(Steve Vezeau photo)

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

A team of Montreal university researchers has developed an audible hockey puck they say could revolutionize the sport for blind players.

For years, visually impaired hockey players have used a tomato juice can or a steel container filled with small balls as a puck.

The improvised devices work, but players have trouble finding them on the ice when they stop moving and become silent.

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet, a blind hockey player and employee of Universite de Quebec a Montreal (UQAM), came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound.

Now, he and a team of researchers have created a prototype consisting of a shock-absorbent plastic shell with a battery-powered circuit board inside.

A series of sensors analyzes puck movement and transmits the data to a buzzer, which can be adjusted to a maximum level of 120 decibels — about equivalent to a chainsaw or a thunderclap.

“It’s going to make the game faster and more interesting,” Ouellet said. “And because the puck makes noise when it’s in the air, it’ll help goalies make more saves.”

Steve Vezeau, one of the researchers behind the project, said the team initially thought it would take six months to develop — but then they realized how hostile the hockey environment can be.

“There is the question of impact, but also the cold and humidity,” said Vezeau.

Players went through up to five tomato juice boxes per game, while the steel can lasted about two games. Vezeau said the sonorous puck has a lifespan of about three games.

“And obviously, getting a steel puck in the head hurts,” he added.

Vezeau and Ouellet are hoping the puck, known as BIPeR, helps to increase the sport’s popularity. There are about 400 people in North America who play in so-called blind hockey leagues.

Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have clubs, and about 12 teams have formed in the United States over the past few years. Ultimately, players are looking for their game to be included in the Paralympics.

“The United States wants to organize a nations cup next May,” Ouellet said. “There is already a team in Finland and players all over Europe. When we have an efficient puck we can export it and it could increase the sport’s popularity and help to standardize the game.”

The next step is to find a partner that could help the research team scale their product. The prototype was financed in part by USA Hockey.

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Federal minister to speak in Vernon

Greater Vernon Chamber welcomes middle class prosperity minister to talk money

Vernon PAC takes stand against dating violence

KSS to host presentation to equip parents with tools to spot unhealthy, violent relationships

VIDEO: Vernon man says stranger breaks in while family slept

Resident shares doorbell cam footage in hopes to ID suspect who raided his home and fridge

Two-car collision in busy Vernon intersection

Firefighters, RCMP and ambulance are on scene

VIDEO: Protesters set up beside Vernon highway

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP responds to countrywide blockades

UPDATE: Protesters say they will maintain blockade near Chase “as long as it takes”

Signs at protest site say in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Deaths on popular Shuswap trail ruled accidental

B.C. Coroners Service reports on fatal falls in May and July 2019

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

EDITORIAL: Thoughtless posts to Facebook cause real harm and stress

At the risk of resembling a broken record, it needs to be… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Most Read