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Loose Change: Hot stuff

Perhaps I’m missing something in the translation.

In case you haven’t heard, evidently the next big thing in hockey equipment and apparel is – get this – heated skate blades. Evidently the present system of sharp steel carving up sheets of frozen ice isn’t quite working for everyone involved. It’s hoped the added heat will turn pedestrian hockey into something really exciting – in much the same way adding heat has turned old boring bread into cool exhilarating toast.

These contraptions are called Therma Blades. Each blade is controlled by a small battery and a microprocessor to keep the temperature of the blade at 5 degrees Celsius (on American feet that will be 41 degrees Fahrenheit). When this piece of steel comes in contact with the ice, which varies between -9 and -5 C (15 and 23 F respectively for our American readers), it warms the area immediately surrounding the blade, providing less friction and thus creating higher speeds and, I assume, less tread wear.

The literature provided by the manufacturer states that, when at rest, the batteries shut down meaning no soupy skate ruts and players touching concrete on long faceoffs. (I’m hoping the microprocessor stays up through this, though, allowing an owner, with a little time on his hands, to at least check his email).

Evidently frictional drag from skates is a huge problem in the NHL, which makes me look at Wade Belak totally different now (not slow, just heat-deprived). Warming tiny strips of metal surely seems like a semi-rational answer, although I likely would have suggested a telethon to raise public awareness as a better first option.

And the technology is so involved and precarious it raises as many questions as it does provide answers.

Will it make that much of a difference? Would a player traveling at 30 mph really feel the effect? He’d be moving over the ice at such a pace his magic toasters wouldn’t even have a chance to kick in.

What if one of the blades goes all haywire and starts melting ice at a brisker pace? Would the dude just go around in circles?

And will the technology become so advantageous that not having it will render a player virtually useless? Little Jimmy hasn’t seen a minute of overtime cause he’s recharging.

Part of this seems almost revolutionary. The president of the company himself feels “we’re at the crossroads of hockey history.” Keep in mind people also get run over at crossroads.

The skates are simply at the testing stage right now and four players have agreed to try out this product, anonymously. I think the “anonymous” part may speak volumes. Keeping quiet on this thing may be more about self-preservation than privacy. I mean, not too many people have come running forward claiming to have been “the brains behind Betamax.”

But perhaps there is something behind all of this claimed technology. Maybe there is some inherent value behind warmed metal attached to a boot on a sheet of ice. Maybe the end result just isn’t what the manufacturer is expecting. Maybe the players’ feedback will be flavored slightly different:

“Well the heated blade didn’t do a thing for my skating, but it sure as hell cleared up my acne.”

You have to take your miraculous innovations any way you can get them.

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at charlieteljeur@hotmail.com.

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