|Ordering skates is like ordering a car - see story below|
The Allen Americans should be back at practice today preparing for the weekend series with the Missouri Mavericks. With illness, injuries, bumps and bruises it will be interesting to see how many players aren't practicing today. Hopefully by Saturday most of the guys are ready to play. Supposedly new players are on the way but when they arrive is a question mark.
- The starters for the All-Star game were announced yesterday and congrats go to Jack Combs for being selected as it was very well deserved. For what you can assume is financial reasons the ECHL All-Star game pits the host team (Orlando Solar Bears) against the All-Stars rather than have the Western Conference vs Eastern Conference. It means for a 28 team league you have six starters and only 21 All-Stars. The starters that were announced yesterday are all deserving but it is hard to understand how a player with Chad Costello's statistics is not a starter. Chad is second (Jack Combs is first) in the league in points with 50 and is tens points ahead of third place, he leads the league in assists (31), he leads the league in plus/minus (+24), has been player of the week and player of the month as well as plus performer of the month. The reserves and alternates will be announced today and since the All-Star game is a showcase for younger future stars Chad may not be on that list either. Let's hope that is not the case.
- It has been a frustrating season thus far for coach Richard Matvichuk and the Missouri Mavericks. They will arrive in Allen for the weekend series with a record that is below .500 and winless against the Americans in their four previous meetings. If you spend time with Matvichuk you know his passion for the game and commitment to excellence is unquestioned. He is working very hard at getting the Mavericks on the right track on a consistent basis. I for one am confident he will do what is necessary to get Missouri in the playoffs (they are currently six points out) and be a team to be reckoned with come playoff time. Last night Richard held one of his coaches shows where fans got to ask questions. Here are a few Richard Matvichuk quotes from the show courtesy of the official blogger of the Mavericks, Joe Rozycki, who was live tweeting from the show.
"The struggles ultimately fall on my shoulders. Do we want to be a 20-11 team? Yeah, but we're not. We need to get there."
"In our dressing room, these guys are ready to battle for each other."
"I'll be the first guy to say that I'm not happy about the goalies. The goalies know that I'm not happy with their play."
"When you're struggling, your goalie has to be the best player on the ice, and ours haven't been. They'll tell you the same."
"The answer is not just bringing in new players when things are going wrong."
"Right now, every time we make a mistake, it ends up in the back of our net."
"I can promise you there's not one guy in that dressing room that's folding their tent."
"We're going through tough times, and I'll be the first to admit that."
"Our guys know when they do it right, it's going to work."
- Coach Martinson says it best and all Allen fans would agree, "We all want coach Matvichuk to do well, just not against the Americans."
- Below is an interesting story written by Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel (news-sentinal.com) which is all about finding the right hockey skates. It is an interesting look at all of the details surrounding skates. Blake writes a blog about the Fort Wayne Komets (tailingthekomets.com) and if you are on twitter you can follow him at @blakesebring. Not sure what options Allen players have when ordering skates but will get the answer from equipment manager, Rusty Aldridge, and report back tomorrow.
Finding the right skate is an exacting process for players
There are dozens of choices to be made in each selection
"I'll put in new laces every Friday," Komets forward Mike Embach said. "I try to take care of them and make them last as long as possible. You want to make sure they are exactly what you want and they are comfortable."
It makes sense in a way because players are wearing their skates far more than they are driving their cars, and they don't depend on their cars to make money.
Still, the options for skates are remarkably diverse, and ordering a new pair and receiving the correct pair is an exacting process which involves more than just the player. On the Komets, when skaters receive one or two pair per season, a player alerts equipment manager Joe Franke that it's time for a new pair and he contacts General Manager David Franke. Franke relays all the specific numbers to public address announcer Larry Schmitt who is responsible for filing the order with Bauer through his other job at Komet Kuarters.
Placing that order can be harder than filing taxes or applying for financial aid. Some players have exact patterns they use, and the options on those skates can take quite a bit of time for Schmitt to fill in.
"All you want to do is make sure you are correct," Schmitt said. "I triple-check because if you screw up you are going to be eating the cost of a skate, and it's unbelievable all the different ways you can fit a skate. These guys have them custom-tailored like a custom-tailored suit."
Custom skates can cost between $750 and $850, and if something is wrong with a player's skates, it's not something he can just adjust to because he'll never wear them.
As an example, Schmitt recently ordered a pair for defenseman Cody Sol. His left skate is sized 11 3/4, and his right is 12 1/4.
"I like the double stuffed tongue to get rid of lacebite," Sol said. "Over the years you find what you like, and you are able to customize them to what you want."
He makes it sound easy, which it is not. There are three choices of liner, four options for stiffness and 10 different models to pick from. The width can also differ by foot, and there are 17 options.
That's nothing compared to the 36 different models of tongues. Then there are options based on color, thickness, width, length and inserts. Players can choose from 10 different pads and eight kinds of reinforcement.
Players can even pick the number of eyelets they'd like, or whether to stretch the area near each individual toe or the arches on either skate. They can even have lifts inserted into their skates.
They can also pick from seven types of blade models, 11 sizes, seven different colors of cowlings which come in 11 different sizes. Players can also ask for specific other things, such as reinforcement around an Achilles heel.
"Every year they come out with a newer model so they can make more money," Joe Franke said with a laugh. "Everything changes for a reason."
Which is strange because the players' selections rarely do. Some players, usually the younger ones, use a simple stock model which means the new skates can arrive in two or three days. A pattern skate has to be built by hand and can take up to two months to arrive. The ECHL is also lower on the totem pole as far as importance compared to the National Hockey League or the American Hockey League. NHL players can order three or four pairs per season so skates are being made constantly.
Any players under NHL or AHL contract are taken care of by their parent team, such as the Komets who are on a two-way contract with Lake Erie.
"It's an amazing process to see what goes into building a skate," Schmitt said. "A lot of the first-year pros will take stock skates because they don't know any better. They just want a good pair of skates. A lot of them, this is their first opportunity to get a premium skate. They are very expensive but there's a lot of work that goes into them.
"It's actually kind of cool because you realize how in tune these guys are with their needs for skates. They can tell you the second they put it on if it's the right skate."
DID YOU KNOW: The collective bargaining agreement between the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association) and the ECHL says this about skates and equipment:
Is equipment provided to ECHL Players?
It is the responsibility of the team to provide each Player with all equipment, including skates, necessary and appropriate for professional hockey. Equipment must be fit for its intended use at a professional level and provide for the safety and well being of each Player.
Notwithstanding the above, Players who have been on an Active Roster or Injured Reserve for sixty (60) or more days during the Season, with the majority of time being spent on the Active Roster, who have not yet received a pair of skates, are entitled to at least one pair of skates provided by the team.