11-year old Eva McCurlie has been playing goalie for two years. She skates with the boys and with each new season, her competitors get fiercer. The makeshift hockey tape solution she had created on her goalie stick to stymie her problem was no longer cutting it.
“Holding the stick and being able to move around in my crease without it falling out of my hand was hard”
Eva needed something to step up her game
Eva was born with Poland’s Syndrome. Her right hand is underdeveloped; her fingers are short and none of them have a second knuckle. This makes it impossible for her to fully wrap them around her stick.
Never one to shy away from sports, Eva and her coach worked out a temporary solution, affixing her glove to the shaft of her stick with a strip of Velcro. But when she made a sudden move to stop the puck, her stick would often slip from her insecure grip. “Holding the stick and being able to move around in my crease without it falling out of my hand was hard,” says Eva. In order to excel, she was going to need a more sophisticated solution.
Eva and her mom, Ruth Hatch, met with Todd Waite, a certified prosthetist in the Prosthetics & Orthotics (P & O) department at Hamilton Health Sciences, and soon knew they had found someone with a keen understanding of Eva’s needs. Waite plays hockey himself and brought in a stick of his own to get a better picture of Eva’s dilemma. He took shots at Eva, noting her hand’s abilities and deficiencies.
“We got to collaborate together. Mark let us know what Bauer could do and we let them know what we could do to come up with the best possible solution.”
A solution is born from a novel collaboration
Waite, along with his colleagues Jennifer Russel-Smyth, Alex Moote and Christine Veldhuis, envisioned a custom, urethane prosthetic grip that would wrap around Eva’s stick, amplifying the strength of her hand and improving her perception of the stick’s movement. But a custom grip was just the beginning. They teamed up with Bauer Hockey to develop a specialized goalie stick for Eva. Mark Gignac, a representative from Bauer came to the P&O department to look at their work and learn what Eva needed in her stick. “We got to collaborate together,” Waite explains, “Mark let us know what Bauer could do and we let them know what we could do to come up with the best possible solution.” Bauer built her a custom lightweight stick with a narrow shaft that gives her better surface contact.
While Bauer crafted the stick, the rest of the team got to work on Eva’s grip. After a bit of tinkering, they found the ideal consistency to give her both strength and finesse. “It’s a little bit cushiony and it’s sticky so it can hang onto her hand a bit,” says Waite, “Then it wraps around the goal tending stick and she’s able to hold onto that.” The device fits snugly inside Eva’s blocker, held in with strips of Velcro.
Eva has been using her new prosthetic grip and stick combination for about a month and has already noticed a significant improvement in her goal tending. Thus summer, she is playing three on three at Mohawk 4 Ice Centre. She’s the only girl on her team but that doesn’t faze her. “It makes me feel much more confident,” says Eva, “because I now have the proper grip on the stick.” With her new device, she’s certain she’ll be able to up her game.