Hockey dad's sharp idea launches local business that supplies NHL teams

ACTON, Mass. — One of the hottest companies in the country right now is based in Acton, and their success is all because of a cool idea for sharpening skates.

Sparx Hockey is changing the way players at all levels are keeping their equipment in top shape.

It all started in 2016 when Russell Layton, a mechanical engineer and frustrated hockey dad, decided to create something that would make it possible to sharpen skates at home.

The Sparx system is a little bigger than a bread box.  A skate gets clamped to the top and a grinding wheel runs underneath sharpening the blade.

Accuracy is very important in this process according to Layton. "The right and left edge of a sharpened skate blade need to be within 1/1000th of an inch in accuracy."

This mechanized approach is changing the way skates have been sharpened for hundreds of years.

Business is booming since the first product was shipped in March 2016. "We are used around the world.  We have distribution here in Acton to everywhere in North America, and then we have three fantastic partners in Europe and Russia.

Twenty-five NHL teams, including the Boston Bruins, now used the Sparx system.

INC Magazine has taken notice of this success, naming Sparx number 56 on its list of the fastest growing private companies in the country.

Layton developed his idea with a nod towards the Keurig coffee maker.  A user can pick out different grinding rings and change them in and out, just like they’re picking a coffee pod.

"We have 20 different sizes that a user can choose from depending on how they want to perform on the ice.  Do they want a greater grip, or do they want more glide?  They can choose from 20 flavors," explained Layton.

The company started on Kickstarter with just a few people.  The staff now stands at about 40, including Judd Feinberg who was one of the first on board.  He gave up a secure job when he learned of Sparx. "I knew it was a great product.  I knew I wanted it.  I was a hockey fanatic.  I play.  My kids play."

A Sparx machine costs about $900.  Layton feels the convenience it offers, and the rewards for players who can sharpen their skates more regularly, are priceless.

“As your playing, it’s something that you can feel, more so even than sticks are high performing, or skates that are high performing," said Layton. "When you have a good solid foundation on the ice, you have confidence to play your best."