Players to start using heated blades

(AP) Some NHL players are about to find out if
heated skate blades will make the cut.

Six to 10
players will try them first. If there are no glitches, the blades then would
begin appearing in NHL games.

“The
NHL is very interested in confirming the data provided by Therma Blade Inc. to
establish the safety and reliability of the blade under NHL game conditions and
we have agreed to allow a small group of players to test these blades in
practices over the next few weeks,” said Kris King, the NHL’s senior
manager of hockey operations.

King said
once he receives from the company a list of players who want to participate, he
and Stu Grimson of the NHL players union will review it and decide who’ll be
asked to wear the blades.

The NHLPA
welcomes trials for the heated blades.

“There
is a lot of interest among players throughout the NHL right now to see how Thermablade
performs under game conditions,” said Grimson, the union’s associate
counsel.

Thermablades
use a rechargeable battery and a microprocessor within each skate blade to
maintain a temperature of 41 degrees. The warm blade increases the thickness of
the water layer between the blade and the ice surface, and the company said its
tests have shown this reduces gliding friction and starting resistance for
skaters.

The
charged battery in each blade will last for about two games. Fingers placed on
sensors on either side of the rear of the plastic blade holder for three
seconds activates the battery to warm the blade. The system automatically turns
off when a player is idle on the bench, and the energy of returning to the ice
reactivates the system. The system is turned off by repeating the process used
to turn it on.

Wayne
Gretzky was so impressed with Thermablades when he tried them more than three
years ago that he invested in the company.

“I
should still be playing,” a smiling Gretzky said while skating on the
blades for a video shown during the product launch at the Hockey Hall of Fame
on Tuesday.

The Phoenix
Coyotes coach said he wishes his players could get them first because
Thermablades will “revolutionize the game of hockey.”