Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Remembering Butchy

Meeting Butch
          It seems like everyone who knew Butchy remembers the first time they met him. For me, I was working in my first hockey job, selling gear. The owner asked me to help this big, friendly guy find a new pair of skates. He was affable . . . nope, that doesn't even come close . . . he was enthusiastically gregarious. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I'd known him for years. Butchy told me I was fitting him for his last pair of free skates. Certain that my penny-pinching employer wasn't giving anyone anything for free I asked, "How's that?"
         Butch told me the NHL was paying for them. Given the big guy's . . . erm, decidedly non-athletic build, it didn't make sense until he told me he was an official. Working the big show is something a guy could brag about. That wasn't Butch. He just was making conversation. Having met him about 5 minutes earlier I knew he wasn't bragging. I instantly liked him, but little did I know how much I'd come to appreciate him.
          I've been thinking a lot about Butch these last days. I came to a realization. The presence of a referee is not unlike that of a waiter:
  • A bad one often ruins the evening.
  • A good one is nearly invisible.
  • A great one almost always improves the event
          Butch's presence on the ice made every game better. He always brought a smile. He was quick with a compliment. Somehow he made time to visit guys on the bench without missing a call on the ice. He did so much more than just that though.

He Kept Us Sane
It's a rare referee who has such control over a game that participants never seem to lose their control. In several years goal-tending in a league where Butch was frequently our referee, this was certainly the case. Butch was always quick with the right word or proper question to diffuse a situation before it actually became one. Guys who were bordering on angry often ended up laughing at themselves as Butch escorted them to the sin bin.
          This was a phenomenon I strictly attribute to Butch. Games he didn't ref those seasons were very different. One kid, certainly a bit immature to be reffing angry adult-league players, was famous for escalating tensions on the ice. When a player questioned a call the kid tended to resort to swearing and name calling. Nothing diminishes tensions like being heckled by the official. Well perhaps nothing except having a guy return to the bench, his sentence served, answering his own question, "You know what that ref said to me? He called me a . . . " (Sorry, if you're not accustomed to sarcasm I likely lost you there . . . also I'm not actually sorry about being sarcastic).
          Even without that type of provocation things often went sideways without Butch. One memorable game sans Butch involved all ten skaters on the ice in an all out brawl. While ten guys pummeled one another with more than harsh words I looked on from my end. The other goalie, Al, skated to my side of center, away from the fracas. With a huge smile on his face, he tossed off his gloves. We mocked our teammates by attempting to pull the jerseys over each other's heads.
          When Butchy was around, things like that just didn't happen. I remember one game when Butch was partnered with a less talented partner (to protect his identity I shall call this other official Blind Mustachio). Playing defense rather than keeper that night, I was the victim of a terrible call. Mark, a guy on the other team had gotten behind me and was breaking to our net. I was so far behind him I probably couldn't have hit him with my stick if I threw it. However, as Mark drew back the puck to shoot, I lunged. This was done with the desperate hope my stick would appear in his peripheral vision and somehow terrify him. I doubt he even saw it leering at him from ten feet back. But lo and behold, he managed to trip himself up, lost the puck, lost his feet and crashed headlong into the boards. I picked up the puck; a whistle instantly blew. I skated to Mark, a longtime friend, to ask if he was OK. Blind Mustachio pointed in our general vicinity yelling, "Get in the box."
          Both of us looked at each other unsure to whom he was talking. In unison we asked, "Who me?"
          Blind Mustachio pointed to me, "Two minutes tripping."
           I don't remember another call so bad that a member of the team it benefited protested, but Mark complained even more vehemently than I. "I just tripped! He wasn't anywhere near me."
           "Easiest call I'll make all night. I could have seen that from a hundred miles away." the ref replied.
          I went to the box, no doubt shaking my head. When my team managed to clear the puck, Butch skated slowly by. He showed me thumbs up, thumbs down then gave a questioning shrug. I replied with an enthusiastic thumbs down. He gave an apologetic smile and skated back to work. Later when I had returned to the bench and Butch was patrolling the blue line he told me, "I figured that was a bad one, Scotty. I never heard you complain about a call."
          In another instance, the other team managed to skate for almost a minute with an extra player on the ice. This wasn't the sort of thing Butch tended to miss, but it was an odd situation. Somehow the sixth guy jumped on the ice during the first shift. Even with the extra skater, my team kept them pinned in the other end. I was screaming, "Six skaters on white! Six skaters on white!" At the other end of the ice all anyone could have heard was Charlie Brown's dad swearing loudly. When there was a whistle and shift change I skated to my center to inform him of the missed infraction.
          Minutes later when the other team finally visited our end, Butchy skated to the side of my net. The action was pretty lively in our end. I was trying to focus on the game. Admittedly, I can be a bit chirpy when I'm in net. But, I tend to quietly down when giving the appropriate attention to action near my net (go figure). Nonetheless, as players and the puck were cycling around me, Butch said, "Six guys for a full minute huh? Your team just had the worst line change I ever saw. There were like eighteen guys on the ice there and I let you slide. Can we call it even?"
          In the midst of the action, he came to my net to essentially crack a joke. Even with imminent shots which needed to be saved, I couldn't help but laugh. That was classic Butch and it was how he kept tempers cool.

He Kept us Safe
          Most of my experience on the ice with Butch was as a goalie. Even in net I'd hear him warning guys, "Heads up," or "Take it easy." He wasn't just there to enforce the rules. He was there to keep players from injuries which could be avoided. He was pretty good at it in my opinion.
          I was extremely thankful that he was there one night. I took point-blank snapper right in the gap between my pads and thigh guard. The bruise it created would eventually fall short of wrapping all the way around my thigh by about half an inch. Needless to say it hurt. I had come out pretty far to make the save. Immediately, the pain reduced me to crawling. The puck had rebounded toward the open side. I was far too tenacious (that's goalie lingo for stupid) to give up. I was less worried about the oddity of my current orientation, which left my ribs, legs, and neck rather exposed, than I was about the imminent threat of a goal against. I crabbed painfully toward the battle for the puck. Butch spotted my predicament at once and blew the whistle. With my relief dawned the realization that I probably would have taken a bigger thrashing if I attempted to make another save.

We didn't always pay him back in kind
          My favorite two stories about messing with a ref involve Butch. They both go together. I attest that they both were unintentional.
          The first story involved a breakaway. My opponent was skating hard. He shot from pretty far out. I gloved the shot. As it should be, he continued to skate--crashing my net. So, I held up my glove. The act was about 50% "Ha! Stopped you!" and 50% "Please don't fall on me and tear my hamstring." Seeing my Statue of Liberty impression, Butch blew the whistle. The shooter threw his stick in the air yelling a single agitated obscenity. I turned around to see that the puck was actually resting a foot behind me. Without the premature whistle my opponent would have had an unimpeded path to the net.
         Butchy skated to my net, clearly chagrined at his bad whistle. "Why'd you hold your hand up, Scotty? I thought you had the puck."
         I apologized, "Sorry, I thought I had the puck too."
         Not coincidentally, the second story also involved a breakaway. In fact it was one week later when almost the exact same situation materialized. I faced a shot on a breakaway. It hit my glove, but as the guy crashed the net, I wasn't sure where the puck ended up. Not wanting to cause Butch another faux pas, I looked everywhere to determine the location of the evil little piece of rubber. It wasn't behind me, but I had no idea where it could have landed. After an excruciatingly long time, Butch blew the whistle. He skated over to me and asked, "Where's the puck?"
         I stood up. I looked in the normal places pucks try to hide. I tried to shake it out of my pads. Eventually I shrugged. "I have no idea."
         "Open your glove."
         I did. To my surprise the puck was there. Butch shook his head. "You're killing me, Scotty."
         Yeah, sorry about that Butch.

Farewell, my friend
         I'd say I was privileged to count Butch as a friend. But honestly, it wasn't as rare a thing as privilege implies. Butch was a friend to almost everyone he met. He was that rare person who loved everyone and found that love reciprocated. Still he was such a kindhearted, genuine person that even lacking any rarity, it was a privilege.
         A bit of light seems to have faded from this world without Butch. The smile Butch always wore leaves a void which will be impossible to fill completely. Butch's time on earth was all too brief. His departure was too sudden. Our hearts feel slow at the random, nonsensical nature of his demise. But, I don't think that our hearts have emptied nearly as much as they were previously filled from knowing Butch.
          I found myself breaking the news of Butch's passing to a customer as I was sharpening his skates. Like me, he found it heart wrenching. He was clearly broken up. But before I finished his skates we'd swapped several remembrances of Butch. We were both laughing. In the end he left smiling. And in the end I was smiling as well. Maybe that's the whole take away here. Yeah, if we sit and ruminate on the fact that he's gone, it's like a kick in the gut. It's going to make us sad. It might make us angry. It won't be pleasant. But if we remember him, that bit of light which seems to have faded from the world is still there. Every time we remember him with a fond smile and a chuckle, there's still a bit of Butch in the world.
          Farewell, my friend. I'm thankful to have been among the privileged many.

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© 2016 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I bet you didn't know you were breaking your skates!

Here's a really quick tip:

Most people take off their skates like they would a pair of shoes. They don't even realize that they are pushing on the weakest part of the boot: the tendon guard. It's an issue that every brand has struggled with at times. Some are better than others. Some will fall off no matter how carefully you treat them. But no matter what, the tendon guard should never be used as a handle to take off your skates.

Instead, use both hands to push on either side of the boot. That way you don't have to worry about them ending up like this:

Of course if you do manage to break a tendon guard, we can make a much prettier repair than the one pictured above . . . it's just one of the many things we fix at Rocket Skate.

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© 2015 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Basketball Size Tape Rolls and Free Sticks!?

There is an odd, hockey myth floating about—if you bring a ball of tape the size of a basketball to the shop you get a free stick. It's been going strong for at least 8 years. That's how long I've been hearing it at least once a month from some poor kid who has taken it for truth. I can only guess that some older kid, perhaps a one-time believer who was pranked by an older kid himself, hands the story down to the next generation. I imagine the conversation goes something like this:



Two kids, hockey players, are waiting for a ride. The younger one is peeling the tape off of his stick. The older one puts away his phone, seems bored.

Hey, don't throw that tape away.

Why not? It's not good for nothin'

You seriously don't know? I'll take it if you don't
want it.

I know I can dangle better than you if I put new
tape on my stick. What do you want it for?

You can't even dangle in your dreams. I shouldn't
even tell you how to get a free stick with old tape.

                                                         (jumping up and dancing about)
What! A free stick? Tell me! Tell me! You gotta tell me!

You're an idiot. I'm not going to tell you

(drops to his knees to beg)
Aw come on, you gotta tell me. Please, please, please!

Fine, but don't tell anyone I told you about it.


You have to promise. I'll pulverize you if you tell.

Fine. I promise. Now tell me.

OK, here's the deal. If you bring a ball of used hockey
tape the size of a basketball to the hockey shop they
have to give you a free stick.

(Standing up)
Really? Which hockey shop?

Oh, all of them do it. It's an industry requirement.
They have to recycle the tape and give you a stick
when you bring a ball that big. The EPA makes them
do it. The shops don't like people to know about it,
that's why you can't tell anyone I told you.

                                                        (more dancing about)
                                               Awesome! I'm gonna tell everyone.

                                                          (smiles knowingly)
                                               Hey, just remember to leave my name out


Getting the entire community involved would make for a lot of victims in this prank

There are a couple of devious elements to this myth. First, and most obvious: there is no hockey store giving away a free stick for a ball of garbage. What would the benefit be to the store? Why would they want used tape? Anyone who thought this through, ergo anyone over the age of say 8 to 10 years, would realize that this is a hoax.

The second element is the truly clever one. A basketball sized roll of tape doesn't seem impossibly large. A basketball isn't something we think of a big or heavy. However, if you put this into perspective, the amount of tape in a thirty-inch circumference ball is pretty staggering. My best estimate is that the ball would take approximately 100 rolls of tape to complete. The total length of tape in such a ball would be in the ballpark of a mile and a half long.

So let's put all of this into a final perspective. The end goal of this myth is to prank the younger foolish kid into hauling around an ever growing ball of trash. If he miraculously makes it to the end, he has a ball which takes up about a third of his hockey bag and weighs almost twenty five pounds. When he lugs it into the hockey shop his reward will be a blank stare followed by the people behind the counter asking him, “Who told you that kid?”

Of course the kids can never answer the question when they come in the shop. It's always, “I just heard,” or “someone told me.” The only flaw in the prank is the perpetrator of it misses the final letdown. For the poor kid who has collected tape for five years, begging scraps from his teammates and carried significant extra tonnage in his bag the only bit of grace is that the older devious kid isn't about to laugh at him.

Anyway, here's the deal from my end. We don't give away free sticks for tape balls. However, if you bring your old tape in the shape and size of an adult hockey stick to the shop. We will give you a free basketball. (Please note the important details below):

  1. Your tape stick must feature a shaft length of at least 52 inches
  2. The blade may be left or right handed, but must feature the authentic Ovechkin curve. We will measure the lie, depth and curve of the stick to verify
  3. You must unravel and re-assemble the tape stick in the presence of a shop employee so that we can verify the stick was indeed made completely of tape
  4. Your tape stick must have a flex rating of at least 65
  5. You must bring your sales receipts showing purchase of at least 75 rolls of tape from Rocket Skate
  6. Your basketball will be delivered to your provided mailing address as we do not stock basketballs. Shipping time will take anywhere from 5 days to 18 years. We cannot be responsible for items lost in transit
As long as we're on the subject of tape, we're still carrying the same top quality tape, but our prices have been reduced. Clear and White are now $2.50 a roll and Black is only $3 a roll (those prices are even more awesome that you think because they include tax).

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© 2015 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Road to the Doghouse

She sat beside me in the car as it crept slowly eastward on the snow-covered tarmac of I-70. Traffic was light, but that was because of the blinding blizzard which we were braving. Only the intrepid and foolhardy were making this trek. I'd count myself among the former; she would have insisted I was the later. I'd mistakenly believed conditions would be better once we'd made our subterranean crossing of the Great Divide through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Disappointingly, the swirling barrage of white did not abate on the Atlantic side of the continent. My only real fear was that they'd close the highway before we made it though.

“I don't know how to make you understand,” I told her.

“Maybe I don't want to understand.” she replied. “Maybe I just want to take a weekend trip without the car smelling like cat urine. . .”

“Hey, my gear doesn't smell like cat urine.”

“ . . . maybe I want you to think about our safety instead of about missing your game. Maybe I would have rather taken a sick day tomorrow and skied another day than ride home in a blizzard because you want to play hockey. And you're right, cat urine smells better than your gear.”

“That's a lot of maybes. You don't sound too sure of what you want.” I shouldn't have said it. Even though my tone was even, I'd carefully aimed the words knowing they'd push a button.

She was quiet for a moment. The only sounds were the rush of air from the Land Cruiser's defroster, the hiss of snowflakes bouncing off the windshield and the crush of snow under the tires. I always turned the music off while driving in the snow. This was partly because I enjoyed the silence of a snowstorm, partly because I wanted to concentrate on any loss of traction in the car.

Almost a minute passed before she muttered, “You planned this. Otherwise you wouldn't have brought your gear. You're a jerk.”

In twelve years of marriage, it certainly wasn't the worst thing she'd called me. My reply was halfhearted, “Sorry. But you are giving me too much credit if you think I control the weather. Remember, I packed my gear so we could maximize our time skiing.”

“Woohoo! So we got what, an extra fifteen minutes of skiing? Explain it too me again why our personal safety is less important than a game?”

I sighed. The number of times I'd explained it was beyond counting. “I don't want to fight.”

“Neither do I. I just want to understand.”

“A moment ago you said you didn't want to understand.”

“I said maybe I didn't want to understand. Anyway, I'm allowed to change my mind.”

“I don't know what there is to tell you that I haven't already said. It's about more than just me. There are twenty or thirty guys expecting me to be there. If I don't show up the game will be ruined. Those guys all paid money to play. It's unfair to everyone if I don't make it.”

“And those twenty or thirty guys are more important to you than I am?”

“Of course not, I didn't spend the weekend skiing with any of them.”

I don't know if she accepted this answer, but she moved on. “They seriously cannot play without you?”

“The game is no fun without goalies.”

“I still think you're just being conceited. There's got to be someone else who can do it.”

“Honey, I called eight goalies before we left and none of them could fill in. There was no one left to call.”

“I know. You were on your phone every time we were riding the lift instead of talking to me.”

“That's a serious exaggeration and you know it. Besides if I hadn't been on the phone you'd be mad at me for not trying to find a substitute. You need to have more realistic expectations. I planned to come home in time for my game from the start and we're just sticking to the plan. I did try to change it for you it didn't work out. It isn't like any of the guys on my team have goalie gear, you know.”

She acquiesced, turning to look out the passenger window after mumbling, “I just think it would have been nice to stay one more night. I was looking forward to a good dinner, some time in the hot tub and powder covered slopes in the morning. If you'd rather play hockey until midnight then get up early for work tomorrow morning, that's your call. But clearly your priorities need some adjustments . . . whatever.”

Whatever, it was a clear signal that we were done speaking. She said she didn't want to fight, but couldn't resist a jab at the end. There was no way for me to explain it. She didn't play; she'd never understand. It was nearly inexplicable to those who didn't love the game. She'd never even liked it as far as I knew. Honestly, she probably viewed the game as “the other woman.”

I pulled up to the house an hour and a half later. The snow had let up at Idaho Springs and though it was cold when got home, the only frost was coming from the passenger seat. As the garage door slowly yawned open, I thought she might finally speak. The house rule was we never went to bed angry. Since she'd certainly be asleep before I got home from my game, an apology seemed in order. This was not the case. As soon as I pulled into the garage, she exited the car, retrieved her luggage from the back and wordlessly lugged it inside. Apparently the fact that she was going to bed and I was not, was a loophole. This night there was no we.

It was almost ten o'clock. I wanted to go inside, to sort things out. It seemed the rational thing to do. But my game started in thirty three minutes. I was barely going to make it. I hit the steering wheel with my fist. I knew if I went in there was going to be a fight. It would be an act of God if that fight only took thirty minutes. There just wasn't time. How could I fix something in ten minutes that I hadn't been able to explain in twelve years?

I turned up the stereo, jammed the Land Cruiser into reverse and roared out of the garage in a rage. After a near miss with my neighbor's passing car. I drove quickly, but a little more calmly, to the rink. The only solace I would find this night would be in the game. Yes, the game would clear my head. I actually hoped for a lot of action around my net. I could use some jostling in the crease. A chance to shove some people violently out of my way—yeah, that would make me feel better.

I pulled up to the rink with twenty minutes until faceoff. Perfect. I'd have fifteen minutes to get dressed once I lugged my gear inside. I tossed my leg pads over my shoulder, hefted my gear bag out of the trunk and picked up my sticks. Toting fifty pounds of gear, I crossed the parking lot, my anger subsiding into thoughts of the game. I passed through the rink doors where a sleepy looking kid manned the front desk.

I asked him, “What locker room for The Mighty Drunks?”

He lazily scanned a sheet on the desk before asking, “The Mighty Drunks?”


“Sorry Dude, your team played last night.”

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© 2015 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Holy Palms? I have all the answers here!

Did you know that those annoying holes in your glove occur because of the tape on the top of your stick? Yep, the combination of the adhesive and the abrasive fibers in hockey tape is excellent for making short work of your gloves. We'd all probably agree a little extra ventilation isn't the worst thing. Less material also might mean there is less glove to smell bad. But the eventual result is that parts of your hands start sticking out of your gloves, and that's not comfortable or safe.

I feel your pain. I used to blow through a pair of palms in about 9 months. This wouldn't have been so bad except that it took me 8 months to break in the typical pair. To make things worse, the hockey industry goes to great lengths to ensure they're no longer producing the gloves you like when your old ones wear out. Which forces you to try something new which takes another 8 months to break-in. It's a cycle of bitter disappointment.

Of course you have several choices to fix this issue. Just playing until the gloves turn into really odd wrist bands is a common one, though not one I personally endorse. Duct tape is neither unheard of or comfortable. Buying a new pair of gloves every nine months happens, but it's expensive. Fear not! I have three better options:

  1. Fix your worn out gloves
  2. Try a Command Grip
  3. Change your tape

Fix your worn out gloves
Yeah, we can fix your gloves with a brand new palm. Our typical turn-around on a full re-palm is two days. Repalming replaces the entire palm including the fingers and thumb.

We offer a couple choices on palm material. Traditional Clarino palms with reinforcement go for $30 per glove. Clarino is the high end synthetic suede material that most gloves come with. If you're getting a year out of your original palms, you'll get about the same from this type of palm.

We also offer digital leather palms. Digital leather is an engineered material which was designed in response to NATO and British Defense Ministry requirements. It is exceptionally comfortable and insanely durable. I had a pair of digital palms last two and a half years. In fact, both gloves fell apart and I still didn't have any holes in the palms. It's $36 per glove for re-palm with digital leather.

Try a Command Grip
Tacki-Mac makes a product that most of you probably always thought was just for people too lazy or dumb to tape their own stick. What you didn't know is that it is made to offer excellent grip without destroying your glove palm. The Command grip wears out over a several months without putting holes in your palms. It's pretty easy to install and replace as well. They come in a vast array of colors and cost $5.99 (much cheaper than a new palm.

Change your tape
There are a couple options for taping the top of your stick which are much better than traditional hockey tape. Powerflex has been an option for a long time. However, the issue with Powerflex is that it gets squished in your bag and lumped into one big mess with no end to start peeling from. This makes me sad.

We've started carrying cohesive gauze tape. Cohesive tape only sticks to itself and miraculously does this without adhesive. This makes it a a great choice to keep your gloves from wearing out. I'm not convinced that it works as well as the Tack-Mac grip, but it does also come in a vast array of colors and is installed with a technique which hockey players should be well accustomed to using.

So there you go. We can fix your old pair and you can save your new pair from an untimely death. There is one more possibility which came to mind . . . you could retire from hockey when your gloves wear out, but we'd all think less of you for it.

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© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change seems difficult. . . but is it really?

OK, most of them aren't this bad . . . some are close though
Being old school carries its own brand of cool. There's a certain respect reserved for a guy who shows up with a Cooper helmet, Daoust Skates and a pair of all-leather Flak gloves that ride halfway to his armpits. When he falls on his head and ends his adult hockey career with a concussion abetted by his twenty-five-year-old helmet, that respect quickly turns to pity. We don't have to like it, but sometimes we have to suck it up and make a change.

I'm dealing some change at Rocket Skate right now. I've had two employees who have been with me for three years each. Sophie is a recent college grad who took her first career job in Georgia (a tad too far for a commute to Lafayette, Colorado). Ally is beginning her college career majoring in music and playing women's hockey (which doesn't leave much time for work). I'm proud of both of them as they move forward in life and embrace change themselves. On the other hand, it's difficult for me to replace their six years of experience. They're also like family after three years which is even harder. So yeah, I'm feeling a bit resistant to change right now.

If the protection in your gloves is bamboo things have changed
Of course that's not the kind of change that I mean to discuss here. More relevantly, new elbow pads have been on a lot of minds lately. I've had a number of adults and kids in the last few weeks who looked at elbow pads and simply couldn't make a decision--to the point that it's even amusing. With most of them trying on half a dozen models before becoming frustrated since nothing felt like their old pair, it seems like they just might be Primadonnas, right?

Actually I can totally sympathize. We get really attached to our old gear. It's familiar, it's comfortable and, in general, humans dislike change. I myself clung to my first pair of elbow pads longer than any other piece of my worn out gear. Unlike current models, they had no bicep protection. They were literally half of what elbow pads are now. When I finally bought a newer models I quickly developed an irrational fear of this newfangled addition. They were as uncomfortable as a that pea I once endured under 15 mattresses. Thus they hung in the garage for many weeks, unused.

Eventually, I was run down by a rather large player twice in a row. On the first bump he managed to re-position my elbow pad. In an act of impressive dexterity he managed to crush me a second time as I was still readjusting that elbow pad. The second collision sent me down and knocked me on my still un-padded elbow in the process. A big fan of not having broken elbows, I wore the new pair the next time I played. I was fearful I would be a drooling pool of insanity before the game was over. I forgot that I had new gear on by the second shift.

So what's the big deal? Why are we so opposed to change? I have guys who refuse to try a composite stick even though some of them in the shop are as cheap as a wood stick. Do they realize they're using hundred year old technology?

There are other guys clinging to the shreds of what were a nice pair of skates twenty-five years ago. I'm sure they're comfortable. So are a pair of slippers, but you cannot skate in slippers. You can barely skate in a pair of skates that are so old they offer all the support of a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops.

I constantly see helmets from brands that haven't existed for ten or twenty years, shin guards that adults first used in junior high and gloves that look like they should be autographed by Rocket Richard or Gordie Howe.

The craziest part of it is many of these guys are perfectly willing to shell out $5000 for a new mountain bike. I might be old school when it comes to bikes. My thought is for that amount it should have a gas tank with the word Honda or Yamaha on it. The closest thing to a pedal you should find on a bike that expensive should be a kick starter.

We all know hockey isn't cheap. But that's just part of the problem. Fear is often the biggest factor--specifically fear of change.
"But I wore that helmet in my high school championship!"
"Great! By all means put it in a polycarbonate box on the shelf in the den, but don't keep using it to protect your brain!"

New gear feels different It's true. But it also has a lot of advantages over your old stuff. Here's a few things to thing about:

  1. Helmets have about a five year lifespan For years they've had a sticker with an expiration date. If your old bucket doesn't have this sticker, your helmet's protective capability is significantly below par. Use your brain on this one while you're still able to decide how much your cranium is worth. If it's worth nothing, keep using an antique.
  2. Wood sticks are actually more expensive The last time I played with them, they lasted me three to five weeks before the blades were reduced to wood chips (it's illegal to play with a chipped blade;the ref will kick you out eventually). A middle of the road composite stick costing $99 will last me about six months--almost five times as many games as the $35 wood stick. Composite feels better and works better too.
  3. New protective gear is better It's lighter, more protective, more comfortable and smells much nicer than what you're using now. It's going to take you two or three shifts to realize this, then you will wonder why you suffered through the old gear for so long.
  4. Skates have come a long way Even in the last last few years there have been significant advances. The softer your skates, the more of your energy is wasted. You're sacrificing mobility, agility and even stamina playing in a worn out skate. Many older skates are so worn it's impossible to turn tightly. You might not be a good skater, but you can be a better skater if your skates aren't holding you back. We even sell some phenomenal skates featuring perfect fit with ZERO break in time.

Interestingly as I was driving to work on the day of Sophie's last shift, a snow white dove flew across the street right in front of my car. I've been around for a while and I've never seen a white dove in the wild (let alone in suburbia). Even if you aren't a spiritual person, you likely know that the dove is a symbol of peace. While this one didn't have an olive branch in its beak (as far as I could see), it did feel like a little reminder from the Almighty that everything was going to be alright. I've found myself reinvigorated and excited about the challenges of training and developing my new employees, who I fully believe are going to be awesome at their job.

So here's the bottom line. Stop being afraid! For the sake of all that's good, you're a hockey player! Why are you afraid to try something new? I'm gonna make it easier for you too. Just mention this article during August 2014 and I'm gonna give you 10% off one piece of new gear just for acting like a hockey player by being brave. I'm pretty sure you're not going to regret it. Much the opposite, it might reinvigorate your tired hockey game. Personally, I seem to go on a scoring tear every time I get a new piece of gear.

Stay in the loop with other cool people who know what's happening by liking us on facebook -www.facebook.com/rocketskate

Find us on the web at www.rocketskate.net

© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Monday, January 27, 2014

VH Footwear: The last skates you’ll ever need to buy?

Rocket Skate recently became one of the first dealers for VH Footwear’s hockey skates.
I know what you’re thinking--what the heck is VH Footwear? It wasn’t long ago that I wasn’t sure either. I did some research and ordered a pair of the skates for myself. While the VH brand isn’t well known in hockey, carrying them was a no brainer decision once I spent about 5 minutes on the skates. There’s nothing on the market at any price that even comes close to these skates.

VH What?
VH Footwear founder Scott Van Horne has his master’s degree in biomechanics. His thesis was, “The Biomechanics of Skating.” He probably knows more about how your feet and legs work when skating than you might ever want to know. In case you don’t care about his education, he’s also got a great chunk of experience to go with it. VH is fairly well known for high end cycling shoes. More importantly they are the top brand for speed skate boots. In fact, more than half of current speed skating world records were attained in a pair of VH speed skate boots. That makes him a skate guru as far as I’m concerned.

You might be thinking speed skates aren’t hockey skates. You’re correct and I applaud your skills of deduction. However, in 2009 Scott Van Horne was the skate designer on the MLX project formed by David Cruikshank. As a skating coach for NHL players, Cruikshank was appalled at poor fit of even high end hockey skates which kept his NHLers from achieving their full potential. Thus MLX was created to improve the fit and performance of hockey skates. By 2010, MLX with Mario Lemieux as their spokesperson had a dozen NHLers the Van Horne designed MLX skates. By 2011 the MLX brand was purchased by Easton. After a significant decaffeination of the product’s finer points, what little was left of the MLX became their flagship Skate selling at $800.

After the MLX experiment, Van Horne launched his own hockey boot in 2013. Even introducing his skates late in a shortened the season, several NHLers were skating in them before the playoffs ended. The current 2013/14 season has at least half a dozen NHL goalies in VH skates and two or three times as many skaters.

What’s so special about ‘em?
There are a number of features VH skates boast that no other skate can match. They are the lightest boots on the market today. They are the only one-piece carbon fiber boot on the market. While other composite boots are not moldable, the VH boots are the most moldable boots ever made (and the best fitting as the result). VH features the industry’s best warranty and is the only brand offering post warranty manufacturer repairs. No other brand offers the level of customization or quick turnaround on custom boots available to the general public that VH does.

With weight being championed by every brand, VH’s hockey boots are the undisputed king. They aren’t just light; they are staggeringly light. I weighed my pair of size 9 VH skates at 726 grams in a size 9 with 10% taller than standard Step Steel. Compare this to Bauer’s second place APX2 skates at 766 grams with Fusion runners to put into perspective just how amazingly light these boots are. The VH boot, one size larger that the APX2 with the same lightweight Fusion runners would be a whopping 90 grams lighter than Bauer’s best effort! If that doesn’t astound you, let me put it this way. Some entry level composite hockey sticks approach the weight of a VH skate with the Fusion runners installed.

While weight is what everyone talks about in skates these days, the single most important factor in any skate is fit. If someone made a pair of skates that weighed 50 grams but fell feel tight as a vise or loose as sandals, weight is irrelevant. Nothing on the market can even come close to the fit of VH’s boots at the moment. While competitor’s composite boots fit a limited number of foot shapes, the VH skates are simply the most moldable skates ever. When heated up, they become so soft, the shape can be easily manipulated with bare hands. In fact the heat molding process is different than with any other skate. Once warmed up, the skates are laced loosely and wrapped in an ace bandage. The pressure from the ace bandage is enough to pull the entire boot into the shape the player’s feet including arch support.

After molding the skates fit perfectly. Zero break in time is great, but these go beyond that. The best description of how they fit is a sock. There is a comfortable pressure all over the foot. There are no hot spots or gaps in the fit. I bought a pair of VH goalie skates, played in them twice before getting back to my broken in, good as new Graf G35 player skates. The Grafs, which I previous thought were a nice pair of skates, suddenly felt like a pair of shoe boxes taped to my feet. They simply couldn’t compare to the fit of the VH skates. That’s why I now own two pair of VH skates (and no Grafs).

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to buy a second pair of VH skates. I’m to the point with the rigors of age and bad knees where I don’t know if my hockey career will last another few years or another few months. While the fit sold me on the fact that I needed a new pair, the promise of durability sealed the decision. VH Footwear’s 6 month warranty is double that of all the major skate makers. The big boys tend to beg off many issues by covering only materials and workmanship; VH’s warranty is “will fix with the damage without question.” If that isn’t enough, once the warranty has expired, if anything fails, you can send a picture to the company for a repair quote.

While VH doesn’t recommend custom skates for anyone without serious issues, they do make a full custom boot. The heat-molding is so good that it will perfectly encompass feet from the widest to narrowest, allow for most bunions, spurs and other freakish deformities you may have. One of the best things about the skates is the ability to heat fit them more than once. If you do have a deformity the size of a doorknob, we can always warm up a pair and let you try them on with no obligation.

In the event that they don’t fit, VH can make you a special pair to accommodate that hideous growth. Custom skates start at $899. As long as you’re at it, you can have the skates made in any color when you do customs. You know you always wanted a pair of red and yellow hockey skates, right? Turn around time is as little as two weeks on customer orders. The only other brand that offers custom orders takes two months if you’re really lucky and up to six months if you fall more in the normal range.

Another nice feature is that you can have any holder you’d like installed on the skates. Whether you’ve always been on Bauer, Graf, or CCM, your skates can be ordered with any brand of holder and runner that you’re used to skating on (even Easton). This makes the transition a little easier from your old skates to the new ones.

The Bottom Line
VH is simply producing the finest hockey skate ever made. Comparing them to the next best skate on the market is like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to a 1963 Corvette. One is the most technologically advanced ever made; the other is pretty but inferior and out of date. With other brands pushing their top of the line skate prices up between $750 and $899, VH Footwear is an amazing bargain with a starting cost of $799.

Stay in the loop with other cool people who know what's happening by liking us on facebook -www.facebook.com/rocketskate

Find us on the web at www.rocketskate.net

© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.