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JR Boucicaut

2015 CCM Goal Catalogue

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As part of my nostos, I took a quick leaf through the catalogue. On the surface, CCM's core offerings don't appear to have changed much, but when you look a little more closely there are some very interesting developments. In particular, CCM's work on the 2015 Premier Pro knee-pads and pants makes them potentially the best lower-body combination on the market.

The move to use D3O (that's D-three-O, as in Ovechkin) in areas that have traditionally used thicker and heavier high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is an interesting one: the palm of the catching glove, and, strangely, the palm of the blocker as well; the sternum plate on the Premier Pro C/A; and, perhaps most promisingly, the anterior (front) hip padding on the Premier Pro pants. For those who are unfamiliar, D3O (which is actually a company that produces a variety of materials based on its core material technology) is a suite of materials that are (to varying degrees) soft and pliable when inert, but harden on impact: the molecular composition changes in proportion to the energy of the impact. CCM has included a brief introduction on p.41 of the catalogue, but d3o.com has a great deal of information.

PANTS (p.38-40)

Anterior hip (or as CCM calls it, 'groin') padding is one of the most difficult things to get right in goalie gear. Years ago, CCM offered a fantastic pant -- the venerable two-piece 620G model -- that included perhaps the best possible protection: three triangular HDPE plates sewn into the front of the hip, overlapping or bridging with the plastic 'hip cup' on the side, so that they couldn't be driven back by an impact. The problem, of course, was mobility. Modern goaltending requires tremendous flexibility through the hip, and the 620G design couldn't provide it without major modification.

As the CCM brand gave way to RBK/Reebok, RBK copied the 620G design in its first-generation Premier pants, but quickly moved to a different anterior hip design. From the Premier Series 2 (PS2) onward, Reebok's pants all featured two triangles of soft, medium-density foam sewn more or less as the top two 'plates' on the 620G had been oriented, but changed the bottom triangle to a 'flap' that overlapped with the top of the thigh. This overlap with the thigh was crucial, because it not only removed a small 'chink' in the armour of the basic 620G design, but greatly increased its mobility. As the goalie's hip flexes forward, the flap slides further down over the thigh; as the goalies hips extend, the flap retracts. This design gave a significant improvement in mobility, but unfortunately, relying on a combination of medium- and low-density foams in this area did not provide sufficient protection for most high-level goalies. As a result, Reebok had to institute the same division between retail-pro and pro-issue equipment that existed in its C/A lines. The retail-pro line was largely foam-based, while the pro-issue models (which otherwise appeared identical) had additional plastic plated sewn into the front of the hip. Some pro goalies didn't have this done, trying to maintain maximum mobility in the hip and relying on the massive upper shields of their jocks for protection, but many did. For reference, here are a shot of some original 620Gs, and some 'CCM 11K'-branded pants for Mike Smith that are clearly 620s with an added lower hip-flap:


(Incidentally, I suspect the above Smith pants were not approved because of the way the later (outside) thigh padding appears to extend beyond the edge of the main thigh-guard, creating the kind of 'ridge' that Rule 11.4, clause 1 aims to eliminate.)

The addition of D3O to the anterior hip padding, replacing the outer player of plastic, could in theory yield a pant with largely unimpeded freedom of movement through the hip while still providing, through the transformation of D3O on impact, 620G or pro-grade levels of protection. What's unclear to me, at this point, is whether CCM has used D3O padding in just the lower flap (as pictured in the catalogue) or in all the padding in the front of the hip.


Personally, I would have liked to see CCM move more toward the above Smith design, with three flexible D3O 'plates' and a fourth flap that overlaps more with the top of the thigh, but so many goalies have liked that 'two-and-one' design from the Reebok Premier 2 pants that I'm willing to believe a material upgrade in protection would make for terrific retail pant.

I continue to be confused by the preponderance of bulk that manufacturers keep cramming into the sides of the thighs of goalie pants -- especially the medial (inside) edge of the thighs. I know some of it is removable -- as in the CCM pants under discussion -- but it's still rather a lot. Here's an 'up-leg' shot of the 2015 CCM Premier Pros:


Maybe some people are getting hit in the inner thigh a lot more than I am, but all this extra padding presents two massive drawbacks. First, it severely limits the goalie's range of movement in skating. Goalies may not do crossovers on a regular basis, but a proper butterfly push or recovery that is diagonal (rather than straight sideways) is very similar to a crossover, and actually requires more range of movement. This great whack of padding effectively limits or even prevents this. Second, extra padding between a goalie's thighs prevents the knees from being squeezed together in the butterfly. While this is theoretically fine if you have outrageously good internal hip rotation all the time (ie. 'butterfly flare', the ability to push your feet forward in the butterfly), that's not something everyone can or even should do all the time. Even a supremely flexible goalie needs to be able to throw a narrower butterfly on occasion, because the internal rotation of the hip limits the ROM in butterfly and recovery movements. More to the point, when the puck's at a lower angle, you don't need or want to have to throw a wider butterfly in order to keep your five-hole closed.

None of this is a huge problem -- you can, of course, take half of that inner thigh padding out with Velcro and snip the other half away with a pair of scissors -- but I think it is worth discussing. Even if you're terrible worried about getting a puck on the inside of the leg, just squeeze your knees together, and the large thigh-guards will come together and cover everything quite nicely.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of the lengthening zipper is, since it would lower the bottom edge of the thigh 1" by opening a 1" gap in protection at the hip, and I'm always worried about zippers on goalie gear being exposed to impacts, but it seems like it's held up reasonably well in prior lines.

As a final side-note, I continue to be baffled by the emphasis on internal belts in retail goalie pants. I'll admit I was a big fan of internal belts for a while-- right up to the moment I went back to suspenders, which simply offer superior mobility all around. I say 'retail' goalie pants because I've never seen an internal belt on pro-issue pants, and it's my understanding that an internal belt would violate NHL Rule 11.4, clause 4, as well as clause 1; though clause 1 is intended to cover 'cheater' ridges that might trap the puck, the basic principle disallows any attempt to artificially increase the effective size of the pants, which is exactly what a floating internal belt does. If someone can find a pair of pants with an internal belt and Kay Whitmore's signature, fair enough, but I've never seen that.

I'd much rather see goalie manufacturers through a pair of suspenders in with each pair of pants. Not only would this give goalies the best possible fit and function off the rack, it would effectively eliminate the need for the zipper-lengthening system. Want longer pants?-- let your suspenders down, and you can do it a fraction of an inch at a time, instead of an inch lower or nothing at all with the zipper.

C/A (p.34-37)

While there is still a definite family resemblance between the CCM Premier Pro C/A and its RBK 'Bumblebee' Premier forefathers (apart from the black-and-yellow/gold colour scheme), the design has begun to diverge noticeably. The Jofa-inherited 'JDP' hard-cap elbows remain, as do the extra yellow flaps on the arms, the separate rib protection and belly-plate, and something in the overall profile, but the shape of the belly and chest bocks, the shoulder-floaters and shoulder-caps, and the overall fit through the shoulders is significantly different.

For those interested in the adjustable shoulder-floaters and chest-harness, The Hockey Shop has some good pics in their review. While a lot of C/A's in recent years have offered *vertical* Velcro adjustment in these areas, the CCM Premier Pro is the first I can recall that allows for apparently significant *lateral* adjustments. If you look at this picture (from the above review), you can see that there's maybe an inch of room on either side of the Velcro tabs to widen and narrow the fit:


This lateral adjustment is a huge improvement for goalies who prefer their shoulder-floaters to cover the top of the clavicle and trapezius, rather than floating out over the shoulder, or a snugger fit through the chest. In short, it looks brilliant.

I am a bit surprised that CCM limited the use of D3O to the sternum plate. Obviously this is a sensitive area that's also broad and flat, meaning that impact diffusion here is critical. Still, I would have liked to see D3O in other critical impact areas -- namely the elbows and shoulders -- where mobility is more important, as on the pants. The sternum, of course, doesn't move much, and the ability to reach across the chest (or 'hug yourself', as it were) is limited as much by the underlying HD/LD foam blocks as by the external shield. Perhaps CCM tested elbow- and shoulder-floaters made of D3O and weren't satisfied with the results, but it seems like a good approach to my mind.

NOTE: it is *possible* that CCM did, in fact, use D3O in the elbow-floaters (what the catalogue calls the "arm hinge"), based on the similar molded markings and the fact that both are listed in similar terms on p.36 (but not using the D3O trademark). If so the catalogue is utterly unclear on this point. The only part of the C/A that is clearly stated to include D3O is the sternum plate.

Likewise, i was a little surprised not to see D3O added to any of the other protective gear: it seems like a good fir for a lot of things, like the neck-guards, jocks/jills, padded shirts, and knee-pads (p.48-49). However, I'm willing to give CCM a pass on their apparently limited integration of D3O into their less 'sexy' protective (which may not have been without reason) because of something they appear to have done VERY well...

KNEE PADS (p.49)

I am shocked that so little fanfare has attended the 2015 CCM KPPRO ("Pro Goalie Knee Protector"). Perhaps they're not widely available; perhaps nobody was paying attention. InGoal Magazine doesn't even mention them in its coverage of the Extreme Flex II launch, or anywhere else. Whatever the reason, the world of goaltending seems to have missed out, so far, on something extraordinary.

A goalie who has never played with knee-pads is either one mistake away from a major if not career-ending injury (no knee protection), or has never truly enjoyed the benefit of modern pad design. Those who wear no knee-protection are simply deranged, risk-seeking lunatics; those who use thigh-boards or thigh-guards, by any other name, attached to the back of the pad are using secondary protection that fundamentally interferes with the free and athletic rotation of the knee (via the hip) behind the pad. Yet any goalie who *has* used knee-pads will tell you how incredibly annoying they can be. Getting correctly-fitted knee-pads that protect as they should and stay out of the way is one of the hardest things in goaltending. Some guys (like me) end up making their own; some limp along by using hockey socks and half a roll of tape to keep borderline non-functional knee-pads in line; some regress to wearing garter-belts; some give up altogether.

In short, the 2015 CCM Pro knee-pad appears to be one that every goalie should try.

As The Goalie Crease (a terrific and highly knowledgeable goalie shop north of Toronto, in Richmond Hill, NOT to be confused with goaliecrease.net) notes on its product page, the CCM KPPRO is related to a surprisingly short-lived 2014 Reebok offering:

"Initially launched last year under Reebok branding, the KPPRO knee pads are an amazing product to say the least. With their revolutionary hinge system, that allows the knee pad to move freely and function both while down along the ice with maximum coverage or while standing with no hold up at all..."

While TGC is correct to note the similarities between the 2015 CCM KPPRO and the 2014 Reebok KPPRO, there are two points that need clarification.

First, while the design of the 2015 CCM Pro knee-pads is indeed 'revolutionary', it isn't so in the sense most might expect. What Patrick Lefebvre has done, in short, is to revolutionise a very old design: the hinged knee protection that originally appeared (in goaltending) in the Daignault-Rolland (later D&R, no relation to the current' 'DR') GK10 that Patrick Roy used to such great effect:


It's hard to see in this picture (I don't have a reference pair, sadly, any more) but the crux of the GK10 design was the hinge created by the pair of rivets, one on either side of the knee. The design principle is identical to a more recent pair of construction knee-pads -- the KP Industries UltraFlex KneePro III -- that have found a great deal of use in martial-arts and other similarly athletic circles:


(Amazon link)

While the Ultraflex III won't work for goaltending -- the upper shield is unpadded, and the plastic is too tacky/sticky for the pad to rotate around it -- CCM has done the next best thing: updating the venerable three-piece knee-pad design to incorporate a superior lower third that is far more comfortable and FAR less prone to slipping down the calf, and attaching that lower third using a GK10-style riveted hinge:


(Detailed pictures courtesy of The Hockey Shop's product page)

From the front, the lineage of Michel Lefebvre's original three-piece Koho knee-pads is apparent, with a tapered upper shield (1) descending behind a faintly kidney-shaped main shield (2), which covers a lower shield that wraps around the knee to attach at the top of the calf (3):


As you can see, the main differences between the original Michel Lefebvre Koho knee-pads and his son Patrick's 2015 CCM model are the addition of the riveted hinge to join the lower third to the main shield (instead of three flimsy little pieces of elastic on the Kohos, not pictured), the significant enhancement of the lower third itself, and -- most importantly -- the change in the shape of the plastic knee-cap from the 'ball' shape of the Kohos to the flatter profile of the CCMs.

This last point may not sound like much, but it is absolutely crucial. Some goalies could wear Michel Lefebvre's original three-piece design without any issues, but some goalies were left seriously bruised and in some cases bleeding like stuck pigs from the lower lip of the original hard plastic cap, which featured a lovely line of coarse stitching that made an already sharp edge feel like a steak knife. Incredibly, this design persisted for almost a decade in various forms, through the RBK and Reebok brandings, and even the firstigeneration CCM revival knee-pads. Other companies -- notably Vaughn, Brian's, and Bauer, after a brief and disastrous copy of the original Koho design in 'Halloween colours', which Itech also attempted -- tried to fix this problem by replacing the lower third with a simple low-density foam cup, but this left a serious gap in protection at the bottom of the knee-cap; when in the butterfly, pucks could find their way straight to the bottom of the patella. These three companies (and others) experimented with the addition of an enormous fourth shield to the design, covering the face of the other three, but this had serous drawbacks in weight and mobility.

the other perennial problem with the three-piece design was that unless you had huge calves and extremely skinny thighs, the knee-pads would slip down. This lead to garter-belts, hockey socks and roll after roll of clear tape, and a variety of other method to keep them up.

In 2014, Patrick Lefebvre took the first tentative steps in correcting his father's knee-pad design. His new (now discontinued) Reebok knee-pad trimmed away the bottom lip of the hard plastic 'ball' cap, but left the rough line of stitching in place. The lower third was significantly improved, adding a much more robust strap, a great deal more padding, and a simple 'donut' for the knee-cap which InGoal inexplicably claimed had something to do with Jofa's JDP technology. P.L. also added the riveted hinge at the knee, but did not reinforce it, and, bizarrely, only put a rivet on one side:


(Thanks to Total Hockey for the ONE clear shot of this on the entire internet -- showing that there was, in fact, just one rivet on the medial [inside] aspect of the knee-pad.)

The reception of the the new 2014 Reebok knee-pads was both mixed and short-lived. Some InGoal readers commented that the rivet on the one-sided hinge ripped out; InGoal suggested, weirdly, that their pads were to blame. (Ultimately, one reader reported back that The Hockey Shop had replaced his failing rivet with a larger, higher-quality one that solved the problem, and suggested reinforcing the underlying fabric-- which was exactly what CCM did!) Several long-term Reebok knee-pad users on Goaliestore.com reported that the 2014 knee-pads stayed up and in place so well that they were able to, at long last, do away entirely with garter-belts, clear tape, and socks, but reported that they had been quietly discontinued-- presumably because of the impending CCM update.

As The Goalie Crease (the store, not .net) observes, the 2015 CCM Pro knee-pads are clearly built on the same foundation as the above 2014 Reeboks; however, TGC implies that they are the same product when the CCM update is, in fact quite significant, introducing key changes to the design (as we see above): namely, that the hinge mechanism is now bilateral *and* properly reinforced with heavier rivets, washers, and synthetic leather, that the plastic knee-cap cap has been further slimmed down, and the line of rough stitching along the bottom has FINALLY been eliminated, ending more than a decade of pain and suffering.

The sole area of concern I have is the use of air-knit fabric around the Velcro attachments. I love air-knit for the way it breathes (even if it is surprisingly heavy) and how quickly and thoroughly it dries out, and it can handle a great deal of abrasion under ordinary conditions, but Velcro absolutely shreds the it. Air-knit knee-pads are a great idea, but CCM might want to consider some kind of loop-back strapping on future versions.

The 2015 CCM knee-pads appear to be, at long last, a sound expression of this essential design, drawing on another legendary Quebecois design (the D&R GK10) for the final touch.

It's not every day a hockey product is both functionally sound *and* historically significant!

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