Saturday, 6 November 2010

Equipment Changes: Hockey Skates Reviews

There are a lot of things that a player relies on when playing the game. One of the most important factors in a player's arsenal are his skates, and there is a new player in the skate manufacturing game that I'd like to introduce today. MLX Hockey is a new equipment company that has a few big-name NHL stars wearing their skates today, and they have asked me to test out a pair of their skates! Yes, you read that correctly: me, small-time hockey blogger! While I am honoured to have this opportunity to test out these new skates created by MLX Hockey, there is actually a fascinating story behind how this company got started, who is wearing their skates (besides me), and why MLX Hockey is breaking into the equipment industry. The man in the upper left, Sergei Gonchar, has been wearing them for a while now, so you already know of two people who are skating on a pair.

From the MLX Hockey website, they have a full rundown on how they got started:

"Our story started, in 2001, when my Olympic Speed Skating career ended, and I began training hockey players. Sprinting was my specialty, and when I crossed over to hockey I wanted to make hockey players faster by understanding the elements and concepts behind explosive speed on ice. I crossed over into the hockey world to not only teach players how to skate faster and more efficiently, but to train off-ice, specifically for skating. I quickly realized the equipment players were using was inferior and not allowing them to perform up to their potential.

"Also, as a skating coach, I couldn’t believe how many issues athletes were having with their feet, like lace bite and bumps, from improperly fitted skates. Speed skating boots have come a long way in the 25 years since using composites, so I thought, why not hockey? A more form-fitting boot would ensure better skating and keep a player’s foot from being destroyed; hence how MLX was born…

"The goal was to determine how to make a hockey skate that would deliver the performance features necessary for the game of hockey at the highest levels, but also deliver the speed attributes from speed skating." - Mr. David Cruickshank
So you know how and why they got started, so who is a part of MLX Hockey? The team features four men who are committed to making hockey skates better.

David Cruickshank is the CEO and founder of MLX. A former US Olympic speed skater, Mr. Cruickshank worked with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks and AHL's Rockford IceHogs to improve their skating techniques.

Andy Gabel holds the record for the longest tenure of any speed skater on the US Olympic team as he skated for USA from 1979 to 1998, including earning a silver medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games as a member of the USA Short Track Speed Skating Team.

Curtis Brackenbury played 406 NHL and WHA games. He appeared with the Chicago Cougars, Minnesota Fighting Saints, and Quebec Nordiques in the WHA, while suiting up with the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and St. Louis Blues in the NHL. He currently holds distinctions as a developmental coach in both the NHL and NCAA hockey.

Scott Van Horne was a competitive speed skater for 13 years before retiring from the sport. After he retired, he went on to earn his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of biomechanics, specializing in speed skating biomechanics, at the University of Calgary. He now owns VH Speed Skating, a speed skating boot manufacturing company that produces boots for 90% of Canada's speed skating team.

Pretty impressive credentials on those four men, no? So how do speed skaters get into the hockey business? And why would they want to be part of the business in rivaling companies like Easton, Bauer, CCM, and Reebok? Simple: their custom ice hockey skates are different than all the others!
"The problem with typical ice hockey skates is that blade holders are not easily adjustable. They're riveted into a "one size fits all" position that is nowhere near optimal for the way you skate. Everybody has different techniques and body designs that require unique treatment for optimal performance. Whether you're bow-legged, push more forward, or lean backwards on your skates, you need to position your blade so that it matches your unique style of skating.

"You can't fully push on your skate if the blade isn't completely underneath you. When your blade isn’t centered underneath you, you have to compensate in your stride, which slows you down.

"So many people are so poorly set up think they're not good skaters. Most skaters don't make adjustments to their blade position because they’re either unaware of how important it is or because the process is long and inconvenient. Typically, adjusting a skate blade requires a special machine and about an hour of time. Enter MLX."
Ok, so you've heard all the rhetoric about how great these skates are. You can adjust them and make them fit your feet and ankles better. You can skate better and faster. Et cetera, et cetera. The question everyone wants to know is: DO THEY DO WHAT THEY PROMISE?

I can't tell you right now. I have yet to test them, but they are on their way to me from the MLX factory. There are a few hockey skates reviews out on these new skates, though, as Eyes On The Prize, Anaheim Calling, and Stanley Cup of Chowder have already had a spin on them. They give the skates pretty good reviews, so I'm hoping that I'll find them as good as they did. Time will tell, of course.

It also doesn't hurt to have one the game's legends endorse your product. Mario Lemieux is a fan of MLX skates, and the company has attracted the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Dustin Byfuglien, Evgeni Malkin, and Daniel Alfredsson amongst others. Pretty impressive list of men there, so I'm sure MLX Hockey has done their homework.

Once the skates arrive, they'll be strapped to my feet for an extensive workout and review. I'll have many things to say as I test them versus my current pair of CCM Tacks that I have grown to love, and we'll see what the results are. I plan on skating in them for three sessions, and I'll report back with the results from each session as the skates get broken in.

I'm really looking forward to this opportunity, and I have to thank Blaise from MLX Hockey for the opportunity to test out these skates! Thanks, Blaise!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


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