Sunday, January 25, 2009


Here is an article I wrote last year regarding a recent creation by a Quebec man that has the hockey world talking...

By Zack Gilbey

Soon everyone will be skating as silky smooth as Scott Niedermayer thanks to a heated skate blade developed by Therma Blade Inc. that will increase performance from Rec Leaguers to Big Leaguers.

Endorsed by ‘The Great One’ himself, Thermablade looks at the science of skating and are designed to maintain a temperature of five degrees C by using a small battery and microprocessor that are located in each holder. The heated blade creates more water between the ice and the steel runner allowing for reduced friction and creating a much better glide. This reduced friction creates better acceleration and allows for a more effortless stride, saving players fatigue throughout the course of a game.

“It feels like your skating on fresh ice all the time,” said Wayne Gretzky after trying the heated blades for the first time in 2004. Gretzky subsequently purchased shares in the company and remarked. “Where was that when I played?”

Inventor and owner of Therma Blade Inc. Tory Weber has spent the last five years building the technology to get it to this point. Weber originally came across the idea in 1975, but didn’t pursue it until recent years. His earlier prototypes included a skate blade that was plugged in to an outlet and experiments conducted using it and a block of ice. His company based in Verdun, Quebec has been working with enhanced prototypes and testing its product with elite amateur players in the past two years in order to prepare their product for the highest level, the National Hockey League.

On October 16th 2007, Thermablade unveiled their heated blades at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada and announced that a small group of NHL players would be testing the blades in game situations. Among these players are Martin Lapointe of the Chicago Blackhawks who recently switched to the blades along with Edmonton Oiler Marty Reasoner who has been sporting Thermablades all season. Both players have given the heated blades rave reviews. However, not all NHL players are convinced yet, Vancouver Canucks captain Marcus Naslund is still tentative saying, “I don't do anything with that stuff during the season. You don't fiddle with it. Summer is the time to try it."

Not since the creation of the one-piece hockey stick has a technology had this much buzz surrounding it and the potential to impact the way our game is played. The one-piece composite stick swept across the pro and amateur ranks and within five years of its creation nearly every NHL player has converted. Today only 17 players in the near 700-player league still use a wood stick; these are the types of numbers Thermablade representatives feel they can eventually attain.

Ron Morrison, a former junior hockey player in the late 1970’s and current skate technician has seen the game change throughout the years and fears backlash that could happen with the new Thermablade. “The game is already fast enough. Although the Thermablades are an effective technology, truth is players don’t have the time they used to make plays with the puck. The game is becoming more robotic and players have less time to react taking away from the creativity in the offensive zone.” Brendan Morrison of the Vancouver Canucks echoes these thoughts in saying, "I don't know how much faster the guys want to go out there, and they are creatures of habit with equipment.”

Weber contends that the advantages are not strictly speed driven and players will have much better edge control, allowing for better cornering and the ability to elude defenders. In fact, Thermablade testing confirmed that starting resistance is cut by up to 75% and gliding resistance by as much as 55%, not to mention the increased stamina players will feel.

“The price tag may scare some people off,” said Kirby Yeats, manager of Kirby’s Source for Sports in Victoria, of the $400 retail price of the new blades. Yeats noted, “an elite player would be looking at around $1100 for a quality skate and Thermablades, which is a lot of money to cough up when it isn’t being covered by your team like it is in the show [NHL].” However, Yeats admits that his store will be stocking the Thermablade in the more popular sizes to get an idea for the demand of the product and its effectiveness. Resident sharpening expert Cam Smith at Kirby's suggests there is other ways to achieve a “better glide”. “Most guys are not aware of the different cuts you can get your skates sharpened at,” Smith continued, “if your looking for that better glide, a half-inch hollow will give you that.” It is a little adjustment at the mere cost of a skate sharpening compared to the $400 dollar price of heated blades and will give you a similar, yet not quite as pronounced effect on your skating.

Thermablades can be sharpened the exact same as a regular steel blade and are covered by a one-year warranty. The batteries can be activated by the touch of a finger near the rear of the holder and will last up to 75 minutes on the ice. When a player is on the bench the blades use what is called a “smart” technology to keep the battery on standby and as soon as you hit the ice your blade is returned to five degrees C. Thermablades only take two hours to fully charge and are one of few pieces of equipment that are completely manufactured in Canada.

“In the game of hockey, championships are won and lost in fractions of seconds. Thermablade technology gives the user an advantage that can’t be ignored.” – Wayne Gretzky