NHL players and equipment managers might have tolerated their new unforms being unsightly relative to their predecessors, but what if they not only don’t work as marketed (repelling moisture, making players more comfortable) but actually make player performance worse? That would appear to be precisely the case. Last week’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette alerted its readers to the disconcerting development that some Penguins have nearly drowned while dressed in Reebok’s new threads.
“They do what they were designed to do, as far as repelling the water,” defenseman Mark Eaton said. “But we’ve found, the last three or four days of wearing them, that, when the water’s repelled, it has nowhere to go but into your skates and gloves.”
Water that is repelled has to go somewhere. Apparently it’s all going from uniform tops into players gloves, and from the form-fitting socks directly down into players’ boots. “By the end of the second [period] or the start of the third, your skates are sloshing around and you have to change your gloves because they’re [soaked],” Eaton added.
Here’s Gary Roberts’ take:
“My hands are soaked, my feet are soaked,” he said. “I feel like it’s May, in the playoffs, I’m sweating so much. That seems to be a complaint with a lot of guys.”
Mark Recchi also isn’t being quiet about the new mess. He noted that the remarkable amount of moisture now inundating players’ skates is likely to lead to their breaking down sooner, requiring replacement. Elite boots commonly worn by NHLers cost more than $500 a pair.
“Recchi suggested that, although some complications caused by the new sweaters will be evident immediately — like how some players will have to alter their in-game routines to deal with unduly wet equipment — others might not be apparent for a while.
“My gloves never got soaked like [they do now],” he said. “They’re literally drenched by the end of an hour[-long] practice.
“I’m going to have to have two pairs of gloves ready [for games]. I’ve never done that. I’ve always used one pair a game. Some guys are used to that, but that’s going to be different. Maybe I’ll have to change my socks between periods, which I don’t like doing. You start sloshing.
“I think you’ll see skates break down quicker because of it; they’ll absorb more [perspiration], because it’s all going down into your skate and your socks.”
Back in the good ‘ole days of tradition, hockey equipment managers had heavy lifting to do at games’ end each night loading and hauling wet gear from arena to bus to airport back to arenas in new cities — in the middle of the night. So from the sounds of things this fall, Reebok has actually managed to make the jobs of some of the hardest working men in hockey harder. If Mark Recchi’s right, equipment guys could soon be faced with a doubling of their gear packing gigs each night. Additionally, the increase in moisture about gear and rooms is an increased health risk to the players, especially in winter.