Unmasked: Ski Boot-Style Skates Changing NHL Goalies’ Position

Unmasked: Ski Boot-Style Skates Changing NHL Goalies’ Position

The latest innovation in goaltending is not easy to spot because, on the ice, goalie skates are mostly hidden by goalie pads. However, the trend toward a skate that looks more like a ski boot is certainly raising eyebrows in NHL locker rooms.

The new Bauer KONEKT goalie skate has a hard outer shell, a separate, removable inner liner and metal buckles instead of skate laces.

It might be closer to a ski boot than a skate in its genealogy.

“What the hell are these? Ski boots?” Washington Capitals goalkeeper Charlie Lindgren said of the first frequent reactions. “Guys are like, ‘Are you serious? What are you doing wearing them?’ And I say, “Honestly, I love them.”

Lindgren was the first goalie signed by the NHL to wear the new skate last season, with the St. Louis Blues and Springfield, their American Hockey League affiliate.

Kaapo Kahkonenwho split the season between the Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks, wasn’t far behind. Andrey Vasilevsky traded to KONEKT in mid-December and led them to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

Twelve goaltenders now wear the new skates in the NHL, another 17 in the AHL.

The rapid adoption comes as no surprise to Lindgren, who appreciated the extra forward flex a hinge system provides.

“I got on the ice and honestly from the moment I stepped on it, I started moving,” said Lindgren, whose new playing partner. Darcy Kuemper, now also carries KONEKT. “From the first skate it worked for me and I still feel more athletic, but I’m still in control. It suits my game. With the forward bend you can get in easier, and you don’t have to drive as hard just for the the way it moves.”

Finding a way to give goalies more ankle flexion was the goal when Bauer challenged his goaltending department to create something unique.

With skates getting stiffer over the years, goalies resorted to leaving the top eyelet of each skate undone to achieve flex. Bauer wanted to find a way to provide it without having to loosen the skate.

Older sets of plastic-shelled Micron and Lange skates served as a starting point, followed by a meeting with Jason Roe, a ski boot developer at Atomic Ski.

“We wanted to change the game with crazy innovation,” said Mark Gignac, director of Bauer’s goalkeeping category.

The mechanical ankle flex point creates 22 degrees of forward flexion. While some goalies reduce the amount of flex, most agree that it creates a better connection with the ice allowing them to load deeper into pushes and keep more of the blade on the ice.

“You find the edges a lot easier because you have a little curve,” the Carolina Hurricanes goaltender said Antti Raanta, who has been using the skates in practice for a couple of weeks and plans to use them in games. “You seem to be a little faster with every move. The game is getting faster, so if you can be even a little faster, that’s always a plus.”

Lindgren and goaltender for the Florida Panthers Spencer Knight Also think that the flexion makes it easier to push from side to side of the butterfly.

“You don’t have to lift your leg as much,” Knight said. “You have better ankle mobility and dorsiflexion, so you can keep your blade on the ice longer.”

With a flexed ankle, some goalies also feel less stress starting and stopping or sliding into the sticks.

“I like the mobility they gave me in the ankle,” he said Alex Nedeljkovic of the Detroit Red Wings. “I never feel like my ankle is stiff or locked in these.”

A wide variety of goaltenders have moved on, from the 21-year-old Knight to the New York Rangers goaltender Jaroslav Halak37-year-old, who can be particular about his team after 17 NHL seasons.

“I like them so much that I tried to go back to my old skates and I couldn’t,” Halak said.

In addition to performance, the new KONEKT skates make dressing a lot easier, especially since many goalies prefer to take off their skates between periods. Buckles are not only faster, but once they’re set to a preferred tightness, they’re easy to maintain.

“The buckle system doesn’t loosen up like laces do when they get wet,” said the St. Louis Blues. Thomas Greiss said “This all reminds me of my skiing days.”

Raanta said the same thing about skiing, which brings us back to the inevitable comment from teammates seeing the new skates for the first time.

Cory Schneiderwhose switch to KONEKT seemed to inspire his fellow New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov to try them on this week, he tried to get ahead of himself by “being the first to point out how ridiculous they look” in the room.

“They’re pretty annoying to look at, almost like a ’90s skate hybrid,” Schneider said. “But as a goalkeeper, you have to get any advantage because the shooters are too fast and too good.

“Anything to make you lighter, faster and less annoying to move around, guys will try because they’re looking for that one percent advantage. If that’s the case, I don’t think the goalies care.”

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