Could a Kevlar sock or sleeve have saved the season of Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson? Teemu Selanne certainly thinks so. And he's not alone.
Nineteen years ago, when Selanne was with the Winnipeg Jets, his season ended when his right Achilles tendon was sliced 80 per cent through by the skate blade of Anaheim Ducks defenceman Don McSween.
Karlsson had surgery on Thursday morning to repair his left Achilles tendon that was lacerated 70 percent through by the skate of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke the evening before.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray reported that Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, is expected to miss the next three to four months and that "his year is finished at this time."
Karlsson was not wearing a cut resistant sock or sleeve. Murray remarked that some players find the sock too bulky or cumbersome. Selanne disagrees.
"I feel bad for Erik," the 42-year-old Ducks forward told Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman. "I do hope though that instances like these show players that we should all wear the protective sleeves and socks. They are available these days. You can't even tell that you are wearing them and it really helps in this situation. Maybe it should be mandatory."
Selanne went as far as demonstrating how protective these preventative socks can be by running his skate blade over one.
But NHL players are adults. Just like the visor issue, they have a choice of how much protective equipment they want to don. Some players like to go barefoot, like the legendary Bobby Orr. But there are sleeves for the sockless.
Usually, players employ protective measures like a Kevlar sock when a teammate is injured by a skate blade. For example, more than 50 percent of the Carolina Hurricanes now wear cut-resistant socks after seeing injuries of this nature suffered by defenceman Joe Corvo, forward Chad Larose and goalie Cam Ward.
Hurricanes senior director of communications Mike Sundheim stated that no Carolina player has suffered a cut while wearing these cut-resistant socks and predicted the number of players who wear the protective measure will increase after the Karlsson incident.
"Our equipment guy did tell a story where one of our guys, he thought it was Justin Faulk, was struck in the leg while wearing these last year," Sundheim said. "He said you could see the mark on the sock where he was hit, but he was not injured."
One NHL trainer we talked to reported that 15 of his players wear the cut resistant sock or sleeve, but that it has taken him five years to cajole this many to don the protection. He swears by the protective nature of the sock.
"They do work, but the key word is cut resistant not proof," he said. "I have had two players that use the socks that were stepped on by a skate, one was a slicing action like Karlsson and it did not penetrate the sock. The other was stepped on with no slicing action and he received a pressure cut, but no damage to the sock.
"It's hard to say whether they would hold up to the cut that Karlsson received? I watched it in slow motion and there was a pretty long cut in the hockey sock after the slice.
"In my opinion, we need to make the outer hockey sock more protective and also include it in the jersey arm from the elbow down."
Bauer category manager of performance apparel, Beth Crowell, said a big part of getting more players, recreational or professional, to wear the sock is education that there are socks out there that will help.
The Bauer elite performance skate sock is 60 percent Kelvar fibre for cut resistant protection.
"I can't tell speak specifically to the circumstances [of the Karlsson injury] because as you know when you're on the ice there are different factors like the speed, the angle of the blade and the force that was used to cut him," Crowell said. "But what I can tell you is that our product will offer more protection than wearing no sock at all or a regular athletic sock.
"It's cut resistant. You'll notice that none of the other brands, ourselves included, make any claims that we make a cut-proof sock. It's important to make that difference. There is no sock out there that makes the claim it's cut proof."
Still, maybe that could have saved Karlsson and his Senators some long-term pain.
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