Should NHL players be forced to wear Kevlar socks?

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Following the injury to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, discussions have been sparked about whether more NHL players should be wearing Kevlar-based material to prevent accidental cuts from skate blades.

In the wake of the lacerated Achilles Tendon suffered by Ottawa Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson on Wednesday night, has risen a revitalized discourse about measures NHL players can take to avoid a similar fate.

Namely, wearing socks and shirts made out of kevlar.

Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne is one of the biggest supporters of wearing kevlar fashioned material, as he suffered the same injury as Karlsson while playing for the Winnipeg Jets during the 1994 season. Labeling the decision not to wear the material as "stupid," Selanne wears kevlar socks as well as kevlar sleeves to protect his wrists.

Following practice at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, Selanne demonstrated during his media availability how effective kevlar material is against skate blades, via Ansar Kahn of MLive.com:

Sitting in the visitors dressing room at Joe Louis Arena Thursday, Teemu Selanne slipped on a Kevlar sleeve, grabbed his skate and attempted to slice his wrist.

"This doesn't cut,'' Selanne, the Anaheim Ducks star forward, said. "The socks, same thing. I don't understand why they are not (mandatory). It's so light, doesn't bother you at all.''

In the Red Wings locker room, players like Daniel Cleary, Jonathan Ericsson, Mikael Samuelsson and Niklas Kronwall all discussed the benefits of wearing kevlar. Cleary acknowledged how drastic the outcome of a freak accident could be if a player is wearing the protection:

"Instead of a severed tendon, you'd probably get some stitches. It's like a bullet-proof vest; it's going to hurt and probably leave a mark, just not as deep.''

In Carolina, more than half of the Hurricanes roster uses some kind of kevlar material because of past occurrences where Joe Corvo, Chad LaRose and Cam Ward suffered cuts.

Hurricanes senior director of communications Mike Sundheim told Tim Wharnsby that no member of the team has suffered a cut since using the material. Sundheim believes more players will wear the material in the wake of the Karlsson incident and shared a story from the team's equipment manager, via CBC.ca:

"Our equipment guy did tell a story where one of our guys, he thought it was Justin Faulk, was struck in the leg while wearing these (kevlar) last year," Sundheim said. "He said you could see the mark on the sock where he was hit, but he was not injured."

In Vancouver, Canucks players entered the locker room on Thursday morning to find a pair of Kevlar socks laid out in each player's locker. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa has been wearing kevlar socks for five years since having his achilles cut during a game in 2007.

He also believes all players should be wearing them, via the National Post:

"We have done some tests with [the socks material] and taken the X-Acto knife to it and scissors, and it doesn't go all the way through," he said. "So I don't know why you wouldn't wear them."

Discussions about using kevlar based material has also come up with the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, as Devils coach Pete DeBoer is thinking about talking to his players about it and Washington players such as Alex Ovechkin, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle already wear kevlar socks.

However, much like with visors on helmets or guards on skates, the decision to use the protection is up to individual players.

While a piece of equipment could better protect the players, it might also cause them some discomfort during play. This is commonly the explanation given by players who choose not to wear visors, skate guards or the kevlar material.

Ultimately, players need to evaluate whether a bit of initial discomfort while adjusting to a piece of equipment is worse than the risk of serious injury.

With Karlsson projected to miss approximately six months while recovering, adjusting to a sock might not be such a bad option in the larger scheme of things.

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