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Skate cuts should serve as a wake-up call

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn looks towards the referee as he struggles to skate off the ice after colliding with Calgary Flames Mark Giordano during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas.


Yes, silly, of course there are inherent risks in playing a game where everyone is wearing knives on their feet.

Dallas Stars centre Jamie Benn is merely the latest to find out first hand.

Benn, who is the team's leading scorer and represented the Stars at the all-star game - he's the one who nearly won the car for being the last player picked in the shinny draft (or is that Shanny draft?) had the harrowing experience of suffering a cut to the back of his knee from an errant blade on Thursday night.

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In the second period against Calgary, Benn got tangled up with Flames defenceman Mark Giordano along the side boards, and Giordano's skate clipped the inside of his left knee.

Cue the anxious look and skate-hobble to the dressing room tunnel.

After the game, Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said Benn was spared serious injury, and that he will be day-to-day after having some stitches on "a pretty decent-sized cut".

The television cameras didn't show the other team's bench, but it's a safe bet Michael Cammalleri had some flashbacks to a game in Winnipeg last October - hockey players being hockey players, it won't have showed, if it were you or I, we'd be hugging ourselves and rocking back and forth.

It's a little-discussed fact that Cammalleri's season - and possibly his career - nearly ended in the game against the Jets, where then-teammate Yannick Weber's skate slashed across the top of his knee.

As it is, it left an angry-looking cut - and kept him out for nearly three weeks - but given the location, near the patellar tendon, it could have been a lot worse.

"A quarter-inch deeper, and that was it," Cammalleri told us a few weeks before Montreal traded him to Calgary.

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But this isn't a story about an injury.

When Cammalleri began working his way back, the Habs' enterprising equipment staff - considered among the best the in the business - stitched some thin Kevlar pads onto the inside of his socks.

They'd been placed at the vulnerable areas at the top, back and bottom.

Modern NHL socks are made out stretchy spandex-y material, not the thickly-woven polyester seen in rec leagues everywhere, and Cammalleri observed that they're not especially effective in preventing skate injuries.

"The guys here are magicians," he said back then, in reference to the Habs' staff. "But it seems to me that it wouldn't be that hard to talk to the equipment companies to ask them to make the socks out of a cut-resistant fabric."

Not having seen Cammalleri since he was traded, we don't know if he has customized kevlar-enhanced in his new Calgary uni - it would be a shock if he didn't.

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It's a natural reflex when a player gets hurt to want to prevent a recurrence, and Cammalleri being a very smart guy, he also decided to prevent injuries of the sort Anaheim's Jason Blake suffered to his wrist earlier this season (a skate cut kept him out for three months).

So he cut the toes out of a pair of kevlar socks - the Habs started issuing speed-skating socks to players who want them four years ago - and slid them onto his wrists.

"That Blake thing," he said, "was a wake-up call."

There are, of course, several companies that make cut-resistant shirts and other gear (in one case, developed for police officers), the stuff is not widely used in the NHL, although injured Habs forward Mike Blunden shills for one of the products.

Maybe Benn's cut will serve as a wake-up call as well.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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