How A Sock Can Stop A Skate

In the Calgary Flames' Monday night preseason game against the New York Rangers, enforcer and former Predator Brian McGrattan was slashed in the leg with a skate. The back and side of the leg are the almost the most vulnerable parts of a hockey players' body and a deep skate cut is potentially dangerous, potentially career-ending and often season-shortening.

Here's a photo of the injury McGrattan tweeted in the aftermath:


McGrattan tweeted:

cut proof kevlar socks saved my season, maybe my career last night! should be mandatory piece of equipment!

Reebok — the NHL's official equipment manufacturer — took credit for their Kevlar sock stopping the skate and saving McGrattan's season.

But was he wearing Reebok's Kevlar sock or does the answer come from Brentwood?

Mark Cleveland, CEO of performance sock company Swiftwick, told the Nashville Post he confirmed with the Flames' equipment manager that McGrattan was in fact wearing his company's hockey sock, which not only provides protection from skate cuts, but also includes the moisture wicking which has become the company's trademark, specialized for the needs of the hockey player.

UPDATED (10/2): Via a second follow-up from Swiftwick — Turns out that while McGrattan sometimes wears the Swiftwick sock, he wasn't on this particular occasion.

Kevlar is a heavy material. It stops most everything, but a sock made entirely of Kevlar is basically a thermal trap. Swiftwick's hockey sock — which retails for more than $40 per pair, with each sock taking 12 minutes to manufacture — is made of a wrapped thread: a compression thread surrounded by an impact-resistant thread surrounded by two cut-resistant threads. Cleveland says the sock provides the protection of Kevlar but in a sock that doesn't harm performance.

Cut-resistant socks became a hot topic last season when the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson took a brutal skate cut on his Achilles tendon. Cleveland said Swiftwick had been developing their sock for two years, were ready to launch when the NHL season was supposed to begin, but delayed the roll-out due to the lockout.

When Karlsson was injured, though, they began offering the product, sometimes filling orders as the socks came off the line, hand-delivering packages to teams that were in town to play the Preds.

A skate-slash is a freak injury, though a devastating one, but Swiftwick says their sock is also engineered to provide advantages beyond protection. A special top acts as dam, stemming the downward flow of upper-body sweat. Excess moisture is directed to a channel in the sock using ionization and then flows down the sock to a portal designed to line up with holes in the sole of the skate which drain the sweat away.

As a testament to the level of detail that goes into the product, Swiftwick produces two lines — one that has protection on the front of the foot for players who wear the tongue of their hockey skate out and one without that protection for players who prefer to play tongue-in.