Bauer has unveiled new equipment for six NHL stars that it says represents "game-changing technology."
The equipment manufacturer says its body suit and skates were designed to be so light that players could get to the puck almost a foot faster on a race from blue-line to blue-line, and new pads were made so goaltenders could get from the post to the top of the crease an inch faster.
If that is indeed the case, it could lead to more innovations in equipment from other manufacturers.
Bauer calls this the "OD1N" project, named after the ruler of the Norse gods and the Russian translation for the number one.
So far the equipment was custom-designed for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
"Our absolute focus has been towards giving these six players an advantage going into the Olympics, without question," Bauer general manager of ice hockey equipment Craig Desjardins said in a phone interview. "Our focus today has been in the elite of the elite, some of the best players in the world."
Ovechkin is the face of the Sochi Olympics for Russia, while Lundqvist and Backstrom are locks to make the Swedish team. Toews (Canada) and Kane (United States) are sure bets, too, while Giroux is considered a bubble player for Canada.
It remains to be seen if this new equipment helps those players or hinders them in the near future as they adjust.
Lundqvist has been using the pads for several weeks, while Toews and Backstrom have more recently been wearing the body suit, according to Desjardins. Less than two months before the Olympics begin, it's unclear if or when the five skaters will be using the body suit and skates.
"It's much lighter. I didn't think you could make the equipment lighter," Backstrom said in a taped interview provided by Bauer. "The skates are the lightest thing I've ever felt."
Desjardins and Steve Jones, Bauer's director of global marketing and brand strategy, likened the whole process to designing a "concept car." Developers were tasked with making lighter equipment that was still safe without the constraints of a budget.
Over a million dollars were poured into the "OD1N" project with the goal of finding more ways to make better equipment down the line.
Desjardins said Bauer has worked with Brendan Shanahan and the NHL to make sure this equipment is at least on par with the current products already used on the ice. Using foam was one of the keys to make this equipment lighter.
"You have all the protection you need and it's as light as you can imagine," Toews said in a taped interview provided by Bauer. "As a hockey player the last thing you want to be doing out on the ice is worrying about your equipment. You should never have to think about it, and I think that's exactly what the body equipment from the shoulder pads to the shin pads accomplishes because you really don't feel like you're wearing anything."
The goalie pads are thinner than standard ones because they lack the extra layers and instead feature more foam.
"Especially kicking your legs out, you felt a lot faster. It also felt like you saved a lot of energy," Lundqvist said in a taped interview. "When I rely on my quickness and reaction time, of course that gives me confidence too when I feel like I'm becoming faster out there."
—Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at @SWhyno.
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