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PPG creates hockey puck that changes color as it warms up

| Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, 9:54 a.m.
PPG has created an NHL hockey puck with a coating that changes color as the puck warms, alerting officials that a new, colder puck is needed.
PPG
PPG has created an NHL hockey puck with a coating that changes color as the puck warms, alerting officials that a new, colder puck is needed.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel skates in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Kessel scored twice in the second period of a 6-2 Penguins win.
AP
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel skates in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Kessel scored twice in the second period of a 6-2 Penguins win.
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brendan Perlini, right, controls the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Chicago.
AP
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brendan Perlini, right, controls the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Chicago.

Hockey and beer have always gone together.

But beer could actually make hockey better.

Similar technology that turned the mountains blue on a bottle of Coors Light showing the beer was cold enough to drink will be used to tell officials when a hockey puck is cold enough for play.

PPG developed color changing puck coatings for the NHL that provide an indication to game officials when the puck needs to be replaced.

“We’ve been able to offer a smart and elegant solution to a problem that can significantly impact game play,” said Alicia Cafardi, PPG senior marketing communications manager in industrial coatings.

The Pittsburgh company teamed up with LCR Hallcrest, a maker of temperature-sensitive thermal labels and indicators, on the technology. LCR Hallcrest designed the color-changing labels on bottles of Coors Light.

“The concept is very similar to what we developed back in the day to when we did the Coors Light bottles,” said Scott Szafraniec, LCR Hallcrest national sales manager. “Because of that project, we had knowledge of what we could do. We can make a variety of different coatings.”

NHL pucks are frozen before the game. They glide smoother and faster when they are cold. Since hockey pucks are made of vulcanized rubber, they have a tendency to bounce like tennis balls when slapped with a stick. A warm puck tends to go airborne and players end up swatting them like they’re using baseball bats.

That’s fine if you’re Sidney Crosby, one of the few players who seems to have mastered that skill, but most skaters prefer to have a puck lying flat before they shoot it.

“Freezing a puck eliminates bouncing, and game officials closely monitor the puck for temperature changes that affect performance while in play,” said Dan Craig, NHL vice president of facilities operations. “A coating that changes color when the puck is above freezing will more accurately alert the officials that it’s time for a replacement.”

Referees pick up and feel a puck that they notice bouncing too much. If the puck feels too warm, they swap it out for another that is chilling in a mini, rinkside freezer.

“But it’s always been a subjective process on when to do that,” said Bryan Iams, PPG vice president of corporate and government affairs.

PPG and LCR Hallcrest created official game pucks featuring a thermochromic coating that changes from purple to clear when a puck’s temperature is above freezing. A purple pigment is applied to the NHL logo and commissioner’s signature that appears in white on every official game puck. When the label turns back to a white shade, officials will know that the temperature of the puck has risen above 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s time for some fresh, frozen vulcanized rubber.

The new puck will be in play at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between Boston and Chicago at Notre Dame Stadium on New Year’s Day. It has been tested at Penguins practices and NHL exhibition games, Iams said.

“The benefit for us is because of our partnership with the Penguins, they’re always willing to help in these areas,” Iams said.

Paul Guggenheimer is a freelance writer.

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