CHICAGO - If Patrick Kane seems quicker and slicker on the ice than usual, the reason might be more than the Chicago star's raw talent.
Kane, second in the NHL with 46 points, is of six top NHL players — all likely Olympians — transitioning into Bauer Hockey's futuristic OD1N skates and protective equipment.
Unveiled Thursday in Chicago, the OD1N gear shaves pounds from the bulky head-to-toe ensemble hockey players wear and, according to Bauer, improves mobility, speed and performance.
Bauer claims the equipment, which includes skates, a form-fitting body suit and pads, and goalie leg pads, also improves protection through the use of new materials and by staying in place better. Chicago's Jonathan Toews, Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux are other NHL skaters switching to the customized gear. The New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist has been wearing OD1N goalie pads.
"The (design) team set out to completely reinvent speed, to completely reinvent performance, to completely reinvent the safety of the game," Bauer President and CEO Kevin Davis said. "It's game-changing technology."
The OD1N skates weigh only 550 grams each, compared to about 750 for other high-end models in a market where Bauer claims nearly 80 per cent of pro sales. Besides the nearly half-pound weight reduction, the skates have carbon composite blade holders with stiffness and flex patterns customized to players' skating styles, like hockey sticks. This improves energy transfer.
Kane and Toews missed the event, but made statements in a video presentation.
"You fall in love with (the skates) right away, Kane said. "As far as turning and skating, you feel like they're like a lot quicker."
Toews added: "They're so quick and light you can pretty much get on your feet, on your toes and start running on the ice."
The OD1N body suit is created for players using an optical scanner and CAD system that measures a player's anatomical dimensions. It serves as a base layer, then custom-formed shoulder pads, shin guards and elbow pads fit on tip.
Made from new foams and composites, the integrated underprotective outfit is more than four pounds lighter than the current hodge-podge of pads players wear under their uniforms between their ankles and necks.
"In a 50-foot sprint blue line to blue line, players are a foot faster," said Craig Desjardins, Bauer's general manager of player equipment. "In a game of inches, that's a monumental advantage. And we're elevating the amount of the protection because the protection stays in place throughout the impact,"
Backstrom said in a video that the OD1N system works.
"At first, I wasn't too sure what to expect," Backstrom said. "Then we tested it out with a couple of blocked shot and some slashes. It's actually impressive how much protection there is."
The OD1N goal pads are made from materials that are similar to the soles of running shows, and are thinner and a third lighter than standard pads.