September 25, 2007
New duds judged a dud
By Randy Sportak
Traditionalists still call a hockey uniform a sweater.
Having now sampled the new, high-tech togs unveiled by all 30 NHL teams this year for a handful of pre-season games, Flames players are understanding why the word sweat is in sweater.
"My undershirt is just soaked," said forward Owen Nolan. "I find I'm changing them in between periods and a lot more frequently than before. I feel like I'm working out in a sauna."
The new uniform system unveiled by RBK has benefits. Sweaters are lighter, are apparently more wind resistant and repel moisture.
However, while moisture doesn't soak in from the outside, it doesn't release from inside the uniform. That means players are becoming saturated in their own sweat.
"With the other ones, you had holes and got more of a breeze in there — maybe that's why you got that drying out effect," said blueliner Cory Sarich. "These seem to heat you up more because there's not that two-way air flow.
"Besides, the jerseys don't feel much different than the old ones. I don't know if they've accomplished what they want. From talking to guys, I don't feel they're making a difference on the ice."
Moreover, players around the league are complaining their gloves are becoming so full of sweat they have to change them constantly.
Also, their skates are filling like buckets, and that's not a piece of equipment they want to change mid-game.
The complaints don't end there, either.
To be form fitting over equipment, the sweaters are made of a stretchier material. Uniforms are tied down in the back to prevent an opponent from pulling it over their head in a fight, but it's now possible to 'jersey' somebody in a brouhaha.
"I know with the old ones, my sweater could only be pulled about halfway up my neck, but these come up over my head," said Warren Peters, one of the few Flames to drop the gloves this pre-season. "It's like they're elastic."
Forward Eric Godard hasn't been in a scrap yet, so he hasn't experienced the impact first-hand.
"The old jersey trick has been around a long time," he said. "Usually in a fight, I'm not worrying about the jersey. I worry about the other guy. If I start getting beat up, then I'll be saying, 'It's not fair.' "
And then comes the aspect considered most controversial about the new uniform. Some players prefer the uniforms being tighter, but the majority are partial to the old unis. In the development stage, RBK worked with player input, but still skaters feel restricted.
"I feel skinnier, but that's not the look I'm going for," Sarich said. "It takes me longer to get my sweater on because the shoulder pads and the elbow pads get tangled up in the sleeves."
"They're really tight," Nolan said. "I used to wear a really loose shirt because I want the freedom."
But, nobody's expecting the league to go back to the old ways, so it's best to accept it.
"You're soaked. But whatever sells jerseys, I guess," said defenceman Anders Eriksson. "Anyway, just give me a jersey, and I'll work with it."
Besides, seeing as the sweaters are supposed to be 9% more wind resistant, players must be 9% faster.
"Oh yeah, can't you tell?" Eriksson laughed. "I almost feel slower because everybody was telling me I was gonna be faster."
So essentially, the moral of the story is you cannot please everybody all the time. Hopefully we all knew that already, though.