26 April 2010
Hockey equipment and technology has come along way since the firstNHL game in 1917, but one thing has remained the same for nearly half a century. How players sharpen their skates. Traditional skate sharpening entailed creating a hollow in the skate blade, a shallower hollow increased the speed of a skater and a deeper hallow gave the player greater bit in the ice. However, Blackstone Sports, a Canadian based hockey equipment company, has created a new, cutting edge technology to sharpening skates. They call it the Flat Bottom V.
In trying to maximize the bite on a players skate, Blackstone did away with the traditional hollow and instead created a flat with two fangs coming down on the edges and then going back up on an angle. This allows the skater have more or less bite by changing the angle rather than making them go deeper or shallower into the ice.
A Key component to the Flat Bottom V technology was the new way they developed to dress a skate sharpening wheel, called a spinner system. "It didn't take us long to figure out we could put what ever shape we wanted onto one of these spinners, Company owner, Steve Wilson, told us during a phone interview. "so we started diving into the different types of shapes that we could use that would be affective for skate sharpening."
The idea for an improved skate sharpening technique began with company co founder and Steve Wilson's father, Murray Wilson. Murray Wilson worked with former NHLer Paul Coffey and always found it interesting that Coffey would skate on a "very, very" shallow radius. It was explained to us that Coffey skated such a shallow radius because he wanted to be able to glide. Coffey desired such a glide that he was forced to give up a lot of bite on the ice forcing him to change the way he skated. "He never stopped and started again," described Steve Wilson. "He just kept skating, kind of doing figure eights around the ice."
"[Murray Wilson] always had it in his mind that he wanted to make it so that [players] didn't have to give up that bite," explained Steve Wilson.
With the idea in mind Blackstone, lead by Wilson, worked with engineers to come up with ideas. The first idea they came up with was to cut a "V" shape into the blade, unfortunately it was not the best idea. "That didn't work at all," revealed Wilson. "It was actually worse than the traditional radius that we were using before" After the failed first attempt, they decided to cut the "V" so that it was flat allowing the skater to get the bite angle that the creators intended for. "That's kind of how it all started, said Wilson. "It's just coming up with an idea and working with it."
Luckily for Wilson and company their hard work has paid off. Flat Bottom V has taken off in the NHL and through out the ranks of the hockey industry, in part thanks to the close nit community hockey has, the word is spreading about just how great this new technology is. "I think it's a great technology," Cory Stillman of the Florida Panthers told TSN. "I think the biggest thing with this sharpening is that it allows you to stay on top of the ice, have a faster stride, and not tire as quickly." "A very large percentage of players that try it will go on it because they notice it doesn't effect the way they skate, but it enhances it, Wilson explained to me. "There is so much less drag in the ice that it's finding a feeling they like and they are looking for. So they can get that bite yet have the glide they want."
The technology is so advanced that it can even be specially designed for a specific player. Islanders Captain, Doug Weight, is one example. Blackstone was able to design a spinner specifically for him using specifications provided by Weight. "We were able to make him up his special spinner, which is his own cut, said Wilson. "Where before we could never do anything like that it."
In just a short year Steve Wilson has seen his new Flat Bottom V technology reach heights he could have never imagined. During his trip to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Wilson was astonished at how many players were already using Flat Bottom V or who wanted to try it. More astonishing to him was that fact that players were switching over to it during the Olympics. Wilson and Blackstone sports anticipates that as the technology catches on more and more retailers and ice rinks will start to use the Flat Bottom V technology.
So does Wilson believe that the Flat Bottom V will become the new standard in hockey? "Absolutely," responded Wilson when asked that exact question. "There is a lot of younger players coming up that are on it as well. As the retailers buy more and more of this technology, which is what is occurring right now, the younger players that are coming up that's what they'll be looking for."
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