The Hickory Daily Record published a front-page story on Saturday, October 4, 2014 announcing the NHL's recent approval of Tuff-N-Lite's new Pro-Air sock designed to protect ice hockey players.
Part of the news article reads, "Tuff-N-Lite, a division of Supreme Corporation, was launched in 2007. Last month, the NHL approved the Tuff-N-Lite Pro-Air sock for use in professional games, Kolmes said. Such approval is not an endorsement or recommendation, but rather an indication the NHL determined the socks are safe for use in its games.
The fabric used in the Pro-Air sock was developed by Tuff-N-Lite at the request of the Los Angeles Kings, winners of the 2014 Stanley Cup."
The story in its entirety:
Tremendous feat/feet: National Hockey League using socks produced in Conover, Long View
By ALEX FRICK firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014 6:00 am
CONOVER, N.C. – Matt Kolmes sat in the conference room of Supreme Corporation, a yellow legal pad on the table before him, a sock in one hand and a folding razor blade in the other.
“I’d like to show you, because it’s so easy for you to see for yourself what we do,” he said.
He placed the point of the knife at the top of the first sheet of paper on the legal pad, pressed down firmly, and drew the knife’s blade down the pad, slicing through several sheets of paper.
“This is a razor, and it is sharp,” he said.
Then, Kolmes turned his attention to the sock.
“This is an example of the sock we made back in 2009. Try to cut the sock, slash at it. You can even try as hard as you can, many times in the same place over and over,” he said.
After several slices and slashes, the sock remained as good as new.
Kolmes, executive vice president of Supreme Corporation, and his 65-person staff know a thing or two about cut-resistant fabrics.
Every morning, tens of thousands of workers in glass manufacturing and other industries don apparel made of yarns spooled at Supreme Corporation’s Conover factory and knitted into fabrics at the company’s Long View facility. For decades, Supreme Corporation’s textiles have saved limbs and lives in workplaces.
In recent years, the company tapped into the need for cut, slash and abrasion resistance in sport- and street-motorcycling apparel, a venture which led to perhaps its most high-profile market yet: the players of the National Hockey League.
The Catawba County textile business is celebrating its 50th anniversary and now touts its socks and fabrics as the choice of some of the world’s greatest hockey players.
Tuff-N-Lite, a division of Supreme Corporation, was launched in 2007. Last month, the NHL approved the Tuff-N-Lite Pro-Air sock for use in professional games, Kolmes said. Such approval is not an endorsement or recommendation, but rather an indication the NHL determined the socks are safe for use in its games.
The fabric used in the Pro-Air sock was developed by Tuff-N-Lite at the request of the Los Angeles Kings, winners of the 2014 Stanley Cup. The team needed a way to protect the area below players’ ribcages, an area left vulnerable by standard protective pads. Pro-Air fabric can be knitted into panels and cut and sewn to fit into jerseys and shorts, adding protection without adding significant weight or restricting movement.
At the annual meeting of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society in June, the Kings’ athletic director told Kolmes something that put into perspective all the effort Tuff-N-Lite has devoted to delivering cutting-edge fabrics: Among the clothing the Kings sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame from the 2014 Stanley Cup final was a panel of Tuff-N-Lite fabric sewn into a pair of hockey pants.
Kolmes remembered the Kings’ athletic director telling him, “You made it for us and we love it and we use it. We’re proud that you guys are not Reebok or Nike or Under Armour. You guys aren’t the top brand, but we’re OK with you telling people that we approached you to make it.”
Tuff-N-Lite’s foray into hockey gear began in 2009 after Andrei Markov, a member of the Montreal Canadians, was injured when he and another player collided. The phone rang at Tuff-N-Lite shortly thereafter. The Canadians needed cut-resistant socks to prevent players from being injured by the blades of ice skates.
“We thought there was a need for it — not only a market, but the need to help keep people protected,” Kolmes said. “The truth is, selling hockey socks is never going to be a huge part of our business, but it’s where our heart is and it’s something worthwhile.”
The first version of hockey socks produced by Tuff-N-Lite was of a midweight fabric that scored a cut-resistance level of three on a five-point scale. The new, ultra-lightweight Tuff-N-Lite Pro-Air sock has roughly the thickness and feel of a pair of dress socks with an increased cut-resistance level of four.
Tuff-N-Lite’s products are in the training rooms of professional hockey teams throughout the United States and in Canada. They’re shipped around the world to local and collegiate hockey leagues. And they protect children just learning how to face-off on the ice.
“You think about these kids that get out there on the rink — boys and girls. This is a way of protecting your son or daughter,” said Bill Bowling, Tuff-N-Lite’s director of sales and marketing.
“We are the undisputed leader in cut, slash and abrasion resistance,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter in what field; people come to us from around the world to develop technology for them.”
The advances made by Tuff-N-Lite have won the company accolades from NHL staff and players.
Kolmes said he expects to soon close a deal with a well-known sporting company that will double Tuff-N-Lite’s sales of hockey socks.
“I believe that we are the undisputed best. Best quality, best comfort, best safety,” he said. “This is our passion, and the guys that sell our hockey socks are hockey players. We love hockey, and we care about making the best products.”
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