When the Washington Capitals walked into the dressing room Wednesday morning to prepare for practice they were greeted by a box of Kevlar-reinforced socks from Reebok and a note saying that General Manager George McPhee wanted them to try out the protective gear.
The suggestion comes a week after Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered a lacerated left Achilles tendon that required surgery and ended his season.
“I think it’s really smart, actually,” said Jay Beagle, who along with Eric Fehr were among the Capitals who were using the socks of their own accord before Karlsson’s injury. “Even when Karlsson went down with that, me and Fehrsie….said right away, we were like, ‘I can’t believe everyone doesn’t wear them.’ just because you’re so exposed to it.”
A vast majority of the Capitals wore the socks for the hour-long practice session, and while there were mixed reviews, several players said they will use them in Thursday’s game against New Jersey and will consider a permanent switch.
“They didn’t feel as bad this time but they definitely take some getting used to. This is obviously thicker and we’re trying to figure out the right word for it,” Karl Alzner added. “It’s almost like it scratches, itches a little bit, and we’re so particular about the way our gear feels it’s just one of those things that takes time to get used to.”
Washington isn’t making Kevlar-reinforced socks mandatory for its players, but encouraging them to give them a shot. Not all teams provide the option.
Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik said that the Montreal Canadiens required players to wear the reinforced socks after Robert Lang and Andrei Markov both needed surgery to repair their cut Achilles tendons in 2009. He’s worn them ever since.
“You have to get used to it,” Hamrlik said. “Unfortunately these things happen, but you try to avoid them [by doing] many things like [wearing] the socks and stuff like that. Hopefully they’re going to help. Nobody wants to get hurt and be our four or five months.”
Defensemen John Erskine was uncertain, saying that he didn’t like the thickness of the sock around his ankle, while Jeff Schultz didn’t like how the socks caused his foot to slip inside his skate boot.
“This is the first time I’ve worn them and I’m not a fan — just the material,” Schultz said. “They’re sliding in the skate a little bit.”
Beagle, who has worn cut-resistant socks since he was nicked in his Achilles while playing for the AHL’s Hershey Bears, said he took an X-Acto knife to the Reebok socks the Capitals provided today to test their durability and was able to damage them somewhat. He plans on switching back to his previous brand of Kevlar-reinforced socks, which he knows he can’t cut through.
Forwards Matt Hendricks, Joey Crabb and Mathieu Perreault all said they’re planning to switch, as did goaltender Braden Holtby.
“It’s a good idea, I think, with things that happen. 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. “I’m on board.”