The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NHL News: Philadelphia Flyers’ Foot Injuries Cause Skate Guard Showdown

Posted by on Thursday, October 30th, 2014


Every kid who has played ice hockey knows the stinging sensation of a puck ricocheting off the foot or ankle. With any luck, a player can just walk it off with an uneasy expression and some throbbing. Other times, the cart comes out, a stint is slapped on, and it’s a one-way ticket to the injured reserve.  The bigger and stronger players are, the greater the risk. One shot from Zdeno Chara and you’ve got a 108 mile-per-hour slapshot coming your way! In light of a few recent foot injuries, the Philadelphia Flyers’ General Manager Ron Hextall thinks it’s about time all players protect themselves with skate guards. Yet, not all players are on board, as they worry this decision could alter game dynamics in a negative way.

Skate Fender and Shotblockers are helping NHL players and high school skaters steer clear of foot and ankle injuries like those sustained by the Philadelphia Flyers this season. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons User, Eric Kilby

Philadelphia Flyers’ Foot Injuries: the Left Foot Curse?

Are the Philadelphia Flyers cursed this season? It almost seems so, with this latest rash of foot injuries.

– Flyers’ Defensemen Braydon Coburn has been day-to-day since he was hit in the left foot with a shot on October 13th.

– Wayne Simmonds took a shot off his left foot in a preseason vs. the New York Rangers and was seen wearing a walking boot this month.

– Vincent Lecavalier just returned to practice after taking friendly fire off his left foot in the season’s third game against Montreal.

– Defenseman Andrew MacDonald blocked two shots off his foot and is rumored to be sitting out for a month.

“I think it’s just unlucky to be honest with you,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. Lucky or not, the team management wants some control over the situation, which is why Hextall proposed that all players wear skate guards in the future.

What Are Skate Guards?

The big players in the skate guard industry are Skate Fenders, which have been used by Detroit Red Wings players, and Shotblockers, which have recently been approved by the NHL director and were used by Vancouver Canucks’ forward Ryan Johnson. “Johnson wore them for six or seven games, decided to take them off right before the playoffs and broke his foot again,” noted one podiatrist. Made from polypropylene graphite material that covers the soft tongue and sides of the hockey skate, this product sells for $50 to $190, depending on the model and customization options selected.

Clashing Opinions

In general, management and trainers love the product–as do we podiatrists and sports medicine doctors! “I think the league and the players’ association should do something there,” Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall said. “It’s one of my pet peeves. To demand our players to be in their shot lanes all the time and have them out there with inadequate protection is crazy.” If he could, he’d pass down the order for all players to wear skate guards, but the league won’t let him.

On the other hand, players grumble about any mandate passed down that may affect their prowess on the ice. Players say they feel “a little bit heavy,” have a “different feel when you’re tying your skates,” and argue that they sometimes “trip over them when they’re crossing over.” The culture of hockey is to resist any new equipment introduced to the league, analysts tell the Vernon Morning Star. To this day, only a little over half the players wear helmet visors, for instance.

Flyers Center Vincent Lecavalier said he understands the need for protection but isn’t so sure it should be a rule. “It feels different, a little stiffer,” he told the NJ Star-Ledger. “Some guys feel great in them. (The skates are) a little heavier. It’s a couple ounces, but you definitely feel it. (But) you want to protect yourself, and you want to make sure you don’t go out with another injury like that. I’ll definitely try that.”

While some are hesitant, top-level hard-hitters like Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara understand the amount of damage a hockey puck hurdling at over 100 mph can do–and they can both be spotted wearing Shotblockers. Flyers Wing Jake Voracek, who is in his third season with the Flyers, said he wouldn’t have a problem with wearing skate guards, but admitted, “You can’t tell a player what to wear unless it’s mandatory.”

“Everyone’s getting fitted for individual skate guards,” said Wayne Simmonds, who broke his foot last year. “I think that’s the way it should be.”

With four Flyers players suffering foot injuries since the start of training camp, it’s not surprising the team’s support staff would urge players to wear an added layer of protection.

Hockey Foot & Ankle Health in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City works with hockey players–amateur, high school, and pro. Our in-house staff includes board-certified podiatrists, trainers, podiatric surgeons, sports doctors, and physical therapists. We understand how to facilitate an active recovery that preserves player skills in the best way possible, without jeopardizing immobilization needs and long-term strength-building. We’re equipped with the latest technology to expedite healing and produce superior results, including platelet-rich plasma injections, extracorporeal pulse activation therapy, and Tenex Procedure (Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue). Contact our NY podiatry and sports medicine office for more information. 


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.