From elementary school friends to university teammates and eventually business partners, Tim Priamo and Shea Kewin’s friendship has seen it all.
“Shea and I have a long hockey history together, and we were actually first linemates at the age of eight years old,” said Priamo.
Nearly 20 years later, the former UNB MBA students and Varsity Reds men’s hockey players have co-founded a company known as HWKI, which is on track to change the game of hockey as we know it.
The product is a miniscule camera mounted on a player’s helmet – one of the world’s first – which allows for players to record games and practices, and later review every move they make on the ice.
The high-definition, 1,080-pixel smart camera features a wide-angle lens with an optional audio component and is fitted with a secure digital card, providing 8-10 hours of video which can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet.
The duo was inspired by the recent public debate surrounding concussions in sport and the need for impact solutions.
“We really wanted to focus on the root of the problem, and through our research we noticed an underlying theme of players unintentionally putting themselves into vulnerable situations,” said Kewin. “Tim and I had both been in these situations before and we wanted to find a way to make hockey players smarter. When the opportunity to provide players with a low-profile camera specifically designed for hockey players came around, it seemed like a match made in heaven.”
The two were the original guinea pigs for the product, ordering prototypes and sporting the cameras during a game last season.
“The cameras came in two weeks later and we had a game that night against Dalhousie, so we strapped it onto our helmets and wore it during the game. When we watched the video later, we realized the impact it could make as a visual learning tool.
“As athletes, we’re such visual learners, so we’re providing the player the ability to get back into their skates and to watch yourself play and make decisions,” said Kewin. “It shows you the angles you choose to go into the corners, the way you defend, the way you shoot — everything. Having the chance to relive it again can definitely make for a better and smarter hockey player.”
So far, the HWKI U has been tested on a variety of players, including the Waterloo Siskins junior B team, as well as more than 400 players during summer camps and training sessions.
“We’ve really hit everyone from referees to young tykes to competitive players and even professionals,” said Priamo. “A few NHL players wore our product during the summer and were able to benefit from the feedback provided from the HWKI U.”
While the company is primarily self-funded through pre-sale profits, the Government of New Brunswick provided significant financial support during HWKI’s early days.
“Tim and I were accepted into Planet Hatch’s three month accelerator program, where they gave us $25,000 to get us off our feet and get the business going,” said Kewin. “It was a tremendous help.”
In terms of development, the duo believe that their initial product is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We’re already working on a number of different technologies and generations,” announced Priamo. “HWKI is going to be a great hockey company that will be around for a long, long time.
“Our focus is on improving the game we love, and we are committed to becoming a major contributor to the development of the next generation of hockey players.
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