MLX's primary sponsor, Mario Lemieux, puts on his custom pair of MLX skates for the first ever skate at Consol Energy Center
We recently received an invitation from MLX Skates to write a product review of the company's new hockey skate. As a prelude to that review, here are some quick notes on the product and why I'm looking forward to test driving it.
MLX was founded by former speed skating Olympian Dave Cruikshank, who now works as a skating and performance coach, having consulted for teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, the Rockford Ice Hogs and even the Ducks' current AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. In founding MLX, Cruikshank was hoping to marry the comfort, maneuverability and performance of a speed skate with the protection and durability of a hockey skate.
To that end, the company has focused on the skate boot, which is made of, amongst other things, aircraft-grade composite materials, just like speed skates. When heated, the materials of the skate appear to flex incredibly (at least from the videos on the company's YouTube channel) ensuring a tight custom fit when heat molding the product to your foot.
Now, as soft as that boot looks when hot (and it looks as soft as raw cookie dough), it regains its rigidity when it cools, and the company claims that the composite material distributes energy better than the combination of plastics and leather on other hockey boots, which collapse and rebound on puck impact. So it sounds like they've managed to deliver superior protection AND superior comfort. We'll see.
To further drive home the comfort and performance ethos, the skate is fully customizable. The tongue and tendon guard can be removed and replaced, the skate blade can be adjusted. And to provide a better fit, the insole can be modified, and each pair comes with custom inserts that can be used to adjust the position of the foot in the boot. It's like the Honda Civic of hockey skates.
And that is the part that intrigues me. I won't be pushing these skates to their limit in terms of performance, mostly because I've primarily played inline most of my life but also because the word of players like Sergei Gonchar and Dustin Byfuglien, who use MLX in the NHL, are more valuable in terms of evaluating the performance of the skate. No, I'll be approaching this review as someone who's made the journey for a comfortable hockey boot and come back empty handed every time.
I tend to think of myself as having very specific needs, because not all of them agree. I like to get a good bend in my knees, so I need to flex against the laces a lot, but my left ankle has some serious stiffness after an injury several years ago, so I also need a lot of support, at least on that foot. My feet are a little wider than standard sizing, but I can't really go a half size or more above the true length of my foot because of the aforementioned support.
So, for example, with my current pair of skates, I've got great ankle support, but the bones in my foot are rubbing against the walls of the boot. And my story's not uncommon. That's why Cruikshank started MLX. Lots of hockey players skate in pain or at least a level of discomfort that might surprise a speed skater. I'm very interested to see how well this skate fits and how well I can move on the ice. If it performs as advertised, I'll be lobbying them for an inline model before the year is over.