StarPhoenix article (New boards, glass put player safety first)June 21 2012 at 7:30 AM
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Response to Calgary Herald article (Car crash didn't stop Okotoks star)
New boards, glass put player safety first
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
June 21, 2012
The Credit Union Centre's new protective glass and rink boards won't eliminate serious head and upper-body injuries, but they will play an important role in increasing player safety, Saskatoon Blades athletic trainer Steve Hildebrand said.
The 2013 Memorial Cup host committee unveiled the arena upgrades Wednesday, which were first announced as part of a legacy project when the Blades were awarded the tournament last October.
The newly installed acrylic glass will sway when contact is made and provides more give than the old tempered glass, which had been used at the CUC since the Blades first started playing in the building in 1988.
"From a player safety point of view, it's 10-fold. What a difference," Hildebrand said. "It's no different than when you jump on a trampoline and there's that spring motion.
"There are going to be way less injuries because of it."
Hildebrand said the technology likely would have prevented a concussion for Blades defenceman Tommy Stipancik last season. Stipancik, a player with a history of concussions, missed nine games after taking an innocuous hit along the boards during a game in February.
However, the glass won't protect players from all hard or illegal checks.
Hildebrand said Blades captain Duncan Siemens almost certainly would have still sustained a concussion following a hit from behind from Medicine Hat's Brendan Hurley in February. It was a hit that earned Hurley a six-game suspension, while Siemens missed 13 contests.
"That hit in itself, he was going to get injured either way," Hildebrand said.
The glass and boards were installed by Cascadia Sport Systems, out of Port Moody, B.C.
Co-owner Mal Paterson said his company has made upgrades to rinks in Asia, Europe and North America - including the NHL arenas of the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Paterson said the key to his company's design is that each pane of glass is eight feet wide, doubling the conventional width. He said the posts that divide the glass can bend up to five feet.
"The acrylic itself is flexible," Paterson said, adding that only two people are needed to remove or install a pane of glass rather than up to four plus a forklift.
"You put support posts closer together and it allows for less flex."
Another feature of Cascadia's technology are the stanchions - where the glass recommences after the player benches.
The stanchions are now not only rounded off - and no longer come to 90-degree angle - but they have the same give the rest of the glass has.
Paterson said he came up with the curved design after watching Montreal's Max Pacioretty sustain a severe concussion and vertebrae injuries when he was hit into a stanchion by Boston's Zdeno Chara during an NHL game in March 2011.
Tim Gitzel, Memorial Cup host committee co-chair, said the cost of the upgrades was $350,000. The provincial government provided $250,000 of the funding and the City of Saskatoon was responsible for the remaining $100,000.
With the CUC slated to host the University Cup - the Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey championship - in 2013 and 2014, as well as 400 men's league games each year, Gitzel said the improvements will benefit more than just those playing in the Memorial Cup.
"The games are one thing, but that will come and go," he said. "Then you say, what else is left? We can point then to the boards and glass that are now state-of-the-art in Saskatoon thanks to that event coming to town.
"That's part of the legacy we want to leave."
Hildebrand said Saskatoon becomes the fifth WHL city - following Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Portland - to have an arena with acrylic glass.
"We were fortunate enough that Credit Union Centre allowed us to have input into this too," Hildebrand said. "We were in the beginning parts of the meetings and we wanted to make sure player safety was the No. 1 issue.
"We wanted to make sure it was up to standards and they've done a fabulous job doing that."
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