Category Archives: sports

Listening to the End User: NHL/NHLPA Collaboration with Hockey Goalies

Today we present a guest post by Ragan Wilson, PhD student in Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Psychology at NC State University.

Saying that goalies in professional ice hockey see the puck a lot is an understatement. They are the last line of defense for their team against scoring, putting their bodies in the way of the puck to block shots in ways that sometimes do not seem human. In order to do that, they rely on their skills as well as their protective equipment, including chest protectors. As written by In Goal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley and Greg Balloch, at the professional level this and other equipment is being re-examined by the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League’s Player’s Association (NHLPA).

For the 2018-2019 NHL season, there has been a change in goal-tending equipment rules involving chest protectors according to NHL’s columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika. This rule, Rule 11.3, states that “The chest and arm protector worn by each goalkeeper must be anatomically proportional and size-specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper”. In practical terms, what this rule means is that goaltender chest protection needs to be size-wise in proportion to the goaltender using it so, for instance, a 185-pound goalie would seem more like a 185-pound goalie versus a 200-210 pound goalie. The reasoning for the rule change was to try to make saves by the goalie more based on ability than on extra padding and to potentially increase scoring in the league. Overall, this is a continuation of a mission for both the NHL and NHLPA to make goalie equipment slimmer, which was kick-started by changes in goalie pants and leg pads. The difference between previously approved chest protectors and the approved models are shown below thanks to the website Goalie Coaches who labeled images from Brian’s Custom Sports Instagram page below.



To a non-hockey player, the visual differences between non-NHL approved and the NHL approved pads look minuscule. However, according to In Goal Magazine, implementing these changes have been an interesting challenge for the NHL as well as hockey gear companies such as Brian’s and CCM). Whereas changing the pants rule was more straightforward, the dimensions of chest protectors are more complicated and personal to goalies (NHL). This challenge could be seen earlier in the season with mixed feedback about the new gear change. Some current NHL such as Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury (In Goal Magazine) and Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck (Sports Illustrated) noted more pain from blocking pucks in the upper body region. On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen and Garrett Sparks have not had problems with these changes (Sports Illustrated).

What always makes me happy as a student of human factors psychology is when final users are made an active part of the discussion for changes. Thankfully, that is what appears to be happening so far with this rule change since the NHL and NHLPA seemed to be actively interested in and considering feedback from current NHL goaltenders about what could make them more comfortable with the new equipment standards at the beginning of the season (In Goal Magazine). Hopefully, that continues into the next season with all the rigorous, real-life testing that a season’s worth of regular and playoff games can provide. Considering there are already some interesting, individualized adjustments to the new equipment rules such as changing companies (Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby), or adding another layer of protection such as a padded undershirt (Marc-Andre Fleury) (USA Today), it’ll be interesting what the situation is for this equipment come the next off-season, especially in terms of innovation from the companies that produce this gear at a professional level.


Ragan Wilson is a first-year human factors and applied cognitive psychology doctoral student at NC State University. She is mainly interested in the ways that human factors and all areas of sports can be interlinked, from player safety to consumer experiences of live action games.

Unusable Signs – Biking

I took a snap of this sign while on a bike ride yesterday. It appears to be a map of the bike trail. But there are a few problems…

  1. The sign clearly points to the right. The paved bike path continues straight ahead (and turns left in about 200 feet).
  2. That little green triangle in the upper left says “North.” Such a shame that the arrow is pointing to the south, so you have to completely reverse the map in your mind to use it.
  3. Of all the street names listed on the map, none are for streets within viewing distance. I can see 4 street signs from the sign, and none of them are represented ON the sign.

In short, I have no idea what this map is trying to show me, and even if I did, it’s unlikely I’d be able to mentally rotate it with no mistakes.

This is the second municipal sign I’ve seen where the direction you are looking when you read the sign is 180 degrees opposite of what the map displays.

    The Human Factors of Rock Climbing – A matter of life and death

    A tragedy occurred last week in West Virginia where a rock climber died apparently due to a human factors issue with her gear. This text comes from a commenter on Rockclimbing.com:

    The climber was Karen Feher from Midlothian Va. She climbed to the anchor of Rico Suave and clipped in direct. Her setup: She had two thin dyneema slings girth hitched to her harness. At the end of each sling was a locking carabiner held in place with a rubber Petzl keeper…She clipped a locker to each bolt and probably called off belay. I’m unclear if she was going to rappel or lower. It doesn’t matter. She fell to the ground.

    The day after the accident a local climber named Craig (last name?) climbed to the anchor and found a locker on each bolt with a Petzl String still affixed to each one. Both Petzl strings were torn on the side.

    Let me give a little background on the gear so you can understand what seems to have happened:

    Climbers can affix themselves to the wall with equipment that has carabiners on both ends. This allows them to clip themselves to one side and clip the other to the wall. These can come in different varieties, and two types are illustrated below.

    The first type consists of a sewn sling between the two carabiners. It is sewn tightly in multiple places to make sure that it holds tightly to the two carabiners.

    A "quickdraw" with two carabiners
    Notice the larger and smaller holes in each end. One holds a carabiner loosely to the rock while the other holds a carabiner more tightly on the rope end.

    Notice on one side it is sewn so the carabiner hangs loosely and on the other side it is sewn tightly, so that it holds the carabiner almost immobile. The reason for this is to allow the side connected to the wall to swing freely as the rope moves, which keeps the rope movement from jarring or upsetting protection put into the rock. The other end that is connected to the rope keeps the carabiner from moving around and possibly turning sideways.

    The second type (below) consists of a nylon sling doubled over between the carabiners. The benefit of this kind of sling is that it can be changed in length – by doubling and tripling it, it can either be 4′ long, 2′ long, or just a foot long. However, notice both sides are the same. The benefit of having one loose side and one tight side does not exist here. Incidentally, this is the type of sling I use almost exclusively.

    A simple loop connects the two carabiners
    A simple loop connects the two carabiners
    The sling has now been doubled over to shorten it

    There is one way to turn the second type of sling into an approximation of the first type: a rubber band. Not only can you do this with a plain rubber band, there are some specifically sold for this purpose.

    The rubber band holds the rope end tight while allowing the other end to swing freely
    Again, rope holds one end, this time with sling not doubled over

    The problem with this solution lies in the changes to visibility and function that the rubber bands can have when the slings are doubled-over incorrectly.  Click here for a video explaining what can go wrong.

    Essentially, the sling can become almost invisibly connected ONLY by the rubber band. I am sure no one would like to think of hanging 100 feet from the ground by a grocery store rubber band.

    The additional component to the tragedy that prompted this post is that both of her slings were attached only by the rubber band. Climbers build redundancy into their systems to prevent accidents like this, but here both failed.