fake it enough to be able to play but when I played I didn't have much fun because I couldn't actually do much and thus didn't help the team much. So I had to relearn many things.
Gear is another story but I am sure I have already tested your patience enough. Simply what is right for you is what is right. If you feel good in the best gear, save up or find last years' best. Believe me everything is a compromise. I can confidently say that middle of the road gear now is as good or better than top of the line stuff less than ten years ago, but it doesn't last the same.
Hope some of this will be helpful.
A number of years ago I took my wife to a sticktime, and had her videotape me practicing. While watching later, I picked out so many flaws, that it was at first really disheartening, but ultimately helped quite a bit.
Even though this thread was last responded to almost two years ago, i'll put in my story :)
I played mostly roller hockey until about 12 years ago when I hurt my back. I'm 43 now and have decided to start playing again.
I went to a public skate this past weekend and for the 1st 10 min it felt alien to me and actually made me wonder if buying new skates was a smart thing to do. After awhile it started slowly coming back to me but I was still a little tentative to try anything like a crossover or hockey stop.
I'm going to stick and puck this afternoon just to get a feel for the gear and try to gain some sort of comfort level on the ice. One of the benefits of where I live in Colorado is I have 3 rinks within 15 min of my house so I have the opportunity to get ice time every day which i'm going to try to take advantage of.