The product is sleek, light-weight and custom-cut for each player.
“It’s a really cool plastic that when you put it in a toaster oven, it moulds and you can stick it to the side of the skate and it protects your feet,” Dan Palsson said.
Palsson is the CEO and managing director of Askja Tech, the company behind the new skate shield.
“We came up with something protective, shiny and that’s pretty easy to put on,” Palsson said.
The ribbed guard is created, made and tested in Winnipeg.
The shield helps protect four key areas of a players foot from injury which could otherwise result in a player being benched for weeks.
The company said product testing showed the shields reduced the impact of a slapshot by about 30 per cent.
“If you are getting a shot in the side of the foot, most guys are missing anywhere from four weeks to two or three months,” Palsson said.
“If you hit the ankle bone or heel you’ll be out a lot longer, and every time you put your skate on after that it hurts.”
The Winnipeg Jets were the first to use the shields, as part of an on-ice pilot project last season.
“The guys that are getting in the lanes, playing on the penalty kill, that are at highest risk of getting a shot in the foot are guys we want on them,” Jets’ Assistant Equipment Manager Mike Flaman said.
Flaman and Palsson started talking about the protective product last year and Nik Ehlers was the first Jet to sport the product with just seven games left in the 2018/19 season. Now, the shields are in use by at least eight Jets players and almost the entire Manitoba Moose roster.
“A lot of guys don’t even know they’re on. A couple guys have taken some pretty heavy shots and not missed any time because of injury so they are pretty thankful,” Flaman said.
Palsson said both teams are making some sort of foot protection mandatory for their players next season.
For other players, it can be a hard sell, but it’s a type of product teams are pushing, to protect their players.
“We’ve put them on guys and they’ll come back and say it’s too thick. So we take them off and put a thinner form on,” he said. “Or they say it’s too heavy… so we’ll take off some protection where they may not need it too much. Some guys tell us to take them off completely.”
Flaman custom fits each piece for every Jets player currently using the product. It’s a process that takes about 45 minutes to get both skates done.
“Players are very hesitant to make any changes at all,” Palsson said. “They don’t want added weight. This is fairly lightweight. The biggest we produced were for (Tyler) Myers and they were 48 grams.”
There are now more than 100 NHL players from 22 different teams using the skate shields, along with AHL, USHL and NCAA players. The Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins met with Palsson when they were in Winnipeg last week and both teams have put in orders.
The company said there have no serious foot injuries, no bruised or broken bones, and no games missed by players using the skate shields, which have now been officially endorsed by the NHL.
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