In the automotive industry, companies often build what they call “concept cars,” vehicles that are so radical and so expensive that they never go into mass production. The purpose of the concept car is to showcase new styling and technology and what can be achieved when price is no object.
Hockey equipment giant Bauer has done much the same thing with its new OD1N line of equipment for skaters and goalies. The company, which unveiled its new line today in Chicago, spent a million dollars to outfit six players – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Henrik Lundqvist – with the express purpose of making them lighter, faster and better.
Or as Craig Desjardins, general manager of ice hockey equipment for Bauer claims, “This equipment gives players a measurable scientific benefit on the ice.”
Well, we’re not exactly sure what means are being used to measure Lundqvist’s benefits. Before wearing the OD1N goal pads, Lundqvist had an 8-11-0 record with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Since donning the pads for a Nov. 5 game against the Buffalo Sabres, Lundqvist has gone 2-3-1 with a 3.41 GAA and .878 save percentage.
It’s hard to imagine hockey equipment could get lighter and better, but that’s what can happen when you don’t establish a price point. The researchers at Bauer spent two years working on the technology behind the OD1N line and spared no expense. The result is a personalized protective body suit, a lighter skate and a customized goalie pad. All three of them are significantly lighter than anything that has ever been produced, which means the six players wearing them – already elite players in their own right – will theoretically be faster and less encumbered by their gear.
Toews and Backstrom have been wearing the equipment in practices and games and all six are expected to be using it by the time the Olympics begin.
“Players always say hockey is a game of inches,” Desjardins said. “And with this equipment, we’re confident players will perform better than without this equipment.”
The protective body suit, Bauer claims, is four pounds less than the conventional shoulder pad, elbow pad, pant and shin guard scheme players wear now. That, they say, means an advantage of 11.8 inches in a 50-foot sprint from blueline to blueline. The equipment was made by doing a 3-D body scan of each player and customizing the equipment to him.
The skates, meanwhile, are a mind-boggling 550 grams, which is 250 grams lighter than the lightest skate Bauer has ever made. The company claims that based on the number of strides a player takes per game, the weight savings amount to lifting 1,057 fewer pounds per game. The blade is also tuned to adjust to the individual player’s skating style.
In the goalie pads, Bauer replaced the four or five layers of synthetic leather with a compression molded component, much like what you would find in the sole of your running shoe. The company says the pad is a third lighter than conventional pads, which amounts to a goalie lifting 180 fewer pounds per game. In going post-to-post, the company said the new pads save an inch, which coincidentally, is the width of a puck.
And the insert of the pad is customized. For Lundqvist, a goalie who likes to direct his rebounds into the corners, that means making a pad with high-density foam. But it can also make pads that essentially make the puck drop right in front of the goaltender so he can cover it up.
But well-heeled parents looking to give Little Johnny an edge on his novice teammates will be disappointed. While some of the elements of the equipment will likely find their way into the marketplace in the next few years, Bauer does not plan to mass market the OD1N line. And for overspending parents of young hockey players, that might be the best news of all. In fact, it will likely be a very small group of players that end up wearing the OD1N line, even at the NHL level.
“This would be cost prohibitive for the consumer,” said Steve Jones, director of global marketing and brand strategy for Bauer. “This is not something we’d like to market to the masses.”