Coach on edge over skate blades

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Peterborough Petes coach Dick Todd said he would have no trouble rounding up his players to play the London Knights for the OHL championship.

Todd was responding to what's now dubbed as Skategate after Ottawa 67's goalie Danny Battochio was ordered by the OHL to remove illegal blades from his skates.

The Petes were swept by the 67's in the Eastern Conference final and Battochio was heralded as the difference.

"We're very willing to call all our players back and play London, if the OHL wants to give us all those games he was wearing illegal equipment," Todd said yesterday from Peterborough.

He wondered if the Knights were insinuating "the 67's were cheating" when they drew the league's attention to the fact Battochio was wearing a small piece of steel on the bottom of each boot.

It's called an overdrive blade and is said to give a goalie an advantage when he's on his knees. It was banned in the NHL in 2001 because goalies using the blades were seen to have an advantage over those not using them.

Hockey Canada allows overdrive blades.

"The overdrive blade is a huge, and I mean huge, advantage for a goalie," said Tom Hedican of North Bay, a goalie coach in the Swiss A league.

He was a Knights' assistant coach under Gary Agnew during his two stints in London in the 1990s.

"It helps mostly when a goalie is on his knees on the ice," Hedican continued. "He can move across the crease as quick as if he's standing up with that blade.

"I insist all the goalies I coach in Switzerland use them and once they try them, they love them. It'll be interesting to see how (Battochio) does but I'd certainly recommend moving the puck laterally when he's down."

Butterfly-style goalies especially like the blades because they can push off the ice from their knees.

Battochio has been wearing them for seven years.

The Knights told the league of the blade after Game 2. A member of the training staff saw Battochio's skate when it was brought to the London dressing room for tightening prior to the game.

"It's strange it was never spotted before," Todd said. "But there is the possibility that it's been helping him quite dramatically."

Knights coach Dale Hunter said his team went to the league out of a concern for the players' safety, although that wasn't the issue with the NHL or OHL.

"The steel is sticking out of his skate and it's dangerous," Hunter said. "I don't know if it does give (the goalie) an advantage or not, but definitely they banned it in the National Hockey League because it's dangerous."

Ted Baker, the OHL's director of hockey operations, said the blade was never an issue, until now.

"We follow the NHL rulebook and clearly from our standpoint the goalie is not allowed to attach any device to his equipment that gives him an advantage," Baker said.


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