Riddell fire causes shortage of helmets for Michigan high school football teams


The early bird gets the worm, and the first trainer gets the helmet.

Michigan high school football coaches face a shortage of helmets heading into the 2021 season, due to several factors limiting production of Riddell helmets, especially the preferred SpeedFlex model.

“We wanted to order eight helmets to replace the outdated or damaged ones,” said Saginaw Valley Lutheran coach Joe Willey. “We had to wait until July 1 to order because it’s the start of the new fiscal year. At that point, we were told not to even bother. We never even ordered them.

Coaches or sports departments who ordered helmets in late 2020 or early 2021 had no problem. Coaches who have waited until spring or summer are told to make do with what they have.

Riddell explained in an official statement that the combination of supply chain challenges and a fire at a supplier who manufactured the helmet liners limited the production and availability of the helmets.

“Riddell, like most industries, is experiencing supply chain and materials issues due to the ongoing pandemic,” the official statement said. “In addition, a football helmet component supplier Riddell recently suffered a catastrophic fire. As a result, the production of some Riddell football helmets is limited and delivery times will be impacted. “

According to the release, Riddell expects the helmets to arrive for use at some point before the end of the season. Riddell officials did not disclose the location of the facility which suffered damage from the fire, but said in the official statement that no one was injured.

Meanwhile, coaches who haven’t ordered helmets earlier in the year or who have learned they will need larger helmets that weren’t in the school’s inventory are forced to scramble. .

“We have a player who needs a 3xl helmet and shoulder pads,” said St. Charles coach Aaron Gordon. “We were able to get a helmet from (Edmore) Montabella. We are checking the pads now.

Frankenmuth coach Phil Martin had to borrow from the Frankenmuth Youth Program, which had several extra-large helmets.

“We had problems… we borrowed extra-large helmets,” said Martin. “We borrowed from our youth program. XL are the only ones they have to be certified by the university. I know our youth program also borrowed or purchased shoulder pads from Freeland because they couldn’t get enough.

Hemlock’s coach Adam Clark visited Saginaw Nouvel to find a larger helmet for a player.

“We needed a helmet and we couldn’t get it through Riddell because of all the issues,” said Clark. “We ended up going to Nouvel and asking for a helmet. The first challenge is to find a team with the same colors as you so that you can use the helmet. Then we had to change the color of the mask and remove that Nouvel blue so that everyone’s helmet matched.

“We were lucky to have the same color as Nouvel. We were also lucky that they didn’t have a sticker or anything on it, so we could just put our sticker on it.

Lapeer’s coach Mike Smith has enough helmets, but he wanted to replace some of his reconditioned helmets that were having issues.

“We got our allotment,” Smith said. “We ordered them early, but wanted to complete some as I checked my refurbished headphones and were missing a bunch of ear pads.

“Everyone has equipment problems. My shoulder pads did not come back. People are not working and one of the manufacturers, Riddell, had a fire. We will get there. I just wasn’t sure we were going to have enough.

Valley Lutheran will also have enough helmets, but not because of a secret source.

“Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we had a low turnout in football, lower than we expected,” Willey said. “We ultimately didn’t need all eight helmets this season. Our children are always in good helmets. If we had needed them, I probably would have begged for helmets from (Saginaw) Heritage.

“It wasn’t just the fire. The resin that makes the shells is rationed due to supply chain issues. And when there is a shortage, we have to believe that the NFL and the NCAA are going to take precedence over us.

“The teams that were able to order early are OK. Otherwise, you might see a lot of coaches scrambling to find equipment for their children.

The 2021 high school football season kicks off Thursday.

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