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Wired magazine has eloquently attacked the new RBK Edge jerseys which adorn every player of every team in the league as of this season, which were the mastermind of huckster Gary Bettman. They actually had the temerity to suggest that the jerseys are Bettman’s latest scheme to milk the dwindling ranks of existing hockey fans for more money — far be it from anyone to suggest that this is not technological innovation solving the ages-old problem of wind resistance slowing down hockey players!

Oh … wait … you didn’t know that wind resistance was slowing down our precious pastime? ‘Zounds, it’s true! Some boffin at MIT even proved that the new tunics reduce the drag on a player’s body by 9%. And the moisture that gathered on old jerseys was apparently weighing down the 210-250 lb. players wearing them. The horror! No mention, however, was made that an extra 3 hours on the bike per week might speed up the average player by the same amount gained from the jerseys, or that, you know, dumping water on jerseys mid-game probably has a lot more effect on the moisture of a jersey than the sweat “wicking” properties of a fabric ever did. Pure obfuscation!

I now own a couple of pro-issue RBK practice jerseys, and I am indeed a sweat machine when playing in goal. The Wired article confirms what I, as well as a few vocal NHL players have said: duh, Gary, absorbing sweat in the jersey is actually a good thing. As they’ve confirmed and I’ve experienced first-hand, stepping onto the ice in one of the new RBK jerseys ensures that while your sweater might feel bone-dry after a few hours of play, the same will not be true of your equipment, which starts to soak within minutes thanks to sweat “wicking” off the fabric and on to every other piece of equipment on your body. The league and RBK completely ignored this and other practicalities until wunderkind Sidney Crosby confirmed the complaints of others. Now they plan to make as yet unspecified changes.

As the Wired piece points out, most of the “performance gain” claimed with the new jerseys comes as a result of making them more form-fitting. Again, duh. They could have just stuck with the old jerseys & forced everyone to make them a size smaller if they were so fixated on a 9% drag reduction — if only in the name of science. But of course we all realize where Bettman’s spreadsheet was really focused in doing the RBK deal.

In their infinite wisdom, RBK have also decided that they won’t be making a goalie-cut version of the Platinum Pro jerseys available to the general public because there “aren’t enough goalies” to justify a production run — really? Nice to know that at the corporate level, RBK really understands the hockey scene. Of course the reduction in wind resistance doesn’t benefit most goalies I know, so perhaps it’s just as well.

Anyway, before you spring double the cost of the old jerseys to buy yourself one of these new-fangled ones you might want to let Bettman and his army of pseudo-scientists work out some of the kinks. In the meantime, this latest failure of his has got to leave more and more people asking whether the real kink that needs to be worked out of the system is Bettman himself.

-Ian.

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