One of Kelly Lockwood’s career-long pursuits has been to discover the perfect skate boot. Now she has some celebrity help.
The associate professor of Kinesiology is nearing the end of a six-month research project for Graf Canada, a manufacturer of hockey equipment. Her mission: to develop a skate boot with improved design and function. It’s a project employed with the help of dozens of athlete subjects, as well as NHL veterans Claude Lemieux and Troy Crowder.
Funded by the Federal Economic Development Applied Research Council, Lockwood’s research for Graf includes studying skaters aged seven to 50 in arenas around southern Ontario. Traditional belief in the skating community has been that the lighter and stiffer a boot is, the better, she said. But there’s never been any data to support that.
Lockwood’s research has found that flexion – the ability of a joint to move into a flexed position – makes for a better skate.
“We’ve found that performance, or more specifically skating mechanics, is improved by the ability of a boot to permit forward flexion of the ankle and knee facilitating a longer, more powerful stride,” she said. “The ability to flex at the ankles and knees translates into the ability to go fast.”
Claude Lemieux – formerly of the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens – is one of only 10 players to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams. He now serves as Chairman of the Graf Canada board, which is how he started collaborating with Lockwood. Crowder, formerly of teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, also researches skates and holds a patent for the adjustable hockey skate lacing system.
Lockwood’s research was profiled by the Discovery Channel last week. Three days of footage was collected at Lockwood’s lab at Brock, where her team analyzes skating mechanics on a skating treadmill with 3D motion analysis, and on the ice at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto. The segment will air early in January.
Three graduate students are working with Lockwood, a former figure skater. The project has taken them to arenas from Niagara to Barrie. The next phase of the study, beginning in January, is to create the next generation of the GRAF skate boot, which will include Chemistry professors at Brock.
The goal is to build a boot to facilitate performance and at the same time put an end to injuries related to skates not fitting or functioning well, Lockwood said.
“Hockey players think that lace bite and bone spurs come with the territory, and that’s wrong,” she said. Bone spurs and lace bite are frictional injuries caused directly by the boot design. “There is no need for boot-related injuries. These are chronic injuries that should be preventable.”
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