(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.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Nelson climate strike packs downtown to demand action

An inter-generational crowd staged a ‘die-in’ as part of the global strike Friday

Nelson’s Cedar Grove Estates affordable housing site to receive $3.2 million in renos

The project was made public during the Nelson CARES annual general meeting

Kootenay Lake ferry to shut down Saturday afternoon

Service to resume Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m.

Mystery illness killing Kootenay bees

Samples being sent to laboratories for analysis

Woman stabbed in downtown Nelson

Victim is in hospital, suspect is in police custody

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

One-in-five British Columbians think they’ll win big while gambling: study

Roughly 58 per cent of British Columbians bought at least one lottery ticket in past year

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Oak Bay father’s testimony at murder trial like plot of ‘bad low-budget movie:’ Crown

Crown alleged Andrew Berry’s ‘entire story of Christmas Day is a lie’

Most Read