April 23rd, 2012

BY MICHAEL HAYAKAWA

April 19, 2012

Jeff Calabretta loves hockey.

Having played as a youth in the Markham minor hockey system and currently serving as a coach of the Markham minor peewee AA Waxers in his spare time, the 32-year-old feels the game itself does not require any changes.

But like a lot of people who watch the game, Calabretta acknowledged he’s concerned by the number of injuries incurred in the heat of battle. Especially those to the head that can result in concussions. In an attempt to curb such incidents, Calabretta and friends Mico Galluzzo and Tom Bellis, have devised a line of protective equipment they feel can ease such fears.

Through a company they formed in 2008 called 2nd Defense, and sometimes referred to as 2D, the trio recently introduced a line of eco friendly, high-tech protective gear that includes shoulder, elbow and shin pads.

Unlike current models of protective gear on the market, which appear bulky and are coated with an outside layer of hard plastic, what makes the 2nd Defense apparel more appealing is its streamlined look along with the application of softer outer materials. One of the unique features they incorporate are non Newtonian fluids, which are placed in the inner layers of their protective devices.

What that does, Calabretta said, is to absorb energy rather than transfer it. “The kids these days are bigger, faster and stronger. The problem with the equipment players use these days is that it can make some people feel more invincible and they take more liberties on the ice,” Calabretta said.

“We felt there was room for change, to change certain pieces of equipment to make it safer, to reduce injuries like concussions and to put more respect back in the game.” Conceding they knew little about manufacturing when they launched their business, Calabretta said the only thing they had going for them was drawing from their experiences in playing and coaching and through interacting with hockey parents.

“We went to the drawing board and came up with an idea where we looked at various pieces of equipment. We then asked how much do they cost and we looked at how players were getting hurt and how the media at times overplayed some incidents. And we looked at the standards of living for kids and their parents. “Most kids don’t make the NHL, but we wanted to design and come out with equipment that is grassroots and at the same time make it affordable.”

Revealing some parts of their equipment are manufactured in Canada while others come from abroad due to lower costs, Calabretta said they did plenty of experimenting through addition and subtraction of certain things before deriving what they felt was the ideal final product.

“What you now have are players who are safer. They can now have fun and lead healthier lives and be further protected,” he said. “Even the skilled players become more skilled — they can move faster and be more agile.”

With the hockey market being fairly competitive, a big feather in the cap for 2nd Defense came last April when they made a presentation of their protective wares to the National Hockey League and ultimately received approval. From that, they feel other leagues who are on board with the NHL will follow suit when they see their product line, which also has met European standards.

While the group intends to officially launch their product prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign, they noted a couple members of the Montreal Canadiens currently use their prototype products along with some members of the Bemidji State collegiate hockey team in the U.S. and Team Canada women’s squad. Hoping to receive some feedback so they could make further revisions if required, Calabretta said the response has been nothing short of positive.

“It’s been amazing. What the people like most is the design and how light the products are,” he said.

Hoping their product will be well received when it goes on the market, Calabretta said they have set a sales target of at least $240,000 for the first year.

As a part of their marketing strategy, he revealed they intend to have a rebate program with minor hockey organizations where if a team purchases a certain amount of products their company will give back a certain amount towards that team’s operating budget.

“Our goal at the end of the day is to reduce injuries and help kids out with an elite product that we have,” he said. “We didn’t want to put something on the shelf that wouldn’t help kids.

“We know we’re not a big company like a Nike or Bauer. But we feel we have something that will help. We’ve played the game and know what the players are going through.”

While the group is immersed in launching their products for players, they haven’t stopped there. Calabretta said they’re in the process of designing protective equipment for on-ice officials and even coaches during on-ice practices with the creation of a base layer elite for the upper body.

For more, visit the website 2nddefense.com

This article is for personal use only courtesy of yorkregion.com – a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.