Wednesday, 12 December 2007

NHL Conducting Secret Thermablade Testing

by Jes

Back in mid-October, I ranted about the prospect of a new, heated skate blade (The Thermablade), which would help melt the ice a bit so that players could skate faster.

Obviously, I'm not a big fan of adding mechanical elements to the game, as it'll turn the sport more into a NASCAR-type sport, where it's more about the equipment and machinery, rather than the more 'pure' sport we've come to expect.

Now, I realize that all of today's equipment has been enhanced from ye olde days, such as composite sticks and Kevlar, but it still requires the play to actually, you know, do everything mechanically. The heated skate blades? The equipment, itself, is doing work, even when the player is not.

A stick by itself is just a stick, same with a shin pad. The Thermablade? It works on its own, and could set a dangerous precedent. I mean, are we going to allow goaltenders to have motion detectors so they can find pucks they normally can't see? Should we allow golfers to have springs in their clubs that give their shots an extra 30 feet?

Well, it appears the NHL has been secretly testing the new Thermablade, and wants to ramp up their efforts ...

Heated skate blades that are supposed to enhance performance are being used by four anonymous NHL players.

The four teams they play for asked that their names be kept secret so the Thermablades on their feet didn't draw media attention and their use become a distraction, says Kris King, the NHL's Toronto-based senior manager of hockey operations.

King says he's found no problems after conducting follow-ups with the four players who have been skating on them for several weeks now and their equipment managers. He's waiting for the players' association to complete its evaluation. The two groups will then huddle and decide whether to conduct further tests in conjunction with the company.

"We've looked at this from a safety concern," says King. "When you start putting battery packs and holders in the skate blade, we want to make sure the high-impact shots being taken don't lead to small pieces laying on the ice".

"From what I gather from my talks, I don't believe it to be a safety concern."
To stress a point I made before, we know that NHL ice surfaces run into problems, especially in warmer climates, of staying fresh and free of slushiness. Bringing heated skate blades into the equation should only cause the ice to melt and get chopped up even faster, possibly leading to more groin injuries and more bouncing picks.

Does the NHL really need to open up this can of worms? Have they ever watched the Terminator series? :)

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Blogger Thermalator said...

I would like to respectfully disagree with some of the issues that Jes expressed on his blog site: In his comment, he suggests that “bringing heated skate blades into the equation should only cause the ice to melt and get chopped up even faster”. Actually, the opposite is true. There is a net reduction in damage to the ice according to Alain Haché, Ph.D. Associate professor Physics Department, Université deMoncton, Canada. Author of The Physics of Hockey March 5, 2003. He states in his research that, quote, “Because only the topmost layer of the ice is heated with ThermabladeTM, the heated blade system offers the double advantage of allowing the skate to glide on a warmer, more slippery ice without making it softer.” The blades are heated to approx. 4 degrees…. your hand is 34 degrees! This is hardly enough heat to damage the ice. With regards to another issue of increased injuries, many injuries occur at the end of a shift or game when the player is most fatigued. Again, according to Dr. Haché’s research, the Thermablades benefit the player by minimizing the net energy required to do the same amount of work by approx. 12.7%. This may result in less fatigue and potentially less injuries. Who wouldn’t want their best players to have more energy latter in the game? Would the coaches complain? Would the fans complain? Now the issue about: “The heated skate blades” and “how the equipment, itself, is doing work, even when the player is not”. I kind of get what he’s saying but really….. I don’t think that if a player is wearing Thermablades he is going to just stand there and all of a sudden the Thermablades will blast off without any effort from the player! It only reduces the friction between blade and ice, just like a tighter jersey reduces drag or a new Kevlar stick can assist in making the puck shoot harder, etc. Finally, the issue of: “the NHL has been secretly testing the new Thermablade”. The NHL and the makers of the Thermablade technology have been up front all along regarding more testing. The Thermablade spokesman even announced publically at the official launch at the NHL Hall of Fame, October 16th, 2007 with dozens of media people present, that it was going to continue testing with NHL players in the coming months.

15 January 2008 at 13:52  

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