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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
SPENCER — It's rare to see an NFL team logo fly off a football helmet after a big hit, but it happened in the 2016 season, during a frigid December game in Chicago.
Late in the first half - with the temperature at Soldier Field at 12 degrees and a wind chill making it about minus-10 - Chicago Bears running back Ka'Deem Carey lowered his helmet into Green Bay Packers linebacker Joe Thomas, jarring loose the "C" on Carey's helmet. Various media reports later attributed the flying decal to the chilly weather.
In fact, the temperature should not have been cold enough to affect the durable films and adhesive behind the logos on most football helmets, according to FLEXcon, a Spencer company that has been perfecting those products for more than 20 years.
For one, a lot of ingenuity goes into creating an adhesive strong enough to last through an unforgiving football game, said Stephen Tomas, the company's director of product branding.
"A football helmet is guaranteed to be in an abusive environment," Mr. Tomas said.
FLEXcon has been keeping logos affixed to football helmets since 1993, making sure its film and adhesive can withstand brutal hits and temperatures as low as minus-30.
The adhesive also has to hold a logo in place for an entire season, Mr. Tomas said, while still allowing teams to replace it from game to game or even quarter to quarter.
And logos like the Flying Elvis on Patriots helmets must look good, too: no smudging or peeling.
FLEXcon would not reveal which NFL teams, if any, it supplies, only saying that its clients include "major football programs around the country."
To do that, Tomas said, FLEXcon's uses two films to secure the decals and keep them wrinkle free: a base layer to stick to the helmet and shape the logo and a thick cover to protect it from hits.
"A football helmet is a very difficult surface to get the film to wrap around without creating wrinkles," Mr. Tomas said. "We make it so the decal is very easy to apply by hand and smooth around the helmet."
Early on, FLEXcon tested its films and adhesive on dozens of football helmets, Mr. Tomas said, by simulating in its lab the different environments in a stadium.
The amount of square feet of film the company ships per year for helmet decals can cover more than 10 football fields, FLEXcon said, but the products only account for a small portion of its $300 million in annual revenue.
Asked why a football decal could come off mid-game, as it did in Chicago two years ago, Mr. Tomas said weather was likely not a factor.
"I would expect that it has more to do with the way the decals were installed and applied," he said. "Cold is not an issue."
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