Oct 25, 2019

The race to find the perfect skate blade in the NHL

Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI/Getty Images

Thanks to technological innovation and a young crop of players obsessed with gaining even the slightest edge, the world of NHL skate blades is in the midst of a revolution.

Why it matters: Unlocking the combination of profile (i.e. shape) and depth that best suits each player can provide them with a huge advantage on the ice.

  • Now that removable blades are the norm, it's easy to swap them out from one game to another or even between shifts. As a result, players are constantly tinkering.
  • Full-service sharpening shops, which can ship players custom blades overnight, are on the rise.
  • Teams like the Canadiens have invested in machines that can sharpen blades better than any human ever could, all while keeping the its shape intact.

How it works: "There are different geometries for different positions (and skating strides, and weight classes, etc.), and the range of options is only broadening as profiling precision improves," writes The Athletic's Sean Gordon (subscription).

Courtesy Elite Blade Performance

The bottom line: "Skating axiomatically comes down to a trade-off between biting into the ice (i.e. control, agility in turns) and gliding across it (i.e. speed, efficiency)," writes Gordon.

  • "In general terms, you boost one at the expense of the other. But what if one were able to maximize both?"
  • "That's the Holy Grail NHL players, and the equipment managers who kit them out, are chasing. Relentlessly."

Go deeper: Selling the NHL's stars despite hockey's team-first attitude

Go deeper

NFL players weigh health against career threats

Photo: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

The recent medical struggles of three NFL players highlight the delicate balance of athletes' health and their careers.

Driving the news: In October, former New York Jets guard Kelechi Osemele filed an injury grievance against his team for an outstanding shoulder issue. After he refused to practice and underwent unauthorized surgery to address the issue, going against the team's opinion, the Jets released Osemele. He was stuck with fines of up to $579,000 each week, ESPN reports.

Go deeperArrowNov 15, 2019

Australia women's soccer players to get equal pay after historic deal

The Australian team before the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Round of 16 match against Norway in Nice, France. Photo: Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Australia's women soccer players will get the same pay and an equal split of commercial revenue as the men's team after the country's players' union reached a deal with the soccer governing body, the Australian Football Federation announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The deal "sets the model" for soccer governing bodies around the world, said players' union CEO John Didulica. It comes as the U.S. women's team awaits a trial after suing its governing body for "institutionalized gender discrimination" by paying them less than the men's team.

Go deeper: The future of women's soccer after another World Cup win for the U.S.

California forces the NCAA's hand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The dam has officially cracked on college athletes benefiting from their own likenesses — now the question is how much ground the NCAA is actually willing to give.

Why it matters: California's landmark law, plus the threat of other states passing their own, has succeeded in forcing the NCAA to back away from its nuclear threats around player benefits.

Go deeperArrowOct 29, 2019 - Sports