During a late June joint meeting of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers in Las Vegas, a representative from Reebok, a major National Hockey League sponsor, was speaking to the group and made the comment that their hockey sock was the best on the market. Unprompted, an equipment manager from one of the league’s Canadian-based teams stood up and told him that he was wrong and that Swiftwick makes the best hockey sock.
Yes, a sock manufactured in Tennessee by the Brentwood-based company has the product that is the most sought after sock in the hockey world.
To most observers, the kind of socks that hockey players wear may be an afterthought since they aren’t visible and because of the fact that players have so much other gear that is visible when they are on the ice.
But in mid February, a gruesome injury sustained by Ottawa Senators Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson focused a lot of attention on what type of socks hockey players wear.
On the play, Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke tried to pin Karlsson to the boards, but his skate caught the back of Karlsson’s leg, partially severing his Achilles tendon.
“Cut resistance is the premier topic these days, but there are some reasons why players weren’t wearing cut-resistant socks that might have been on the market for years,” Swiftwick CEO Mark Cleveland said. “We didn’t develop the first cut resistant sock, we just developed the first cut resistant sock that players will wear.”
The play that saw Karlsson get injured is one that is seen on a nightly basis in NHL games. In order to neutralize an opponent, another tries to pin him to the boards, but on this play, Cooke’s skate caught Karlsson in one of the most vulnerable spots on a hockey player.
Players are extremely particular about all of their equipment and clothing, so finding something that the players want to wear is quite an accomplishment. Cut resistance is just one aspect of Swiftwick’s sock. They also paid attention to compression, total sweat management, and anti-bacterial properties.
Retailing for about $40, these technologically advanced socks do come at a cost, but they provide protection to a vital part of any hockey player’s body, especially considering the extremely sharp skates that are worn.
“If you lose your feet, you lose your game,” Cleveland said. “Traditional cut resistant socks are not performance socks, they are just for protection.
“Players don’t like to wear them. They don’t feel good. It is not because of Erik Karlsson that we are successful. It is because of Erik Karlsson that people are paying attention. You never want an athlete suffer an injury before the risk becomes real to people, but that is what happened in this situation.”
Swiftwick’s patented hockey sock design was under development for two years, but they had decided to put the release on hold due to the NHL’s lockout that had delayed the start of the last season until January.
Karlsson’s injury created more demand than Swiftwick was ready for at that particular time. Following the injury, production was ramped up to meet the inquiries that were coming from all over the hockey world.
Now Swiftwick hockey socks are on the legs and feet of many NHL players, including former Nashville Predator Steve Sullivan who wears the product. Many college and junior teams are making the socks mandatory gear for their players as well.