As UAF's volunteer goaltending coach a couple of years ago, Wylie Rogers was running the Nanooks' masked men through practice drills when the usual time-killing, rhythm-busting problem repeatedly interrupted their work.
When a goalie placed a skate against the inside of a goal post and used the post as leverage to propel him laterally across the goal crease, the leveraged goal post often dislodged, sending the net askew and halting the drill.
"So disheartening,'' Rogers recalled.
And so frustratingly familiar — a goalie's own little hockey hell. Rogers, the former UAF and pro goalie from Fairbanks, had encountered the problem as a player, and he found it even more aggravating as a coach.
This was the spring semester of 2014, when Rogers also was working on his master's degree in business at UAF and taking a class taught by Dr. Ping Lan called New Venture Development. Students were instructed to come up with an innovative idea that, through development, financing and planning, could become a business.
Rogers remembers Lan's charge to his students: "Think of a problem that bugs you.''
So it was that Rogers created The Wylie Post, a new anchoring system for the net that allows a goalie to push off a post without dislodging it and yet, for safety purposes, allows the net to dislodge if a skater plows into it.
Rogers believes his invention — "his baby,'' as his wife, Sarah, calls it — can revolutionize a sport that has seen enormous improvements in the last couple of decades in skates, sticks and protective equipment, yet virtually no technological enhancements in net-anchoring systems.
"If I can leave a lasting impression on a game that has basically molded and sculpted the person I am, that would be great,'' said Rogers, 30.
Sarah Rogers sees her husband's product as entrepreneurship, but she also sees him giving back to the game the loves.
"He is very aware the game of hockey changed his life,'' she said. "This was a solution to a problem, and an opportunity to give back to the game that gave him his life.''
The Wylie Post, billed as "a goalie's new best friend,'' recently went into production with 125 sets manufactured by Pinto Products of Kalamazoo, Michigan, — two anchors per set, for $200 — and another 125 on the way.
Wylie Rogers said he intends to sell his product to hockey arenas, teams and organizations.
He said the University of Michigan, Michigan State, the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings, the U.S. National Team Development Program and several rinks have bought his invention. He recently began working with Becker Arena Products, Inc., a national wholesaler in Minnesota, to sell The Wylie Post. In all, Rogers said earlier this week, he's sold about 100 sets.
UAA has used The Wylie Post in practices — goalie coach Chris Kamal ran his charges through drills Thursday with the new anchors — and sophomore goaltender Olivier Mantha said he was impressed.
"I thought it was pretty cool,'' Mantha said. "I thought it was pretty smart. It's always nice when the post stays in, tight, and doesn't come off. It's so much better.''
Rogers said he's received similar reactions from players, coaches and arena workers as he has traveled around the country demonstrating his invention.
"Everyone who has used them says, 'Game-changer,' '' Rogers said.
Most hockey nets in games are anchored by a Marsh peg, a round tube inserted deep into the ice. The hollow goal post fits over the top of the peg. That system requires drilling a hole in the ice for each post, and the hole must regularly be drilled free of ice after resurfacing.
For practices, the common net-anchoring system used is a single-spiked peg. It can be quickly installed after resurfacing, but its shortcoming — as Rogers has learned throughout his life — is the net is easily dislodged by a goalie pushing off a post.
The Wylie Post, by contrast, is a dual-spike peg that melts directly into the ice as the ice refreezes after resurfacing — the bottom of the peg is coated with zinc — and allows a goalie to use the post as leverage without dislodging the net.
With The Wylie Post, each goalpost is fitted over a short piece of rubber urethane atop the dual-spiked peg. If a skater runs into the net and dislodges it, The Wylie Post anchor remains frozen to the ice, and the post can quickly be fitted back on the peg.
Back in the day, secure anchoring systems weren't necessary because goalies did their work upright and moved laterally across the crease by pushing a skate into the ice.
But virtually every goalie these days employs the butterfly technique, dropping to their knees and splaying their legs to protect the bottom part of the net. Butterfly goalies often propel themselves across the crease by leveraging a skate against the inside of a post and pushing off, hence the need for a secure net.
Getting Rogers' idea from a light-bulb moment to market was a long process that began in his garage and has taken over the Rogers' home in Anchorage.
"Mad scientist stuff,'' Sarah Rogers said. "They've been all over my living room.''
Wylie manages a Fairbanks landscaping business in the summer. While Sarah works as a training/safety assistant on the North Slope for Alaska Clean Seas, Wylie has devoted this winter almost entirely to his new enterprise, which feels like a whirlwind.
Since he began with a business-class idea, he has run through more than a dozen prototypes. He has engaged engineers, business consultants, manufacturers, wholesalers, a patent attorney, investors, hockey connections, arena managers, coaches and goalies. Sarah has helped design graphics, pamphlets and the company website.
The dream is that The Wylie Post turns into Wylie Rogers' full-time career. As his wife pointed out, the couple doesn't have kids, or "crazy student-loan debt,'' so why not go for it?
After all, the invention has kept Rogers involved in the game that shaped him, the game he loves. The way he sees it, maybe his net-anchoring solution can spark a revolution.