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Matt Niskanen Gives Technology a Shot

How a strip of laminated foam helped protect the Caps’ feet

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On June 8th the Washington Capitals secured their first ever Stanley Cup Championship with a 4-3 victory of the Golden Knights in Las Vegas, Nevada. The season’s crowning achievement was delivered on the backs of the players with help throughout the franchise from management all the way down.

A few weeks later the Hockey Hall of Fame assembled a Capitals championship display in their showcase and it included a player’s skate with an odd addition - all black covering. Take a look:

The CCM skate was defenseman Matt Niskanen’s and the addition in question is Custom SkateWorks’ Ultrastop Shot Blocker.

Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals wearing Ultrastop Shot Blockers
Matt Niskanen of the Capitals wearing Ultrastop Shot Blockers on March 10th, 2018.

Niskanen wore Ultrastop Shot Blocker throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was first seen on his skates in early March during a Capitals’ west coast road game in San Jose. During the second season Niskanen led all Washington skaters with 57 blocked shots. Averaging over two blocked shots per game (2.375) in the second season was a huge jump from his regular season number of 1.44 (h/t TSN). Niskanen was also one of the Capitals’ top penalty killers in the playoffs, skating 74:39 while down a man. Despite the heavy and treacherous workload Niskanen suited up for all 24 playoff contests to cap off his best season in Washington.

The majority of skate protection used in the NHL is made of plastic and velcro straps. This spring the Capitals were victimized by conventional skate protection that failed on Devante Smith-Pelly in the Stanley Cup Finals. After a Shea Theodore shot broke his velcro strap Smith-Pelly was caught trying to clean up the debris. While he was disengaged with play Theodore put a pass through him and the slot that Tomas Nosek buried behind Braden Holtby.

Ultrastop Shot Blocker’s goal is to protect a player’s feet from injury. Unlike conventional skate protection it is made from a non-porous foam that is laminated to a durable and abrasion-resistant exterior shell. The product is applied to a player’s skate with a simple peel-and-stick attachment but it appears like the product was also stitched to Niskanen’s boot by a member of the Capitals’ equipment staff.

The product arrives to teams in flat sheets that are trimmed to fit any skate (or protect any specific bone) precisely. For famously finicky hockey players this is a new alternative to conventional technology and professionals are beginning to take notice. 27 NHL teams had at least one player wearing the product last season.

The Capitals open training camp on September 15th fresh off of their first championship. With Niskanen’s successful pilot run complete keep your eyes open for other players to give the product a shot.