Senators players reconsider equipment choices following Karlsson cut

The Ottawa Senators organization is looking to give its players as many safety equipment options as possible after losing star defenceman Erik Karlsson for the season.

Stephane Da Costa tried out protective socks in practice Saturday, but wasn't ready to commit to pulling them up for a game just yet. (Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen)

The Ottawa Senators organization is looking to give its players as many safety equipment options as possible after losing star defenceman Erik Karlsson for the season.

Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top blueliner, underwent surgery this week to repair a lacerated Achilles tendon — an injury that might have been prevented had he been wearing protective kevlar foot and/or hockey socks.

There are six current Senators players who regularly wear some form of protection in the Achilles area: Jason Spezza, Sergei Gonchar, Guillaume Latendresse, Chris Phillips, Andre Benoit and Eric Gryba.

And on Saturday, Mika Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa decided to take the morning skate in protective foot socks manufactured by Montreal’s Tuff-n-Lite and Bauer Hockey, respectively.

While the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement governs player equipment standards and teams can’t compel players to wear types of gear not covered, they can provide as many options as possible and point out the benefits of things like protective socks.

As such, team owner Eugene Melnyk’s right-hand man, Ken Villazor, was spotted chatting with team equipment manager Scott Allegrino after the morning skate in Toronto about what the team can do to avoid injuries like the one that took Karlsson out.

From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense. Karlsson is among the team’s most valuable and highly-paid players.

For players, however, comfort is usually king. They’ll shun certain types of safety equipment they consider too heavy, bulky or obstructive, which was behind the old helmet debate and the visor debate, which continues to this day (just this week, the Vancouver Canucks shut down centre Manny Malhotra, who was trying to come back from a severe eye injury in March 2011).

Seeing Karlsson screaming in pain and being helped off the ice after getting a skate in the leg from Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke was enough to get Da Costa and Zibanejad to consider making a change.

Da Costa wasn’t planning to wear the kevlar socks in a game just yet — he figured to spend a few days trying them out in practice before making a final decision.

“Some of the guys on the team have been trying them,” Da Costa said. “It’s always good to prevent injuries like that and, I mean, I’m not going to wear them tonight because of habits and stuff, but it’s something that I’m probably going to consider one day.”

“If I like it, I’m definitely going to wear them,” he continued. “If it prevents anything to happen to me, that would be best, you know?”

Zibanejad hadn’t made his mind up about whether or not to pull the kevlar socks on for a game, but he said he found them to be comfortable and not all that different from regular ones.

“I guess it’s good to try them to say you tried them,” he said. “If I don’t like them, I don’t like them, but at least I tried.

“It’s not that big of a difference, really, it’s a sock, but it’s all good now and I’m going to try it longer. But we’ll see.”

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