Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are the Duds a Dud? Should the Fix be Nixed??

Mulish (we really like that one)

Pick an adjective, and maybe it applies to the fine folks at Reebok who, in the face of mounting concern that their “EDGE uniform system” is encountering some serious problems, seem inclined more to merely “tweak’ the product than to just “New Coke” the whole idea.

The folks at On Frozen Blog did a nice job of laying out the problem confronted by one team, and it is a stepping off point in how problems might evolve from the “hey, Alex, are you having problems with your gloves” kind of question a blogger might ask a player (or players might ask one another) to a full fledged, full-throated complaint that this “system” doesn’t work that reaches to game broadcasts, the hockey punditocracy, and eventually news outlets and perhaps corporate offices of the league and its partners.

What we seem to have now is a simmer…the occasional (if pretty persistent) complaint that the characteristics of the jersey and socks are such that gloves and skates collect run off. In the OFB entry, we see an example of one player – a player who matters in the larger scheme of things in the NHL, it should be noted – offering that he goes through two pair of gloves per period. Whether this is imprecise overstatement by Alex Ovechkin really isn’t especially relevant – if he goes through one pair of gloves a period, is this too much? Does it impair performance? Regarding skates, does the run off factor deteriorate the skate or otherwise put the player at risk of injury? Does it affect skating performance? Is there the potential for this problem to have other, related effects with respect to the health of players – specifically as to whether gloves and/or skates then become greater breeding grounds for infections? You'd like to think these matters would have been worked out in testing, but one doesn't get a comfortable feeling that "testing" addressed such matters. If these questions get asked with any greater frequency, and if any of them are answered with any regularity in the affirmative, then the simmer might just become a full boil.

A new uniform design is not – in and of itself – a bad idea. Neither is the idea of new materials. But New Coke wasn’t a bad idea on its face, either. Reebok and the league have made a considerable investment in research and marketing in the new uniform system. In a perfect world, one would give the system a chance to work out its growing pains and get past the “change” issues that often accompany a new direction. But players have to endure this change while playing in regular season games with all the attendant factors they have to deal with on a game-to-game basis. Is having to deal with equipment that perhaps has more marketing than performance benefit something that should be added to the mix?

This isn’t over.

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