NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Some members of the U.S. hockey team heading to the Sochi Games this weekend will be carrying some high-tech gear with them that will be kept under wraps.
Socks. Very high-tech, performance socks.
During the last couple years there's been a growing trend among NHL players trying to protect their lower legs from skate blades. Several manufacturers produce these high-tech socks using a variety of material — including Kevlar and copper — to save calf muscles, Achilles tendons and a player's feet.
Detroit equipment manager Paul Boyer has many of his players wearing the socks, and among the Red Wings heading to Sochi include goalie Jimmy Howard playing for the Americans, Henrik Zetterberg with Sweden and Pavel Datsyuk with the Russians.
"I've got guys jumping into them because of the safety factor," Boyer said. "If a guy is wearing them and a skate goes across his calf or Achilles tendon, they're going to be protected. If there's enough pressure per square inch, the socks can be cut. But a guy will probably have only a mark instead of a cut."
Jason McMaster, equipment manager for the Winnipeg Jets, is even more succinct: "It's the difference between a player missing little to no games to missing a large portion of the season."
Socks became an issue in recent years with companies switching from knit to thin performance material. McMaster wrote in an email to The Associated Press that equipment managers feel the old knit socks helped protect against such nicks and slices.
Four of the Jets will be playing in Sochi: Olli Jokinen (Finland), Ondrej Pavalec and Michael Frolik (Czech Republic) and American Blake Wheeler. McMaster has packed four pairs of each player's favorite cut-resistant socks with their equipment for the Olympics.
"I would like to see every player wear cut resistant socks," McMaster said. "Anything to keep the players healthy is very important us. The socks may not stop all injuries, but if you can minimize the severity of an injury you have helped keep the player on the ice."