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Denver hockey shield inventor ready for battle

9:08 AM, Nov 21, 2010   |    comments
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The 59-year-old satellite-television executive expected to play it professionally.

"It's all I wanted," the Parker resident said.

A slap shot shattered Everett's dreams in 1970 and left a plate in his skull. But the injury, he said, helped him develop one of the sport's most visible safety products -- the clear face shield.

But there was no fortune in it. Instead, the former defenseman has passed the years competing with Goliath-size companies making millions of dollars on their own face shields.

At the time, the idea was simple: a clear face guard for hockey players. It came to him as youngsters with hockey-related injuries visited the sporting-goods store where he worked while attending Boston College on a hockey scholarship.

"They were getting whaled," Everett said. "There were 85,000 injuries annually because of no face protection."

Idea in hand, he visited a plastics supplier in early 1973 seeking anything that could withstand a speeding hockey puck.

Someone suggested Lexan, a product by General Electric Plastics long used by NASA and Ferrari.

Everett and a pair of hockey friends bought a flat sheet of the polycarbonate, cut a sample and heated it in an oven.

"We draped it over a paint can to shape it," he said with a laugh.

Once cooled, the Lexan hardened to an immovable -- and unbreakable -- shape.

The Everett shield was born -- GE even gave him an award for best new use of Lexan.

Others were developing hockey face shields too, but the first patent didn't arrive until 1975 -- in Medinah, Ill., going to mechanical engineer Dale Kasper.

"As they say, necessity is the mother of invention," said Michael Kasper, whose brother's slap-shot injury in 1967 prompted the design using plastic, as fate would have it, from Mobay Chemical, a GE competitor. Kasper never heard of Everett, nor Everett of the Kaspers.

"Amazing coincidences," Kasper said.

Giles Threadgood, a longtime NCAA referee, remembered the debate Everett's creation stirred.

"There were meetings all over the place talking about this new thing the kid from Boston College had invented, and we just didn't know what to do about it," said Threadgood, 87, of Cape Cod, Mass. "There were other ideas to protect the face, but this was the first shield we'd ever seen."

Everett Enterprises and its shield, Dewlex, had an austere beginning, with production and shipping comprising friends around a kitchen table.

The success train suddenly stopped before it really got going, though, because of a combination of the shield's persistent fogging and a new rule mandating face cages for youth players.

"We didn't see the shield again for a very long time," Threadgood remembered.

It wasn't until 2002 that Everett dived back into the business as successful anti-fog coatings for plastics had been developed.

The hockey-equipment industry saw explosive growth -- Plunkett's Sports Industry Almanac put it topping $206 million in 2008 -- with large companies such as Nike, Bauer and Oakley taking a major interest, especially in face-protection products.

Representatives of the companies did not return calls for this story.

But Everett, now a vice president at Dish Network, turned to eBay to sell face shields, and his company got a second wind.

Today, despite giants Bauer and Oakley dominating the field, Everett's Boulder Hockey Shield Co. has a few investors and sales are in the "single-digit thousands" a year, he said, and growing.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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