Michigan Tech alum Andy Sutton hangs up his skates to make his own equipment company

Former Michigan Tech defenseman Andy Sutton has made his own equipment company. (Photo from the NHLPA official site)

By David Defever -

Michigan Tech Alum Andy Sutton has decided to retire, but it doesn’t mean he is leaving the hockey industry.

In an article published by the Edmonton Journal, the former Oilers defenseman discussed his plans to build a new company called H3llium, which will create protective padding for not only hockey and other sports, but also recreation, military, law enforcement, workplace environment, extreme sports and motocross.

In 1998, Sutton graduated from Michigan Tech with an engineering degree, but he took advantage of his hockey training in Houghton by playing professionally for 14 seasons.

The undrafted defenseman played 676 games with eight different NHL clubs. Sutton officially retired on May 22 as a member of the Oilers after a knee injury prevented him from seeing any game action this season.

Now, Sutton is using his engineering degree to help with player safety.  That didn’t make retirement any easier on the former defenseman, however.

“It is a trick to retire from something that you’ve done your whole life, and even with me having this (H3llium) in place for the past three years, it has still been tough,” Sutton said in an interview with the Edmonton publication. “People should talk more about it, because it is quite something to be almost 40 and basically have to reinvent yourself.

“I’m thankful I have this business in place to challenge me and give me something to be passionate about.”

Using his knowledge from the classroom and on-ice experience, Sutton’s main focus is making equipment better.

“It spawned from my inquisitive nature, my background in engineering and the style of play that I had during the duration of my career,” Sutton explained. “It got me thinking that I could potentially find a way to do things differently, and to do them better.

“I started playing around with different materials, buying patents and it got to a point where the intellectual property that I own is quite vast and allowed me to create protection systems under many different genres. Not only in sports, but also recreation, military, law enforcement, workplace environment, extreme sports and motocross. We are working through licensing agreements with companies that want to use my technology.”

Sutton is devoted to improving player safety, especially reducing head injuries, which he is no stranger to. Although he was only diagnosed with a concussion once, Sutton realizes that even clean checks can cause injuries.  With his new line of gear, Nliten, Sutton has plans to improve the safety design of equipment along with protecting the players better.

“It is time for a paradigm shift. The equipment has remained virtually unchanged for 30 years. These companies have done a great job with the foam and plastics that they’ve been using for a long time, but it is time for a change, it is time for something new that gives people a better chance of being more protected.

“We’re really looking to replace all of the hard plastics and deviate away from the type of foams most of these companies are using. We use a proprietary blend of materials that really are doing a far superior job of deflecting and dispersing the forces involved with the game. We’ve alleviated a lot of the plastic with high-grade carbon fiber.”

The Edmonton Journal article also said Sutton and his H3llium team are in discussions with one of the major equipment brands, but did not mention which one.