SUN Hockey Pool

Lombo will give heated blades another shot

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

DALLAS -- Matthew Lombardi only used the Thermablade system in a few practices, and hasn't touched them since, but the Calgary Flames centre isn't ready to write them off.

The slick-skating Lombardi was one of five NHL players who tried the heated skate blades a couple of months ago. He didn't use them in a game, but said he'll probably give them another go in the off-season when he has more time for testing without the pressure of a game around the corner.

"It's tough during the season trying something different," Lombardi said. "Some guys can do it, but even trying new kinds of skates -- anything for that matter, like sticks -- I usually don't like to do it until the summertime to break them in.

"I wasn't really able to test them that long, get a real chance to get used to them.

"I have such a tough time changing anything with my stuff. Just a little tweak makes a big difference to me.

"Some guys can put on a brand new pair of skates in the morning, wear them that night and be good to go. For me, it's totally different."

Invented by Calgarian Tony Weber, who counts Wayne Gretzky among the investors and supporters, Thermablades use a rechargeable battery inside the holder to heat the blade of the skate.

With the blade heated to 5 C, friction is decreased -- especially during acceleration.

Lombardi, one of the NHL's faster skaters, said he didn't really notice a difference while practising, but felt his personal testing period wasn't long enough to make a solid assessment.

"The concept sounds really, really good. I just didn't really feel I had enough time to get used to them before using them in a game," he said.

"They had told me, 'You might not notice right away, but when you go back to your old skates, you will.'

"I think I did notice.

"When I went back to the old ones, I could feel the difference."

Therma Blade Inc. received approval from the NHL, but needs the same from the players' association to allow use in a game.

The company is planning to approach more NHLers in the coming weeks, as many as 40 or 50, according to vice-president of sales and marketing Sam McCoubrey.

"We are not expecting them all to be using them in games but we're hoping 10 to 20 will put them on skates for practice or skates they're breaking in," McCoubrey said.

"We know with the playoffs coming it's not a time players want to be changing equipment, but we want to make sure we get (approval) so all players can test them in the summer."

He believes a few players who give them a shot will want to use them in a game.

"As much as they're creatures of habit, if a team goes through a tough spell or a player is struggling they're more likely to try something different," McCoubrey said.

"We'd also be happy if a team that has a few players using the blades has a nice run in the playoffs."

McCoubrey said the blades -- which retail for $399 and are available through a trio of stores in Calgary (Tuxedo Source for Sports, Professional Skate Service and B&P Cycle and Sports) -- help players retain stamina in games.

"We're not promising players won't be injured -- you can't -- but the correlation between fatigue and injury is proven," he said.

He wouldn't divulge whether any other Flames will be given a set of blades to try, but Lombardi believed a few would be willing to test them between now and next season.

"A lot of guys were talking about the concept, and it's a cool thing to try out to see the differences," he said.


Photos