DKM Hockey Podcast

Friday, August 17, 2012

Inside the Dressing Room: We talking about practice

Welcome to the latest addition of the Inside the Dressing room series here at DKM Hockey.  The equipment used in the sport of hockey is evolving at rate that rivals the Golf Club industry.  Every year something newer, faster, lighter comes out.  And while some things seem gimmicky, some things really do have and impact on how the players perform.  Even somethings we take for granted or see as benign, like the practice jersey.

We ain't talkin' bout the game.

When I think of a practice jersey, I don't think of high end technology fabricated into a practice jersey.  But in the NHL, no piece of equipment is left in the dust in terms of modernization.  You have to upgrade, or how else are you going to sell a $250 hockey stick?  At the turn of the millennium, NHL practice jerseys were polyester moo-moos.  They were big, loose, and heavy.  As an example, see this circa 2003 practice jersey from the Calgary Flames in a size 54.

@johntkemp looking dapper and happy to be wearing a Team's Jersey.
The "Center Ice" practice jerseys of the day were to game jersey specs: Fight strap, double shoulders, elbow patches, and gussets.  The NHL logo was embroidered into the back side of the lower hem.  The jersey size was embroidered onto the lower front hem.  These jerseys 'wicked' perspiration like public restroom toilet paper and weight a metric ton.  Not to mention they were the "Hammer Pants" of professional sports.  In the picture above, you can see how John Kemp could have easily hidden two of his three children in his armpits.  So the league got in touch with CCM and solicited feedback from the player on how to improve the practice jersey.

So after a season lost to a fight over a salary cap, the brilliant minds at CCM hammered out this puppy in about 15 minutes.

Kempy, still not happy.

The NHL and CCM gave it the old college try with this first Reebok branded practice jersey in 2006.  I think most jersey collectors put this in the category of the "6100" jersey, but don't quote me on that.  Collectors creep me out. This particular example is a size 52.  First, they added lightweight and breathable material under the arms. A good start - however, the rest of the jersey was still straight up polyester and remained heavy and hot.  While CCM did make the jerseys SLIGHTLY slimmer fitting through the trunk, the sleeves still looked like Dumbo's ears.  Oh, and for some reason reflective piping was sewn into the sleeve for reasons we're still unsure of. The jersey still had double shoulders, elbow patches, fight strap, and the NHL logo moved to the collar in a Hi Vis area. 

Not to be discouraged, CCM took what it learned from this iteration and moved onto this in 2007-2008:

John Kemp smiles wearing the good old CBJ practice jersey.
Dubbed as the "Edge" by Reebok to coincide with it's revolutionary game jersey in 07/08, the Edge practice jersey took every complaint from the players about the previous jersey and went over the top to correct them.  The jersey pictured above is a size 58.  Only Cat Ladies and Turk Broda ever wore a jersey that big.  Now, it was the SMALLEST size jersey one could wear.  However, They were very light weight.  A lightweight breathable mesh was used on the front and back of the jersey.  A spandex weave was used in the material under the arms.  The sleeves and shoulders were a thicker polyester, but gone were the elbow patches and double shoulders.  Very lightweight and breathable indeed.  But, The trunk had a 'bell shaped taper' that looked weird over equipment.  The life expectancy of the practice jersey was reduced as there was no reinforced fabric in the high wear zones.  Players struggled to get this jersey over their shoulder pads.  The extreme taper on the sleeves made it tough to wear with elbow pads.  The jersey met approval in terms of being lightweight and breathable, but was very, very snug.  The fight strap and NHL logo remained.  The jersey size was now a weird looking patch on the lower front hem, maybe to capture the "Property of" spirit from 1964.  The equipment manager whined a little bit that there wasn't enough room on the back to add names/numbers on the back for camps. The reflective piping remained. 

Undaunted by failure, Reebok rolled out their Opus in 2010-2011, the Edge 2.0

John Kemp, grumpy once again in a Size 58 practice jersey.
The "Edge 2.0" practice jersey hit the head on the nail, or something like that.  The jersey uses three types of material.  One on the back, one on the front and sleeves, and a third under the arms and sides.  The sleeves are still slightly tapered, but have more room for bulky elbow pads.  The shoulders were widened a bit, and the taper in the trunk is no longer 'bell shaped.'  Double shoulders and double elbows returned and extra material was added to the lower hem and cuffs which are also high wear areas.  Remaining is the chinsy looking size 'patch' on the lower front part of the jersey, but oh well.  The material is light weight that embroidering into it is kind of tough.  Gone was the uber annoying reflective piping on the sleeves.  The fight strap remained as it has been throughout the evolution of the practice jersey.  This is over all a great practice jersey very well received by the players in fit, form, and function.

While no team is required to wear a specific style of practice jersey, most teams are wearing the Edge 2.0.  No rule or CBA requires any sort of standard for a practice jersey.  You would think that all teams would move to this new lightweight, cool, and durable jersey right?  Wrong.  There is one team that refuses to be swayed by fancy practice jerseys.  One team will not budge and sticks to old rags like polyester is the fabric of the Gods themselves.  And appropriately, that team is the New Jersey Devils.  Because after all, the New Jersey Devils are like the 'New Jersey' of the NHL.  Polyester is king, like Ed Hardy T-shirts.  Fist Pump.

"A drug dealer wouldn't be caught dead in those polyester rags!" - Data from the movie The Goonies 

1 comment:

  1. John T Kemp, giving Saundrine a run for her money...