Sure, the introduction of plastics has made equipment such as skates, shoulder pads and elbow pads, lighter and stronger. It’s impossible to ignore the emergence of composite sticks, which have transformed a $25 piece of equipment into a $100 to $400 item. And some inventor in Calgary has come up with a way to heat up skate blades by a few degrees to give, in theory, players better traction and grip.
That’s all fine and dandy but there’s still a couple of places where technological innovation remains glaringly absent.
For one, tying a pair of skates is exactly the same way as it was 50 or 75 years ago. You bend down and grapple with a pair of laces until they feel “right”. Invariably, they’re never quite right or they loosen during games, which means you’ve got to tie them up again.
What about the idea of an automatic skating-tying system where you have two buttons on the side of your skates – one to tighten, one to loosen. To please the traditionalist, you could still use laces but they would be controlled by nano-motors and microprocessors to provide players with the perfect fit in seconds. For all the money Nike spent struggling to get a bigger foothold in the hockey equipment business, they could have scored by focusing on this part of the game.
The other place where technology is begging for a home is ice-cleaning. Zambonis have been around since Frank Zamboni invented the resurfacing machine in 1948. Over the past 60 years, Zambonis have added a few new wrinkles such as automatic edgers and the ability to remove painted stripes but a Zamboni is still a Zamboni.
You’d think someone would come up a better, faster, less expensive machine – perhaps even one operated without a driver that would do what Roomba is doing for the vacuum cleaner.
Now, back to the game.