Hockey has been called the fastest game on Earth. Though fans of Jai Alai or Hurling may argue the point, it is certainly the fastest game where the players (not the balls, pucks or other objects) are self-propelled across a slick surface and not mechanically aided by a horse, car or some other instrument. The other major team sports (football, basketball, soccer and baseball) are virtually in slow motion by comparison. The speed of the game played on ice is definitely one of its biggest attractions. With speed, comes a degree of danger, which no doubt serves to heighten the attraction. Hockey can be a dangerous game as players race around the ice with sticks in hand on razor sharp skates. You need only ask NHL players like Erik Karlsson or Dave Bolland who both had their ankle tendons accidentally severed by skates over the last couple of seasons. Most older NHL hockey fans will quickly reference goaltender Clint Malarchuk who’s neck was horrifically cut by a blade back in 1989. Those who are squeamish should probably not watch the video below, but I offer it here for its shock value and for fans of blood and gore.
Regardless the level of hockey played, accidents do happen. I personally recall one men’s rec game a couple of years ago when I failed to put in my mouthguard. Without fail during my first shift an opposing players stick accidentally came up and caught me square in the chicklets. No major damage was done, but I headed directly to the change room to retrieve my guard and have tried not to play without one ever since. In my often client- facing career, it would not be good to show up looking like Bobby Clarke from the 70s, as much as the look may appeal to the ladies.
The danger associated with the game is also given as one of the main deterrents by parents thinking about signing up their children and a partial reason (#2 to cost) for a drop in minor hockey registration in Canada. There are plenty of documented stories, like the NHL ones above, of kids getting concussed or cut. With the aforementioned speed of the game these things are bound to happen. If we want to grow the game we’re going to have to come up with ways to make it safer; including developing better equipment. I’ve recently come across a company who’s doing it (full disclosure…I have received free products from the company to test and talk about). BASE360 and Garmatex have partnered to develop and market a new base layer product (tops, pants, shorts and socks), which incorporates cut-resistant Kevlar® in the “cut zones” around a player’s calves, ankles and wrists. This company also develops base layer clothing for speed skaters and law enforcement officers, which naturally adds to the sense of security you feel when wearing it. BODYARMOUR is a line specifically developed for sale through Canadian Tire.
Generally, a couple of the problems and complaints many athletes have with wearing protective equipment is the restrictiveness of it or the heat buildup caused by the additional layer. However, I can attest as a player (albeit far from professional calibre) who does more than his fair share of perspiring, Base360 actually cuts down on the amount of sweat you feel when you play. I usually only wear ratty sweat shorts and sleeveless base layer shirt under the rest of my gear, so I was initially hesitant to wear full length compression pants (with a built in jock, which goes without saying is another critical protective item) and a long sleeve shirt. I was amazed after my first game in the gear how relatively dry I was. I’m not sure where my normal buckets of sweat went, but they were not hanging from my arms or legs and the Base360 gear was dry as well. “Is this some sort of magic cloth?” I asked my perplexed self. The Devil has also taken to wearing the new gear and has likewise marvelled at how well it works as a base layer. As both a player and parent, I am comforted knowing we have the additional layer of protection against unintentional skate blade incidents. While he never encountered any issues, I certainly would have outfitted the Boy in this stuff had it been available when he played competitive hockey. To me this part seems like a no-brainer for the parents of any hockey player at any age. Maybe this type of gear (cost notwithstanding) should even be deemed required equipment just like neck and mount guards. Most kids are already wearing some type of base layer, so adding the extra protection of Kevlar® without adding extra bulk only makes sense. What price do you put on making sure your child is fully and properly protected knowing accidents do happen? I’m pleased to have been introduced to Base360 and encourage hockey moms, dads and players alike to try it out for themselves.