Rigorous testing finished, NHL unveils new uniforms

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

"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.