A Canadian-made heated skate blade touted as a means of boosting velocity was approved Tuesday for testing in the National Hockey League.
The Therma Blade will be used by as many as 10 NHL players in games and practices, said the blade's inventor, Tory Weber of Calgary. The NHL will use this testing phase to examine possible safety issues and the blades' effect on the ice to determine whether they should be used more widely within the league.
A battery in the back of the skate blade heats up to 5C, helping to reduce friction and push the wearer forward with less work, Weber said.
"It's very simple technology. Awarm blade basically creates a thin film of water and melts the ice," Weber said. Skaters that use the heated blades, which will retail for about $399, find it's much like skating on ice that has been freshly groomed by a Zamboni, he added.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky has endorsed the blades.
"[This will] really take the sport of hockey to another level," he said in a video statement shown during a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday. "Not since getting rid of the old blades that we wore in the '70s that Bobby Orr and Lanny McDonald wore — this is the first time we're going to see a significant change in the blade in probably 30 years."
About 150 players across Canada have tested the blades in pre-launch testing.
Weber said the idea for the blades came to him as when he was studying thermodynamics — the study of the transfer of heat — one cold February morning.
"I went outside to get the newspaper and my running shoes were sitting on the heat register and I slid them on," he said. "My hot runners [came into] contact with the icy stairs [and] caused my feet to slide out from under me, and the rest was history."
The blades, which are manufactured north of Quebec City, were created in 2001.