NHL, Reebok reveals new sleeker uniforms that can make players faster

Updated: January 22, 2007, 6:52 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom certainly likes the NHL's new sleeker and streamlined uniforms.

"Especially when I heard that I'm going to be faster," the 15-year veteran and ninth-time All-Star said Monday. "That's something I need now that I'm getting older."

After more than two years of testing and designing -- and nearly 100 different versions -- the NHL and Reebok unveiled the new uniform system that will be make its debut at the NHL All-Star game this week -- and for all 30 teams next season.

It is the biggest change to NHL uniforms since the early 1960s, when synthetic fabrics replaced the old wool jerseys.

"It's just nice to see the technology going forward," said 19-year-old Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh center and youngest player ever voted into the All-Star game by fans. "We're in a new era in the NHL, why not do the same thing with the jersey?"

It has been almost two years since Crosby signed a lucrative five-year deal with Reebok to endorse the company's line of hockey gear and apparel. Crosby, Lidstrom and the three other players who took part in the introduction -- Jason Blake of the New York Islanders, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Dallas goalie Marty Turco -- were chosen by the NHL to be there.

The Rbk EDGE Uniform System is more than the jersey, which certainly can't be called a sweater any longer.

Stretch fabric in the collar and stretch mesh in areas of the tighter jersey, including the underarms and back, provide additional range of motion and increased ventilation. There is also new water repellant technology, helping retain three-quarters less moisture than the current jersey.

The pants and socks also have been redesigned with lighter fabrics to keep players drier and cooler while adding durability to the uniforms. The pants also have about 60 percent more hip protection than the current pants.

"This is an evolution of our uniform, taking into account where we are in the 21st century," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

"The ultimate thing is for each player to feel good," said Blake, who has worn the uniform in practice. "When I wear that, I feel light. I like how it's tight around my legs for the socks, and the jersey. I think it feels good."

Wind tunnel testing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed a 9 percent reduction in drag that should enable players to move faster on the ice. Thermal regulation testing studies at Central Michigan University authenticated the effectiveness of the uniform's core temperature management system.

Reebok chief executive officer Matt O'Toole said Bettman's mandate of the uniform project was about improving the performance and safety of players. And O'Toole said the involvement of players in the process was crucial.

"I wore the pants pretty much all summer, working on that a lot. I'm pretty picky," Crosby said.

"What I really like is players have had an input in it," the 36-year-old Lidstrom said. "Having all the players give the ins and outs, pros and cons of everything, create a great product. I think that's what we see here. I think that's going to enable the whole league to get better."

The All-Stars wore the uniforms in practice Monday night, and will use them in a game for the first time in the All-Star game.

When the 2007-08 season begins next fall, all 30 NHL teams will wear the uniforms in their respective colors and designs.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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