Design Engineer Opines on Hockey Skate Design

    This equipment design case involves an injury to a seventeen-year-old ice hockey player due to allegedly faulty equipment. The plaintiff was using a new pair of ice skates produced by a leading ice hockey equipment manufacturer. The plaintiff used the ice skates for the first time during his team’s morning skate with no apparent problems. After testing them out and determining he liked them, the plaintiff decided he would wear the skates in his game later that evening. On his first shift of the game, the plaintiff was injured when the skate blade snapped off from the rest of the ice skate. The plaintiff lost his balance and twisted his leg as he fell to the ice. After receiving on-ice treatment from the team’s trainer, he was carted off the ice rink on a stretcher and taken to a nearby suburban hospital. There, it was determined that he tore his ACL and MCL during the fall.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. What procedures are in place to ensure ice hockey equipment is not defective when produced?

    Expert Witness Response

    Like all products, hockey equipment must be tested to make certain it is not defective when it leaves the manufacturer. Furthermore, there are certain standards that the equipment must meet. The Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization, created to evaluate and set standards for the testing of hockey equipment. The HECC certification demonstrates that the equipment passed all of the tests, indicating the equipment met the performance criteria specific to the body areas the equipment was designed to protect at the time it was submitted for testing. Some of these tests on ice skates include testing stress points, susceptibility to extreme heat and cold, and durability. In order to appropriately determine the exact cause of the break, the ice skate would need to be examined more closely, including a full review of the results from the testing done, to assess any potential liability. Because the skate was new and only used two times, it appears there could be a defect in the product. Furthermore, there are a number of cases that I am aware of where similar claims were brought against skate makers for a defective design or manufacturing process. I have over twenty years in ice hockey equipment design and manufacturing, and I am very familiar with product certification and testing.

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