When Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had his left Achilles tendon sliced by a skate blade last week, Washington Capitals forwards Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr, who wear Kevlar-reinforced, cut-proof socks, had similar reactions.
“We were like, ‘I can’t believe everyone doesn’t wear them,’ just because you’re so exposed to it,” Beagle said.
Not everyone will switch to the Kevlar socks, but when Caps players showed up for work Wednesday, they were greeted with a box of them and a note from general manager George McPhee encouraging them to try them out in practice.
“There was just a box of socks in the room today and so we obviously put it together that that’s what they wanted us to do,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Everyone grabbed a pair. Some guys tried them on, some guys had them thrown off right away. It’s all preference. If you’re willing to take the chance then you take the chance. If I can get used to them, then I have no problem wearing them.”
The Caps aren’t mandating players switch to Kevlar socks, but it seems to be a common sense change if it prevents serious injuries like what happened to Karlsson.
“Obviously that’s a scary injury for everybody,” coach Adam Oates said. “It’s just one of those things that anytime anything happens bad, something new shows up. You address it and you evaluate it.”
Several Caps players wore the heavier socks before the reigning Norris Trophy winner suffered the Achilles tear and was lost for the season, including captain Alex Ovechkin and veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik.
Hamrlik has worn them since it was mandated in Montreal following Achilles tears to Canadiens players Robert Lang and Andrei Markov in 2009 that required surgery.
“Unfortunately these things happen, but you try to avoid them [by doing] many things like the socks and stuff like that,” Hamrlik said. “Hopefully they’re going to help. Nobody wants to get hurt and be out four or five months.”
With that in mind, a vast majority of players, including goaltender Braden Holtby, wore the Kevlar socks for Wednesday’s practice. The reviews were decidedly mixed.
“This is the first time I’ve worn them and I’m not a fan,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “Just the material. They’re sliding in the skate a little bit.”
Players described them as “slippery” and Alzner said they were kind of itchy. But several guys, including Holtby and forwards Joey Crabb, Mathieu Perreault and Matt Hendricks, felt good enough about them to try them in Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
“I didn’t really notice them. They felt a little bit slippery at first, but as the practice went on now they feel good,” Hendricks said. “They’re good. I’ll probably wear them, stick to them.”
Beagle will go back to the brand of Kevlar socks he began wearing three years ago after getting nicked in the Achilles tendon by a skate while playing for the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Using an X-Acto knife or scissors, he was able to cut the team-supplied socks but not his brand.
For players upgrading from lightweight socks to Kevlar, though, it’s a change they believe in.