How a modified mitt helps young goalie without fingers make glove saves
Aaron Roff loves being a goaltender, but the nine-year-old from Toronto faces an additional challenge stopping pucks because he was born without fingers on his glove hand.
That makes it nearly impossible for Aaron to close his glove after the flashing leather. At least, it used to. Thanks to a special glove built by Marco Argentino, a prototype fabricator and senior technician for the pro department at CCM, glove saves should now be a lot easier.
“I think it will work better than my other glove and that’s important,” a beaming Aaron said after meeting Argentino last week and trying out the glove for the first time.
The timing of that meeting was perfect as InGoal Magazine was already in Montreal for meetings with CCM to go over products and get updates on the latest revelations turned up by their in-house research-and-development staff, as well as through partnerships with people like Dr. Ryan Frayne, a kinesiology instructor at Dalhousie University and goaltender biomechanics researcher. It was pure coincidence Aaron and his dad, David Roff, were there at the same time, but InGoal wasn’t about to pass up such a good story, especially after seeing the smile on the young goaltender’s face as he got his new glove.
“It’s kind of hard to explain why but I just love playing hockey,” Aaron said.
That comes with extra challenges when you are born with Symbrachydactyly, a congenital abnormality that affects roughly 1 in 40,000 births and left Aaron without fully developed fingers on his left hand. His dad said there wasn’t much in the way of support when Aaron was born, but credits the Lucky Fin Project for better online resources, and allowing them to meet other kids and families with the same experiences.
When it came to sports, there was some help from the Child Amputee (Champ) Program run by The War Amps, and they recommended getting help from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, which does prosthetics work. But after a couple months trying and failing to come up with a glove, the team at Sunnybrook recommended calling CCM for help. Within an hour of sending the email to CCM, Argentino called.
“My wife explained the challenges Sunnybrook was having and Marco said ‘yep, this is what we’re going to do, send me measurements and a picture of his hand,’” David Roff recalled. “Marco said ‘I’ve got it all figure out.’ For him it was just that easy.”
Argentino, who worked as an unofficial equipment repair guy for the Montreal Canadiens and visiting teams from 1991-2004 before taking his current job with CCM, made the pocket deeper by extending where it connects. He used skate lace in the pocket to slow the spin and hold more pucks, changed the inner strap angles to better hold Aaron’s small hand in place, and adjusted the palm so the glove closed easily.
“When the puck hits the glove, it will stay in the pocket. The puck will do the work,” said Argentino, who has worked every NHL All Star Game, the 2006 Winter Olympics and 2016 World Cup since joining CCM. “I spent a lot of time around hockey and I know the passion that is part of it, so when Aaron’s mom contacted CCM to see if they could do something I said ‘absolutely,’ And as I spoke to her on the phone, I asked her to tell me a bit more, what he’s doing, how is he catching, what kind of glove is he using, and I had a sense of what I was going to do already. It was great to see him able to make glove saves today.”
Aaron will continue to make those saves with a team that plays in North Toronto. It means driving up to an hour for practices and games after the team, which used to include the son of former Maple Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney, moved last season. But it’s worth the commute because of how supportive the parents, coaches and teammates have been. Now you can add CCM to that list.
“At this age, the glove is a bit of a challenge for him but I think as he gets older we are going see the differences and this will make a big difference,” David Roff said. “He’s learning to adapt and turn it to keep the puck in, but everything is a learning experience for us, and a lot of times he’s figuring out stuff on his own. When he went to tie his shoes for the first time, I didn’t know how to teach him, but he figures it out, a lot of stuff, and so we leave it to him and he’s been really good about figuring things out and adapting on his own. It’s what he knows.”
Aaron also knows he loves hockey. It was special to see the game return that love.
Learn some of the details behind the modified design in this brief video.
New friends: Aaron and longtime CCM equipment guru Marco Argentino who helped Aaron realize his dream to have a glove that works for him.
An extension at the base of the pocket gives more depth and makes it easier to trap pucks without fully closing the glove.
Modifications to the strapping that secures the glove on Aaron’s hand (see video above for details) were key to making the modified design work.
Pocket lacing was replaced with skate lace to better cushion the puck and reduce its rate of spin.