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Sackville invention seeing success after first year on market

Martine and Chris Patterson, shown here with their kids Emma and Jake, invented a harness designed to teach children at a young age to skate while also helping ease the load off parents’ backs.
Martine and Chris Patterson, shown here with their kids Emma and Jake, invented a harness designed to teach children at a young age to skate while also helping ease the load off parents’ backs. - Katie Tower

Chris Patterson named NB innovator for his skate trainer

SACKVILLE, N.B. – It’s only been on the market for about eight months but an invention made right here in Sackville is showing early signs of success.

Chris and Martine Patterson’s learn-to-skate trainer hit shelves last September, just in time for the skating season, and has been experiencing solid growth ever since. The product has also caught the eye of NHL players with young children as well as parents of disabled children, two areas where Chris hopes to expand his market.

Four-year-old Dominic Melanson of Dieppe recently took to the ice on his new skate trainer, an invention brought to market last year by Sackville couple Chris and Martine Patterson. Dominic, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, was able to skate for the first time thanks to the trainer, which has an adjustable harness that can support his weight.  PHOTO SUBMITTED
Four-year-old Dominic Melanson of Dieppe recently took to the ice on his new skate trainer, an invention brought to market last year by Sackville couple Chris and Martine Patterson. Dominic, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, was able to skate for the first time thanks to the trainer, which has an adjustable harness that can support his weight. PHOTO SUBMITTED

“So far everything’s been pretty positive,” said Chris.

Of the 500 units sold to date throughout Canada, the US and Europe, he said there have been no returns or warranty issues so he is pretty confident his skate trainer will continue to do well on the market.

Produced by Winnwell, a firm out of Mississauga, Ontario that sells hockey equipment, nets and skating aids, the skate trainer has mainly been distributed through online sales. The product, however, is also sold in a number of stores throughout Canada and the US, including Pro Hockey Life, Hockey Monkey, Source for Sports and, more locally, Maltby Sports in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Chris said much of his focus this year has been on spreading the word about this brand new product - he said that has involved raising awareness through various social media channels, getting their skate trainer displayed at sports trades shows, and ensuring that users are letting others know about its benefits. He said those efforts will continue into next season as well.

“We’re looking to continue doing what we’re doing,” he said. “Going into this year, we hope to get into a few more stores, increase awareness of the product and also increase our sales.”

The learn-to-skate trainer was designed to help kids learn how to skate safely starting at a very young age while also making it easier on the parents. The skate trainer has an adjustable harness to help support the children’s weight as they learn to balance on skates, easing the load off of parents’ backs. Once the child is confident enough, the harness can be removed to turn it into a regular stake trainer.

Chris said the product has been a hit with parents and children alike. He has been especially proud of the fact the skate trainer is being used by young children with disabilities or mobility impairments, as the harness is able to support their weight, who may otherwise have never been able to get out on the ice.

For example, Patterson’s Restaurant in Sackville donated a skate trainer this winter to a four-year-old boy from Dieppe who is suffering from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Dominic Melanson, who is confined to a wheelchair because he is not able to support his body weight, was able to go skating for the first time because of this product, said Chris.

“He was able to go skating and he loved it and it was such a great experience for him.”

Chris said he sees a potential market emerging for older children with disabilities as well.

“That’s definitely something that’s on the table for the future,” he said.
But getting a prototype developed doesn’t come cheap, he said, so he would be looking at sourcing funding to be able to design a larger version that could support more weight.

The success of the Patterson’s skate trainer has also earned attention provincially, with Chris recently being named an “NB innovator.”

Chris said he’s excited to have been selected for the honour, to be seen as an innovator in his home province, and hopes it has encouraged more young children to get out and enjoy outdoor activities.

“It’s been a fun learning experience for me, to bring an idea that was in my head and it’s now in stores.”

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