Posts Tagged ‘Bauer’


The brand:

The Winnwell brand is a bit of a new one to us, having not really seen much of the equipment in the European hockey stores or featured much in trade shows. In the NHL, Winnwell is perhaps more known for its gloves than other visible equipment. It does manufacture shoulder pads, sticks and shin pads.

Having done a bit of research into the company, they have been around the game since forever it seems. Winnwell has a strong pedigree in manufacturing protective equipment that has been built with the pros in mind and to pro-spec. Further research shows that some of the games’ greats have worn Winnwell equipment so the brand certainly has the pedigree behind it. However, Winnwell might not have the marketing budget of some of the other big brands, but does that hinder the quality of equipment? That’s what we are going to find out.

The equipment features:

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

What we have been testing is the Winnwell Pro Stock elbow pads. The elbow pads, the company says, have been built to the specifications and demands of the professional player. When you look at the gear out of the box (or bag in this instance), the elbow pads definitely have an ‘old-school’ feel to them and a look and profile that is akin to the days of the good old Jofa protective. In fact if you Google Jofa 9144 Pro Stock Elbow pads, you’ll see a striking resemblance between the two.

Where most elbow pads have gone towards a more low profile look, Winnwell has provided a protective that calls back to the good old days of hockey. The shoulder cups are actually quite deep in comparison to many other elbow pads in the market. This design ensures good strong fit for the pads. However, it can be a bit of a shock depending on what you are used to wearing. If you have been wearing some of the lower profile elbow pads, the first time you wear the Winnwell product you’ll feel a bit out of sorts to begin with, but even towards the end of our first session with these pads they felt really comfortable towards the end.

The elbow pads come with Winnwell’s clean hockey technology which is designed to keep its equipment smelling fresh. After 2 months of use on the pads, there is hardly any “hockey” scent on the elbow pads.

Breaking in and fit:

Breaking the elbow pads in was a bit of a strange experience. Out of the bag the elbow pads do feel a bit stiff, which is to be expected with any new piece of equipment. On first use the pads felt extremely comfortable, but for the first 20-30 minutes of training the elbow pads felt a bit stiff which did affect shooting and puck handling a little bit. This trend lasts probably about 3-4 training sessions before you are fully accustomed to the elbow pad. But like said above, towards the end of each of the first few sessions the pads actually feel really comfortable and you hardly notice you are wearing new pads.

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

As mentioned the elbow cups are a bit deeper than other elbow pads, which can take a bit longer to get used to. However, what the deeper cup has resulted in is comfort and great fit. The elbow pads come with a sticky liner on the wrist that has been designed to keep the pad in place against the compression layer. Having used both T-shirt and compression long sleeve, the elbow pads do stay in place, which is a rare feat in elbow pads. Often during a game you have to fix and alter the position of your elbow pads, but the Winnwell Pro-Stock does actually stay in place relatively well.

However, the only criticism that there is to the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads is that the Velcro attachment areas could be a bit bigger to ensure a tighter fit. Despite wearing the right size, there is still a little bit of slack on the bicep area of the elbow pad.

Value for money

What the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad scores big on is value for money. The elbow pad provides protection that is equal to the top of the range CCM, Reebok, Bauer or Warrior gear, but at a fraction of the cost. The graphical design isn’t something that will set the world on fire, but then again the elbow pads are under your jersey, so it doesn’t matter what they look like. The main point is that they protect your elbows and bicep.

For £45 for elbow pads you cannot go wrong. Do not let the relatively low price tag of Winnwell’s equipment fool you. It does not mean that the product is bad quality or that there’s something wrong with it, far from it. We think that this piece of equipment is where price and quality meet. You are not paying over the odds for a top of the range elbow pad and it will not leave you hanging dry. The elbow pads do not rely on any gimmicks and we have been positively surprised by them.

Durability:

winnwell3As mentioned above, the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad will not break the bank, but one thing that people will question is that whether a sub £50 elbow pad will actually last or if it is going to fall to pieces after a few months use. We have had these elbow pads for almost five months in active use, but during the time there have been no faults with the equipment. The straps are still where they’re supposed to be, the elastic straps have not lost any elasticity (though this will happen over time on any piece of protective).

Despite taking a few falls and purposefully elbowing plexi glass at the rink, there are no signs that the cover of the protective cup has worn.

Conclusion:

Once the elbow pads have been fully broken in, they perform really well and equally to other top of the range elbow pads. The Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads hark back to the era of the good Jofa equipment. The pads are relatively lightweight compared to others. In comparison, the Winnwell Pro-Stock weighs about the same as CCM U12 elbow pads, so that’s not too bad.

We’d recommend the elbow pads for both league players, as well as recreational players who are looking for good quality protection but don’t want to spend too much money. That’s not to say that this is a beer league level pad, far from it. It can cope with the demands of the professionals, but for those that want top of the range protection, why pay over the odds.

 

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Durable
  • Stays in place during play
  • Comfortable
  • Great ‘old school’ feel

Cons:

  • Can take a while longer to break in than others
  • Can feel a bit bulky at first few uses
  • The Velcro strap areas could be a bit longer for tighter fit in places

 


I blogged recently about an ongoing lawsuit that was targeted at football helmet manufacturer Riddell. A Colorado jury has awarded $11.5m to Rhett Ridolfi, a teenager who suffered brain injuries in 2008. The Colorado jury determined that Riddell was 27% responsible for the injuries, which equates to approximately $3.1 million of the damages. The court found that the helmet was not defective in design, but that Riddell had not done enough to promote the risk and awareness of brain injuries. Riddell is currently facing a similar lawsuit in Los Angeless and a complaint by thousands of former NFL players, who are also taking aim at the NFL.

 

What sparked my interest with this story is that I can see this happening in hockey as well. Head injuries and concussions have become increasingly – and sadly – common in the NHL and other European professional leagues. Whilst there have been advancements made in hockey helmet technologies to improve protection there has also been a huge uptick in the claims made by manufacturers that their products provide best protection against concussions and reduce impact forces.

 

What intrigues me is that, is hockey and the manufacturers open to a similar lawsuit? Some helmets that are in use today, do not make adequate reference to brain injuries or make clear enough clarifications that helmets do not protect fully from brain injuries. Remember, the brain is like a passenger in your skull and no helmet in the world can stop impact (be it with another player or ice) from causing a brain injury.

 

Having suffered through a brain injury and it leaving me with long lasting, permanent damage, it is a topic that is close to the heart and it will be interesting to see, whether there will be similar law suits considered against professional hockey leagues and equipment manufacturers as a result of the Riddell decisions. I know there are many professional players whose careers were cut short due to a brain injury and some who still struggle with symptoms on a day-to-day basis, years from their respective injuries.

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It was interesting to observe the reaction throughout the day to the Erik Karlsson injury. For those who have not heard the news yet, Erik Karlsson suffered a lacerated achiles tendon in a freak accident when he was battling for the puck with Penguins’ forward Matt Cooke. My initial reaction to the injury was that it was intentional, mainly because it was Matt Cooke, but after looking at the replays time and time again, it is an accident.

 

However, following the injury, Twitter began filling from tweets from Reebok, Bauer and Tuff-n-Lite hockey to advertise their cut resistant socks. What I find interesting is that the manufacturers have jumped on one of the NHL’s star players’ injury and use it for their commercial purposes. 

 

What I find funny about all this is that no-one has come out saying the same thing with the head injuries. I know I’ve discussed within the blog about the helmets and their real potential of protecting a player from a concussion, but still. I guess head injuries are a bit of a taboo to talk about, but if manufacturers are bold enough to take commercial benefit of an injury that could end a players’ season, then surely they could do the same for head injuries, unless you know, the manufacturers know that no helmet can protect your head from serious head injury.

 

We have seen concussions despite players wearing the latest and greatest in head protection and even saw Blake Geoffrion suffer a fractured skull despite his helmet staying on his head.

 

What I’m trying to say here is that it would be in bad taste to say “You know Blake Geoffrion would not have sustained a fractured skull if he wore a XYZ helmet.” and it is in equally bad taste to say that your cut resistant sock will protect you or prevents cut injuries, whilst taking advantage of a players’ injury. Image

 

If player safety and protection from cuts in hockey is such a great concern for manufacturers, why have they not made a big play about these products before? (I do let of Tuff-n-Lite hockey off as its whole business is around cut resistant socks and wrist guards).

 

I may be over reacting to it, but I just feel that the marketing push has been done in poor taste and is trying to exploit and injury, rather than building a campaign around it to prevent such injuries. In the corporate world it is generally frowned upon if you start taking advantage of your competitors’ misfortune and try to make money off it. You never know it might end up biting companies mentioned above. 

Why aren’t cut resistant socks mandatory?

The trouble here is that many NHLers and pro players around the world play without skate socks and cuts can happen at any time. If the NHL wanted to cut down on cuts, it should make cut resistant socks mandatory, or have is equipment provider come up with a cut resistant sock that goes over the shin pads. Where it might not cover the achiles area, it would provide some protection from cuts. Remember that in 2010 Teemu Selanne suffered a cut on his quads.

 

Remember when Richard Zednik was cut in the throat by Olli Jokinen’s skate? There was a lot of talk of making neck guards mandatory, but to this date we have not seen them as a mandatory piece of protective equipment. Same with visors, we have seen eye injuries and yet the visor is not a mandatory piece of protective equipment. The thing is, if a player doesn’t want to wear something, they wont. In the Finnish professional leagues, players are required to wear neck guards and where players dislike wearing them, they do so because it is part of the league rules. 

My personal view on cut resistant socks is that I’ve only seen long skate socks from Reebok and Bauer and I did not like the feel of them on my skin, so I use just the standard skate socks that you can buy. But that’s just my personal preference.


Stick Specifications:

Model: T-70

Curve: PP09 (Ryan), ½” heel curve, 5.5 lie, round toe (left handed)

Flex: 85

Non grip surface

Where to buy: http://nekoti.co.uk

SherWood hockey sticks have been one of those sticks that when I was growing up, it was THE stick to have and this is going back to the days of wooden sticks. The company has been producing sticks steadily and has two ranges it now produces. There is the Nexon range of equipment and the T-range, or True Touch. We have been testing a T-70 stick from SherWood, which lands near the top range of the True Touch range, surpassed only by the T-90 in the range.

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The SherWood T-70 side profile. The markings on the shaft are due to rubbing grip wax and stick tape on it for improved grip

The stick that we tested is an 85 flex (left handed), with PP09, or the Bobby Ryan blade pattern. The stick came without grip coating, though grip versions are available. Provided to us by SherWood’s partner Nekoti Hockey, the T-70 is a stick that felt familiar to the hands out of its wrappings.

The stick weighs slightly more than some of the other manufacturers’ sticks in the market, though there is not much difference in the overall weight. When we compared the sticks’ weight against other sticks in similar range, such as the CCM U+ Pro, the T-70 weight is similar, so it gives you an idea of the type of stick we’ve got here. However, the T-70 is equally balanced throughout, meaning it doesn’t feel heavier towards the blade. The added weight in the stick is due to the materials used to make the stick a bit more durable than lighter sticks, but more about the durability a bit later on.

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The T-70 blade with Ryan curve

The blade on the T-70 has a foam core centre to it, which reduces the vibrations throughout the shaft when receiving a pass or taking a shot. Though foam core technologies are commonplace in most hockey sticks today, SherWood have engineered a stick where the foam really makes the blade more responsive. Due to the design of the blade, it feeds remarkably well to the hands and you have a good feel for the puck at all times.

When we first started to use the T-70 one thing we had to get used to was the non-grip coating on the stick. Having used grip coating for a number of years, it took a while to get used to the feel of the stick and the way it handles than normal. However, the age old trick of rubbing some stick tape or grippy wax on the shaft resolved the issue.

The Shaft:

The shaft of the stick uses a build that ensures optimal flexibility, weight and balance and provides an excellent response potential, according to SherWood’s description of the stick. How that translates on the ice is quite accurate. When we first started using the stick, we found that it was really quick to load and noticed that it somewhat improved the velocity of shots. We say somewhat as we don’t have a speed gun to measure the shots, but there is a definitive, noticeable difference in shot speed and power.

Additionally, what we usually find with new sticks is that it takes a while to get the optimum flex from the shaft, but on the first try the SherWood T-70 was quick to load. Though the flex has improved and has become more and more responsive the more we used it, the T-70 provided perhaps the quickest response on first time use than other sticks we have tested or used.

Otherwise, the shaft uses a design with rounded edges, making it feel good in the hand. The shaft’s circumference is not as big as some of the other makes like Easton S series, which for our test was great. Though the shaft’s circumference is not as big as others, it hasn’t sacrificed much in feel or  durability.

Durability

Durability of a hockey stick is perhaps one of the key considerations when buying a new stick. You want to be sure that your hard earned cash gets you a stick that does not snap on the first use and you want to be comfortable in the knowledge that the stick is capable of handling your shot selection.

The SherWood T-70 stick is quite durable thanks to the materials SherWood has used in the construction of the shaft. It has a unidirectional fiber core and combines fiberglass and carbon fiber weave in a custom blend to provide added durability. Though these materials provide extra durability in the shaft the downside is that they add in the weight of the stick. However, despite this, the stick is equally balanced, providing you with good flexibility and response potential.

The stick we have been testing has been used both in the training setting and in league level games. In games where hacking and slashing is common place, the stick has gotten a few scuff marks, but is not demonstrating any wear in the actual build of the stick, i.e. there are no chunks of the shaft or blade missing, only some paint work, which is to be expected.

The Blade:

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Curve comparison. Next to the CCM CL with 19 (Tavares) pattern. The T-70 blade is slightly shorter, but in similar specification

As said, the stick we have been using comes with the PP09 (Ryan) curve, which is a ½” heel curve blade with a 5.5 lie and round toe. Modelled after the Anaheim Ducks star, Bobby Ryan, the blade pattern is closely matched by those of CCM’s Tavares (or 19), Reeboks’ Spezza or Phaneuf (P36 or P36A), Easton’s Cammalleri/Zetterberg, or Bauer’s Staal (P91).

The transition to the blade was quite easy as the stick we previously had in use was with a CCM Tavares (19) pattern and as the image shows, there is very little in between the two. Though at the start and the first few shots with the stick did fly over the net and there was some getting used to required, the blades were quite similarly matched in terms of the pattern.

Thanks to the foam core used in the T-70 blade, the blade does feed through to the shaft really well and does what SherWood says with the description in that it reduces the vibration when taking a shot. Like mentioned the foam core in a hockey stick blade is by no means unique these days, but the way it is deployed in the shaft makes all the difference. You might remember from the Beaster stick review where we mentioned that the blade didn’t really feed through to the shaft properly, but with the T-70 there were no such issues. When you receive a pass you know that he puck is on your blade and you don’t have to spend time with your head down wondering whether or not the puck is on your blade.

In game situations:

We have now been using the stick for about a month and in game situations we have beenImage notching up points with the stick since the first game we used it in. Like mentioned the stick is durable and has withstood the toils of a hockey game really well. The stick responds well to shot selections and like mentioned the talk of shot velocity is not a lie. Specially with wrist shots, the stick is in its element, though having said that, its not a stick that is designed to snipe wristers but can also handle a heavy slap shot with ease and has helped hit the top shelf on more than one occasion both in trainings and in games.

Conclusion:

The SherWood T-70 stick is a great stick and recommended for league players, or to those who are looking for a stick that is both durable and incredibly responsive. The features set that the stick offers is closely matched by the CCM U+ Pro, but is cheaper than many of the other sticks at this range. By no means is the price a sign of a bad stick as with the SherWood T-70, you get a stick that performs equally well, if not better than some of the competing sticks in the same category. Whilst it may not come packed with all the features of the T-90, the T-70 is definitely a stick where price, durability and performance meet.

Pros:

  • Design of the shaft fits perfectly in your hand
  • Responsiveness
  • Quick load and release
  • No vibrations through the shaft
  • Good price point
  • Great balance throughout the stick

Cons:

  • Non grip coating (Only on the model we tested)
  • Heavier than some other sticks in similar range

You can buy the SherWood T-70 and other hockey gear at:

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I came across an article on Forbes discussing comments made by Reebok-CCM hockey with regards to Bauer’s RE-AKT helmet. Apparently the head of Reebok-CCM is not too happy about the claims Bauer has made regarding its helmet. The RE-AKT’s unique selling point has been its ability to reduce the rotational impact forces. Personally, I’m not entirely sure how the helmet does this and questions I sent to Bauer at the launch of the helmet were not answered.

 

Reebok-CCM’s general manager Phil Dubé says in the Frobes.com story that “The topic of head injuries in hockey is too important and of serious concern to the general public to be subject of confusion in the marketplace regarding product performance.” Dubé continued by stating that “When I visit retailers, the first thing I hear about is the RE-AKT helmet doing something no other helmet does. Some of our helmets are better and superior to that helmet designed for that particular kind of protection. The advertising is misleading consumers and retail customers. The best helmet is the one that fits the best.”

 

It’s an interesting point, apart from the plug of CCM and Reebok products, as hockey as a whole has been gripped by the concussion epidemic, which has seen players like Marc Savard and Chris Pronger side-lined indefinitely and has ended the careers of the likes of Paul Kariya. I had written about hockey helmets and whether they protect enough at Pucks ATP and as you can see I referenced the RE-AKT helmet there as well. Basically, the RE-AKT is said to protect the brain from excessive intra-cranial movement due to the helmet’s liner.

 

What makes the story so interesting is that in the American Football market, helmet manufacturer Riddell is currently undergoing litigation for falsely marketing its helmets as having the ability to reduce the risk of concussions by a substantial percentage.

 

As concussions are considered an epidemic, many helmet manufacturers have now made more of an effort in designs and marketing materials to reduce the risk of concussion. As with any helmet, it should be noted that no helmet is 100% concussion proof. I’m a huge M11 helmet fan now days and I understand that the even though the helmet has undergone a series of impact tests, it won’t guarantee that my brain is 100% safe from concussion. The manufacturer says on its front page that the “M11 is proven to absorb more energy from high impact linear forces than other premium helmets to provide maximum protection”

 

I wonder how long it will take before one of the helmet manufacturers will be facing a litigation due to false claims of protection. What is important in helmet technologies is that the helmet fits on the head of the player properly. Choosing a helmet should follow the same criteria as choosing skates or other protective equipment.

What I would like to see in the industry is to set standards of head protection and then follow these standards and  that the core elements of head protection are available in each helmet. What we must not fall into is that the concussion epidemic becomes a pure marketing technique for companies. Hockey is a contact sport and unfortunately injuries do happen, regardless of what equipment you use.

 

The original Forbes story can be found here.

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For your hockey equipment needs, visit:

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(Edit: I’ve had an issue with WordPress and the HTML code, where the formatting looks pretty messy right now, I’m going to attempt to tweak it tomorrow)

I’ve been wanting to do a post about the latest hockey gear that’s come out. There’s always been a part of me that’s been really interested in the different makes out there and how the kit differs from one another. Before I go any further, I must stress that this is only based on information and marketing collateral, rather than my own opinion. I would absolutely love to review these products properly, so if any of the manufacturers read this are into the idea, drop me a line.

We start off with Bauer. Bauer has been a staple of the hockey world for, probably as long as hockey has been around. Since getting rid of the Nike Bauer brand, the company has brought out some of the most preferred equipment we see the NHL Pros use.

Skates:
Bauer has brought out the Bauer Supreme Total One NXG to accompany the APX to its flagship range of skates. The Total One NXG features a new TUUK fusion blade, which has been designed to reduce the weight of the runner by 27%. As with most skates today, a lot of attention is being paid to the fit. The emphasis is on getting the skate as comfortable as possible and the Total ONE NXG features a new insole that supposedly gives a better fit and more responsive skate.

Helmet:
The one big thing that Bauer has brought out is the RE-AKT helmet. The helmet takes its look from the HH4500 helmet. Rather annoyingly I’ve seen some adverts and sites advertise the helmet with the ‘passes the mirror test’ tag, which is just a personal pet peeve of mine. The RE-AKT has been designed to reduce the risk of concussion from direct impact to the head. At impact, the helmet’s SUSPEND-TECH free floating liner should move independently from the VERTEX FOAM liner to should reduce excessive intra-cranial movement.  Phew, don’t you just love these terms SUSPEND-TECH, VERTEX FOAM. Wow

Sticks:

While during the playoffs, I have seen many players use a new-ish TotalOne stick I haven’t seen further details of it emerge as yet so I don’t know what to say about it. However, the Bauer Vapor APX stick has been around for a while, but I thought that I’d include it in the round up anyways. Bauer claims that it is the smartest stick in the history of the game. The stick supposedly fits all types of shots and combines the Intelli-Sense Shot Technology and Bauer TotalOne’s blade to give it that soft feel.

CCM:

CCM has been a brand I’ve been using ever since Koho was swallowed up by the Hockey Company. I used Koho sticks/blades nearly my whole life. For the roundup, CCM doesn’t have a new skate to include as it is going with its U+ CL skate. Perhaps the biggest additions to the range is in the field of the protective equipment.

CCM has expanded its U+ CL range to the protective equipment and should a player wear CL shoulder pads, CL elbow pads, CL shin guards, CL skates, CL gloves (introduced last year) and use a CL stick, the overall equipment weight would be reduced by 25% compared to other manufacturers. Impressive, but my main question is: If it’s that light, will it be any good at protecting the body. There is also the CS, or Crazy Strong, variant of the equipment line available as well.

Shoulder pads

The CL pads feature CCM’s U-foam caps and molded floating ventilated sternum. The U-Foam has also been utilised in the body of the body of the shoulder pads. The pads look pretty decent, but I’d have to get my hands on them to see what they are really like. There isn’t much else to report on the pad and its features apart from the fact that it contains a lot of U-Foam.

Elbow pads

The CL elbow pads feature a 3-piece construction and reinforced caps. The pads come with a neoprene wrap in the liner and also features neoprene in the elbow bed for improved fit. For the forearm and bicep there is U-Foam protection.

Shin guards:

The CL shinguards feature vented caps and an anatomical shell design. The thigh guard can be removed for a bit of customisation. I personally don’t like the thigh guard in my pads so it’s good to see that it continues to be a removable feature. The knee bed is segmented with neoprene lock zone, which should ensure that the pads stay in place and provide additional comfort. The pads are attached with cross strapped in the back, which allows for the calf wrap to provide protection to the back of the leg.

Sticks

The CL stick hasn’t really changed much since the last re-vamp of it. It now carries the name of CCM CL Midnight. Otherwise the features of the stick looks the same. The biggest improvements as far as I can see on paper are in the construction. CCM has introduced something it calls True Spear technology which is supposed to ensure optimal energy transfer for shots.

The other stick is the U+ Pro, which comes weighing in at 455 grams. Like the CL Midnight, it uses aerial grade carbon to make it a lightweight stick. The blade uses PRB Graphite technology to create a similar sweet spot for an accurate shot. Like the CL the stick also includes the true spear technology.

Perhaps the most interesting stick from the CCM Staple is the RBZ, which is set to come out in Fall 2012. We’ve seen pictures of it and know it’s been used by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landesgok and that it’s been designed in partnership with the golf company TaylorMade. That’s all I’ve managed to dig out on the stick so far.

 

 

 

For great deals on top of the range hockey equipment, please click on the image below:


This post has also been published by Pucks Across The Pond in my diary: http://pucksatp.hockeytutorial.com/2012/helmets-protect-head-brain/

 

As I’ve been out with another concussion (non-hockey related), I’ve thought about the so called concussion epidemic that has plagued the NHL and the sport of hockey for a long while now. I’ve started to think that despite the equipment us hockey players wear on the ice, there is very little there that would actually protect a players’ brain from a concussion.

Where the helmet has been designed to protect the head from potential injury if hit by another player, stick, puck, board or the ice itself, there is (at least in my opinion) very little in the way that a helmet would actually protect  a player from concussion.

I’m not a doctor, but my understanding of concussion is that the fluid that surrounds the brain is unable to protect the brain from severe impacts or forces associated with rapid acceleration/deceleration where the head would jolt violently causing the fluid not being able to protect the brain from these motions.

Helmet shells are commonly made from vinyl nitrale which do form a strong and durable shell to protect the head from impacts. The sole purpose of the shell is to disperse the energy of a point of impact, similar to a car in an accident where the body of the car has been designed to absorb the forces of impact in an accident to protect a passenger. The insides of the helmet are either made of the same material (the white stuff that majority of the pros wear) or polypropylene foam, which is supposed to absorb forces of impact to reduce the chance of a concussion.

A quick history lesson before we move on. As far as hockey goes, helmets are a relatively new piece of equipment. It was only in 1979 the NHL made helmets mandatory. Though at the time of making helmets mandatory 70% of NHL players were already wearing them. Sure helmets had been around before then, but it was the first time that players were required to wear a helmet full time. I had to do a Google search for hockey helmets to find that George Owen of the Boston Bruins was the first player to wear a helmet in 1928-29 season.

It wasn’t until the death of Bill Masterton in 1968 that the discussion of helmets became prominent and lot of the stigmas about wearing helmets started to dispel. A similar stigma now surrounds the use of visors. Majority of players do wear a visor, but there is still a debate ongoing whether the use of visors should be made mandatory to avoid career threatening eye injuries.

As for helmets and concussions, there has only been one company (Cascade Hockey) that has made concussion protection its USP. With it’s M11 helmet Cascade tried to create a helmet that would significantly reduce the risk of concussion. The M11 was designed to significantly reduce the forces from high speed linear impacts which Cascade determined caused most of the concussions in hockey. Additionally Cascade developed a system to adjust the setting of the back of the helmet to give it a more customised fit feel  and ensure tight, but comfortable fit. A lot of the times when watching hockey you see the helmet move on the players’ head from hits on the boards or player getting up after a hit and re-adjusting the helmet, which means that the helmet is does not sit right and therefore is not providing adequate protection.

Going back to the fitting and adjusting feature, I’ve not seen a similar system on any other helmet. The Reebok 8K helmet, however had something similar to it, with its FitLite technology. This has obviously evolved in the 11K helmet. Though I don’t want to take a snipe at the technology or design, Sidney Crosby the face of Reebok was out for 10 months with a concussion and is now sidelined again with a neck injury and concussion. People can make their own judgements of that.

I think aside from Cascade, only one other manufacturer has made a play on the reducing the risk of concussion and that is Bauer, with its RE-AKT helmet. The helmet has been specifically designed to manage rotational impacts, as is the M11 from Cascade. The collateral from Bauer says that the helmet helps to protect the brain from excessive intra-cranial movement due to the helmet’s liner, which Bauer has named VERTEX FOAM. I have asked Bauer how the helmet actually protects from concussion or how the liner in the helmet reduces the risk of concussion, but I have not received an answer yet.

But the real interesting thing is, at least in Europe, whenever you buy a helmet you’ll have a CE safety certificate on it to say that the helmet has passed required tests, but might not protect you from serious injury. As far as I’m concerned there simply isn’t, or hasn’t been enough done by manufacturers to address the concussion problem, but then again, how do you stop the brain moving around inside your skull? How do you stop a violent jolt of the neck/head from causing concussion?

When the issue of head shots raised its ugly head in the NHL, there was a lot of discussion among GMs on how you can take it out of the game and as a result a new rule was introduced (Rule 48). The NHL also set up a task force to better manage concussions and players who suffer a suspected concussion, hence the quiet room players are lead to mid game if there is a suspect concussion. If the NHL set up a task force to look into the issue and how to better manage the issue, why wasn’t helmet safety and safety features a part of this discussion?

To me it only seems obvious as one of the things that always crops up in concussion and hockey conversations is that “the players are bigger and faster and the padding has gotten better and bigger so players feel more protected”. Yes true. I do feel safer and protected when it comes to shoulder pads, shorts, elbow pads etc, but looking at the helmets over the last few years, I feel that the development has not been as rapid as with other pieces of equipment hockey players wear.

The other issue that comes with helmets is that the common advice is that a helmet should be replaced after heavy impact to the shell as it might lose its protective features. Again the Cascade M11 helmet is the only helmet that I know of that can sustain more than one impact.

Which leads us to the issue of price. Where the pros will have access to free equipment in most instances, guys who have to pay for their own kit might not be able to afford the top of the range helmet that provides the safety features that have been promoted by Reebok, Cascade and Bauer with their top of the range helmets.

A quick look on Hockey Monkey shows that CCM’s V10 helmet is the cheapest top of the range helmet around and retails at sub $100 at Hockey Monkey. I use the V10 helmet and since my last on ice concussion, I’ve been looking at the helmet and thinking how on earth does this protect my brain from concussions. Sure it protects my head/skull from impact from puck, stick, boards etc, but there is very little in the helmet to re-assure me that this will also protect my brain from concussion.

Also let’s not forget that Marc Savard wore the CCM V10 helmet when Matt Cooke deliberately hit him in the head in 2010. In fact, the V10 helmet has changed very little since then.

I haven’t been able to find the prices for Bauer’s RE-AKT helmet, but the M11 retails at $129.99 (reg: $159.99), the RBK 11k at $169.99 (reg: $179.99), The Easton E700 at $149.99 (reg: 179.99) or the Easton S19 Pro stock helmet which regular retail price tops the $200 mark. Please note that those are the prices as per Hockey Monkey and can vary from retailer to retailer.

Then there is of course the mirror test. I remember that the V10 helmet especially at the time of its launch was promoting itself with the tag line of “Guaranteed to pass any mirror test”. The mirror test should not be the first thing on your mind when buying a helmet. The fit and protection should be the top priority when choosing a helmet. You only get one head and unfortunately the brain is a delicate thing that can’t take too many beatings or injuries.

But like I said in my interview with Aaron Murphy, the contact and physicality of hockey is something that draws people to the sport and was a reason why I started to follow it in the first place. If you take the hitting out, we are left with something that resembles the All-Star game and no-one in their right mind would want to watch that type of hockey for 82 games (plus play-offs) a year. I guess concussions are something that you can never fully take out from a contact sport, but you can always make sure that players are protected to the highest standards and that there are medical checks to ensure that players with concussions are given the best possible treatment.

What I would like to see is equipment manufacturers include some of their ‘concussion prevention technologies’ into all their helmets. Remember all it takes is a funny fall in a game of shinny to cause a concussion. It’s not just professional, semi-pro or amateur players who are at risk from concussions, it is hockey players from all levels.

Think of it this way and using my car analogy from earlier. A car that does not meet the safety regulations in collision and impact testing by EURONCAP is not allowed on the road. As your brain is a passenger in your head, wouldn’t you want it protected to the highest standard when you play any contact sport?