Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 11/15/11 at 12:07 PM ET
Despite the fact that the NHL has finally embraced a policy of discipline which places player safety and the reduction and prevention of head injuries in its proper player re-edjucating spotlight, the vast majority of pro, minor pro and even beer league hockey players still pick their helmets based on the tried and true “mirror test,” knowing that they’re quite literally swapping better levels of protection for the sake of looking cool—to the point that Igor Larionov and Wayne Gretzky, two of hockey’s greatest thinkers, chose to wear helmets that might not offer adequate protection from a fall, never mind a hockey hit.
The “mirror test” has led to something of a split in terms of products available in the hockey marketplace: if you’re willing to wear a bigger, heavier and slightly clunky-looking helmet, many models offer oodles of safety features and assurances that their products drastically reduce the incidence of concussions (no helmet is concussion-proof), or you can go for a very light helmet that shaves several levels of protection for the sake of a low-profile design.
Easton’s trying to fill the gap between helmets that are lightweight and slick-looking versus those which offer more protection with the cost of more weight and a Buick-style countenance with its S19 Z-Shock helmet last season and this year’s offering, the E 700, in doing so, Easton’s giving players who’ve simply believed that, “Lighter is better” an, “And just as protective as the Buicks, too,” all while offering what is the plain old coolest-looking helmet I’ve ever seen.
Easton sent me a S19 Z-Shock a year ago, and I can summarize its and the E 700’s features (you can read more about the E 700 here) pretty simply:
• First and foremost, the helmet’s construction is a “monocoque,” or a helmet that’s built from one single piece of polycarbonate plastic. This is a huge advantage over two or three-piece helmets as the plastic shell and EPP (expanded polypropylene foam) disperse the forces of a hit or impact via a stick, skate, elbow, knee or the ice across the entire surface of the helmet instead of simply attempting to absorb said energy in a manner that reduces acceleration (or “G’s”) by employing foams alone, all while doing away with pressure points and the sensation that one’s wearing a bucket on his or her head. The fact that Easton’s helmet is plastic helps, too, because the helmet won’t break from a heavy impact and will flex instead of snap like carbon fiber-based helmets tend to do.
• The helmet’s offered in a range of head sizes as a result, but the fit isn’t compromised as Easton’s worked with one of their companions under the Easton-Bell Sports umbrella, Giro, to design a helmet which adjusts via a set of baseball hat-style tabs near the back of the helmet, and while it takes some getting used to, it works remarkably well. Some of the comfort pads can be taken out of the helmet to adjust fit as well. It’s snug, well-balanced, highly breathable thanks to Giro’s influence upon the helmet’s design and remarkably light, to the point that it has that, “It feels like an extension of your body parts” feel.
Easton’s S19 Z-Shock helmet
• And, put bluntly, the helmet just looks awesome. Helmets, like cars, tend to offer a sort of face to the world based upon its forehead design, and the E 700 has low-slung vents and aggressive, swooping lines which give the helmet an almost snarling countenance. This helmet passes the mirror test with flying colors, but again, its design and fit allow the Easton to offer a helmet that’s slick-looking, supremely light in weight and as protective, if not more protective, as the heavier and more intricately padded helmets out there because its monocoque design disperses the forces of impacts longitudinally across its surface instead of transferring the energy and momentum thereof to the helmet in a perpendicular direction alone.
In addition to unveiling the E 700 recently, Easton made a huge announcement regarding their line of hockey skates:
EASTON-BELL SPORTS CREATES EASTON SPEED INSTITUTE
Easton Commits to New Level of Skate Innovation
Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. – a leading designer, developer and marketer of branded sports equipment and accessories under the Easton, Bell, Giro, Riddell and Blackburn brands – today announced its largest and most aggressive commitment in skate innovation through its recent purchase of MLX Skate’s technology. The newly created Easton Speed Institute will combine MLX’s innovative skate insights with Easton’s design and engineering prowess, leading to a new skate concept expected to be in market for the 2013 hockey season.
“As a brand, Easton is at its best when it reinvents categories with game-changing innovation,” said Chris Zimmerman, president of Easton brands. “We believe there is a unique opportunity to provide a new approach to the art and speed of skating. I am excited that Easton is committing to the skate category in a way that parallels our leadership in hockey and lacrosse sticks, baseball and softball bats, and helmets.”
Dave Cruikshank, four-time Olympian speed skater and founder of MLX, has joined the Easton Speed Institute as Chief of Speed, bringing with him a lifetime of work, skate research and development, and a new approach to making hockey players faster. As an international skater for 16 years, Cruikshank has achieved numerous skating accomplishments including: Junior World Champion 500m; Olympic Trials Gold Medalist; World Cup Medalist; and four-time USA Olympic Team Member.
“The Easton Speed Institute is about innovating a fresh approach to hockey skate designs that speaks to optimizing speed and creating the ultimate skater’s skate. The Easton Speed Institute will reinvent how a hockey skate performs, and I am thrilled to be a part of this new team that will create game-changing products,” said Cruikshank.
“Bringing Dave and MLX’s technology into the Easton family gives us the ability to reinvent skates in a way no one has before. Dave’s remarkable insights into the world of power skating are an exceptional compliment to Easton’s expertise in performance engineering and design,” said Zimmerman.
Cruikshank founded MLX to optimize the potential of both National Hockey League players and grassroots athletes by designing superior equipment with the key elements of comfort, protection and performance. The company’s roots are based in using a powerful new approach to skate performance that has been known to speed skaters for the past two decades. With the development of Easton’s new skate, the MLX skate brand will no longer be marketed.
Cruikshank will be joined by Easton veteran Dmitry Rusakov, who will lead a team of designers, engineers, developers and biomechanical experts to drive innovation. The Easton Speed Institute will be located at Easton’s headquarters in Van Nuys, California and in West Allis, Wisconsin.
MLX’s skates were and are stratospherically high-performing products, but they were all but unavailable to the general public
and priced at a level where some players could more easily purchase two pairs of top-of-the-line skates instead of one pair of MLX’s
. Easton has access to greater quantities of the composite materials MLX uses in its skates, bigger production facilities and much better distribution abilities, and while they already offer a superb line of their own real carbon composite skates, their acquisition of MLX is the equivalent of a major shoe company teaming up with near genius-level shoemakers whose products are nothing less than works of art.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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