by: Pete Smith – Warrior Hockey R&D Manager
In the early fall of 2011, R&D work began on what would become the Ritual Pro Chest and Arm pad. Earlier that year, Warrior purchased my company, Smith Hockey, and due to time constraints, the newly formed goalie design team had to work extra hard in order to get the first line of Ritual pads and gloves to market for an April, 2012 release. The design team consisted of Neal Watts, François-Olivier Dagneau and I.
This was the first project that we would begin and complete as a team due to the fact that the first Ritual pads and gloves were products that already existed in one form or another prior to us coming together. We had to dive into it after a whirlwind previous six months. In addition, we also had the rest of the C&A line to consider as well as new pants, knee pads and a jock line. We would need to have all of this work completed by early summer 2012 so once again, the pressure was on.
One of the first early test models for the new Ritual Pro C&A
Pushing the design envelope
The basic concept of making arm protection for a goalie resemble that of a player shin pad was something that had been floating around in my head for years but I had never had the time to do anything with it and the idea was not fully formed. Now I had my chance but I would need to have the support of Neal and Frank as well as our product manager at the time. The idea was radical in many ways and I think we were all very aware, right from the start, that we were taking a huge risk.
I am not one to just dive into risky ventures just for the hell of it. I usually deliberate over things and the thought that has kept coming back to me since joining Warrior is; why would anyone buy our goalie gear when there are these other, long standing and beloved, goalie equipment companies to choose from? The goalie industry has been very exclusive and presents a daunting challenge for any new entrants. My answer to this question was, and continues to be, that we must bring products to the market that are so compelling, from a function and form standpoint, that the customer has to take notice; despite what their preconceived notions or opinions about Warrior goalie gear were in the past.
The goals we set for the performance of the Ritual Pro C&A were simple. Design a unit that had unprecedented, superior protection in the arms while providing maximum mobility. Sounds simple but achieving this would prove to be amongst the most daunting projects of my long career.
Neal testing out an early sample for arm flexibility
I am a firm believer in the power of prototyping and we pushed that premise to the limit. This project was different though. With previous projects, I could always prototype a product to completion but in this case, there were so many molded parts and that made it an extra challenging process. Frank was the member of our group with the most knowledge and experience when it came to the various forms of molding and the materials available to us. This would be a great learning experience for me in that regard.
Image of some of the prototype parts produced during development.
There were so many highs and lows for us during this process and as we approached, and then passed, the point of no return, I would often find myself awake in the middle of the night sweating it out. The cause and effect aspect, that is always present when designing a product, seemed extra glaring with this one. Every time we would change something to improve an aspect, another element of the design would take a step backward functionally. It was really through pure determination and some desperation that we persevered. The project could have been a case study in problem solving. I recall that as we were winding down, probably in an attempt to make us all feel better, telling the guys that even if we didn’t sell a single unit, we should all feel very proud for having made such a unique and innovative product and for having the perseverance to have pushed through some incredible challenges and time constraints.
Draw, mold, cut, sew, assemble…repeat. Neal trying on one of many prototypes.
The Ritual Pro C&A, along with the rest of the line of pants, knee pads and jocks, hit the market in spring 2013 with a bang. Most people could clearly see how innovative and revolutionary the Pro C&A was and it has enjoyed great success. The release of these products helped to keep us on the path towards becoming a respected and legitimate player in the goalie equipment industry.
2014 Ritual Pro Chest and Arm Protector – Innovation in protection and mobility
2015 Ritual G2 – Refined and Improved
With all that being said, there is always room for improvement. One of the problems with designing a revolutionary product in a short period of time is that the proper attention cannot always be given to every detail. There simply isn’t time and usually, the designers are fried towards the end of the project. As we became aware of the details that could have been executed better, we were frustrated but we were also highly motivated because we knew what the Ritual G2 Pro Chest and Arm could become and we were very excited by that prospect.
We knew immediately that the flexibility in the arms was not as good as it could have been. The basic concept was sound and did not need a drastic change so we were able to keep the superior protection and yet make the elbow area much more flexible as well as durable. There’s a fine line between too little and too much coverage on the shoulders. We all want coverage but it cannot come at the price of head mobility and vision. We tweaked the shoulder floaters until we found the perfect balance. A high end product has to last so we identified areas of vulnerability and worked to improve the durability. Upon hitting the ice, the improvements are immediately noticeable; turning what was an innovative and revolutionary product into what’s now a highly refined, state of the art, innovative and revolutionary product.
Improved arm flexibility
Increased shoulder coverage and protection
The same can be said for the rest of the G2 line of chest and arm pads and the Ritual X line of pants, knee pads and jocks. We were able to focus on refining the details of each of these products and we are very proud of the results!
Ritual G2 Pro Chest and Arm Pad
Available in store April 17 2015
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