With the Winter Olympics underway in Korea, World Steel, a non-profit organisation representing global steel manufacturers, has published an article on how innovation in steel is a crucial success factor for elite-level ice hockey teams.

Steel to wheels 2Click image to enlarge

Ice hockey’s elite steel edge

By Kathryn Good

Defenceman Ryan Gunderson steps out onto the empty ice rink, the blades of his skates meet the glistening ice and he’s off in a flash of steel and snow. Here, the cutting-edge kit the players choose to utilise, right down to the steel of their blades, can make a crucial difference to their performance and career.

We’re at Gavlerinken Arena in central Sweden on an icy January day. The vast 8,000-seat arena is home to Brynäs IF, one of the most successful and best-loved teams in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Ice hockey vies with football for the position of most popular national sport in Sweden and the ‘Tre Kronor’ national team took home silver at the last Winter Olympics.

Gunderson steps off the ice and notices the blades on teammate Daniel Paille’s Bauer skates. “You still using the LS2s?,” he asks. Gunderson, along with around 80 percent of players in the Bauer teams, has upgraded to LS4 blades, which use one of the Sandvik SanEdge range of knife steels: Sandvik 14C28N. Formulated by Swedish steel company Sandvik, this hardened knife steel resists blows better and requires less frequent sharpening.

“On this steel you can go a whole game or maybe more without resharpening”

Mattias Pettersson, equipment manager for Brynäs and a former goalkeeper for the team, explains how a harder steel affects his job. “Other brands have a softer steel and sometimes need resharpening three to five times during a game. On this steel you can go a whole game or maybe more without resharpening. So it makes my job a lot easier.”

The new blades also have a removable and higher profile (their shape), allowing players’ boots to achieve a lower angle on the ice while turning without actually hitting it. Back in the locker room, Paille, a left winger from Canada, former Stanley Cup winner and one of Brynäs’ most experienced players, shows us the customised lift he’s had attached to the back of his blade holder to achieve the same effect and help him lean slightly further forward.

“Mattias has explained to me that the LS4s might help with that so I won’t need the lift anymore,” says Paille. “It’s just something I’ve stuck with my whole career so I’ve stayed with it, but I think the new blades are something I’ll try in the off season.”

Read the full story here, including a video interview with Ryan Gunderson.

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