Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR COLLECTING PROJECTILE GAME PIECES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A projectile sports game piece collector provides for receipt of game pieces into a housing through an inlet aperture and an inclined conduit leading to a game piece repository. A compliant impact surface dissipates the kinetic energy of received game pieces before receipt into the repository.



Inventors:
Poillucci, Gary (Watertown, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/780837
Publication Date:
01/22/2009
Filing Date:
07/20/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
273/127B
International Classes:
A63B63/00; A63B71/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
NICONOVICH, ALEXANDER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILLIAM NITKIN (Brookline, MA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A projectile sports game piece collector comprising: a housing having a lower end for resting on a playing surface, and defining at a front portion an inlet aperture proximate the lower end and sized to receive a projectile game piece directed into the inlet aperture with an entrance momentum: the housing further defining an internal game piece repository for accumulating received projectile game pieces; and a conduit disposed between the inlet aperture and the repository and configured to redirect the momentum of received projectile game pieces towards the repository.

2. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein a front portion of the housing comprises a compliant foam material.

3. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, further comprising a compliant impact surface arranged within the housing to dissipate the kinetic energy of received projectile game pieces.

4. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein the conduit defines an upward incline.

5. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein the conduit is configured to at least partially reverse the direction of projectile game pieces between the inlet aperture and the repository.

6. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 4, wherein the conduit is configured to redirect the momentum of received projectile game pieces rearward towards the repository.

7. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 4, wherein the conduit is configured to redirect the momentum of received projectile game pieces forward towards the repository above the inlet aperture.

8. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 7, wherein the conduit defines a reverse curved path to redirect projectile game pieces into the repository above the inlet aperture and towards the front portion of the housing.

9. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, further comprising a skid stop positioned on a lower portion of the housing for preventing movement of the housing on the support surface during receipt of the projectile game piece.

10. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein the inlet aperture, conduit and repository are sized to receive a hockey puck as a projectile game piece.

11. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein the inlet aperture, conduit and repository are sized to receive a golf ball as a projectile game piece.

12. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein a game piece basket is removably received within the repository.

13. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 12, further comprising an access closure moveable to permit removal of projectile game pieces or removal of the game piece basket from the repository.

14. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 12, further comprising a pair of wheels and a telescoping handle connected to the housing.

15. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, further comprising an adjustment mechanism configured to vary a height of the aperture relative to the lower end of the housing.

16. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, wherein a lower edge of the inlet aperture is positioned to be within 3 mm of a playing surface when the lower end of the housing is resting on the playing surface.

17. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, further comprising an inlet ramp extending downward from the inlet aperture.

18. The projectile sports game piece collector of claim 1, further comprising an accessory rack for retaining at least one of a water bottle, hockey stick, and golf club.

19. A portable game piece collector comprising: a housing having a front surface defining an inlet aperture for receiving game pieces with an inlet momentum; a game piece repository disposed above the inlet aperture adjacent the front surface; a conduit extending into the housing from the inlet aperture and configured to redirect the momentum of a game piece received at the inlet aperture towards the repository; and a compliant impact surface configured to dissipate the kinetic energy of a received game piece such that the game piece falls into the game piece repository.

20. A method of collecting projectile game pieces, the method comprising: positioning a portable game piece collector on a playing surface, the collector comprising a housing defining an inlet aperture in a front surface of the housing for receiving projectile game pieces, a repository for retaining received projectile game pieces and a conduit for redirecting the momentum of received game pieces into the repository; receiving a projectile game piece at the inlet aperture; redirecting the momentum of a received game piece towards the repository; and receiving the game piece into the repository.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein the momentum of the projectile game piece is redirected towards the front surface of the housing.

22. The method of claim 20, wherein redirecting the momentum of the received game piece comprises impacting an energy impact surface positioned above the repository.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to sporting equipment, and more particularly to a collector for projectile game pieces.

BACKGROUND

Many sports such as hockey and golf, for example, involve propulsion of a game piece across a playing surface towards a goal, hole, or other target. During individual or team practice sessions, numerous game pieces may be repeatedly propelled towards the target. Collection of these numerous game pieces after a practice session typically requires repeated bending or stooping to retrieve game pieces from the ground and to deposit them in a repository such as a bucket.

Various mechanical collectors have been proposed to simplify collection of sports game pieces from a playing surface. Such collectors commonly include, for example, some form of ball conveyor powered, for example, by propulsion of the collector by a user across the playing surface.

There exists a need for a sports game pieces collector that docs not require propulsion of the collector across the playing surface. Similarly, a need exists for a collector that may be used as part of or during a practice session.

SUMMARY

Generally, the invention contemplates various mechanisms and methods for collecting projectile game pieces. An exemplary sports game piece collector provides for receipt of projectile game pieces with an entrance momentum through an inlet aperture formed in a housing. The received game piece is carried by its momentum up an inclined conduit into a game piece repository.

In various embodiments, the kinetic energy of the game piece is dissipated by impact with a compliant impact surface prior to the game piece coming to rest in the game piece repository. In other embodiments, the game piece kinetic energy may be partially dissipated by provision of a conduit shaped to redirect the game piece as it travels between the inlet aperture and the repository. For example, the conduit may form a reverse curved path between an inlet aperture located on the front of the housing and a repository located forward of the conduit end.

While the game piece may be any object suitable for propulsion across a playing surface, (e.g., a golf ball, street hockey ball, ice hockey puck, and the like) the invention is described herein in the exemplary context of a puck as typically used to play ice hockey in the exemplary context of a hockey practice session, pucks are propelled towards a hockey goal with the game piece collector positioned within or behind the goal. Pucks entering a central portion of the goal may be received directly into the collector. Alternatively, pucks may initially impact the exterior or housing of the collector and come to rest near the collector and may then be repeatedly propelled towards the collector until received within the collector. Thus, in contrast to the prior art devices requiring delay of collection of game pieces until the end of a practice session, the present invention provides the advantage of extending practice sessions as stray game pieces are corralled towards and ultimately propelled into the collector.

Additional advantages are provided by various aspects of alternative embodiments. For example, in one embodiment, the collector includes a housing having a compliant front surface or front portion designed to minimize rebound of pucks from the front of the housing. In another embodiment, the inlet aperture in the housing is positioned proximate the playing surface such that pucks may readily transition between the playing surface and the inlet aperture. An adjustment mechanism may be used to vary the height of the inlet aperture from the playing surface. An inlet ramp may be used to span any gap between the inlet aperture and the playing surface.

In some embodiments, the conduit is inclined upwardly towards a repository positioned rearward of the conduit within the collector housing. In other embodiments, the conduit is inclined upwardly in a continuous curve, or reverse curved path, such that the puck is redirected towards a repository located forward of the end of the conduit. A baffle or discrete inline sections within the conduit may also be used to further redirect the momentum of the puck.

In other embodiments, a skid stop such as an ice cleat or rubber foot is provided for contacting the playing surface to resist movement of the housing on the playing surface during receipt of the puck. Wheels and an extendable handle allow various embodiments to be more readily transported. A game piece basket may be received in the repository and accessible or removable, for example through an access door or zippered flap in the housing. Additional sporting equipment or water bottles and the like may be retained, stored, and transported on accessory racks on the collector.

In one aspect, the invention features a method of collecting a projectile game piece propelled across a playing surface. The method includes positioning a portable game piece collector on a playing surface, the collector comprising a housing defining an inlet aperture in a front surface of the housing for receiving projectile game pieces, a repository for retaining received projectile game pieces and a conduit for redirecting the momentum of received game pieces into the repository. The projectile game piece is received at the inlet aperture and the momentum of the received game piece is redirected towards the repository. The momentum of the projectile game piece may be redirected towards the front of the housing by the shape of the conduit or by a baffle. The momentum of the received game piece may also be redirected by an energy impact surface positioned above the repository at the end of the conduit.

The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary projectile game piece collector.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the collector of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along 3/4-3/4 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is an alternative cross-sectional view taken along 3/4-3/4 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a cut away view of another exemplary projectile game piece collector.

Like reference symbols in the various drawings indicate like elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Projectile game piece collectors and methods of using the same are described herein. Generally, projectile game pieces are propelled towards and received into an opening in a collector housing. An inclined conduit redirects the game piece towards a repository within the housing. An impact surface dissipates the kinetic energy of the game piece and the: game piece comes to rest in a repository.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, an exemplary projectile game piece collector 2 includes a housing 6 having a front portion 8 and a lower end 10. Front portion 8 defines an inlet aperture 12 adjacent lower end 10 for receiving a projectile game piece 4 propelled towards inlet aperture 12 across a playing surface (not shown). Inlet aperture 12 is sized to receive game piece 4 directed into inlet aperture 12 with an entrance momentum. A conduit 16 extends from inlet aperture 12 to a repository within housing 6.

Front portion 8 of housing 6 may be configured to be compliant, for example it may be thin so as to be pliable across a larger area or it may be resilient locally due to compressibility of a selected material. One exemplary compliant material is closed cell foam such as is commonly used with flexible camping coolers. Front portion 8 may be supported by more rigid sidewalls or a rigid frame. Use of a compliant material for front portion 8 reduces the degree of rebound of game pieces 4 from front portion 8 of collector 2. Reduced rebound results in a closer proximity for subsequent attempts to propel game piece 4 into inlet aperture 12.

Lower end 10 of housing 6 may rest directly on the playing surface such that inlet aperture 12 is adjacent the playing surface. In alternative embodiments, housing 6 may be positioned at a height above the playing surface and an inlet ramp 34 may bridge any distance between inlet aperture 12 and the playing surface. The height of housing 6 above the playing surface may be adjustable, for example, by adjustment of supporting legs or other adjustment features. Preferably, inlet aperture 12 is positioned to be within 3 mm of a playing surface when lower end 10 of housing 6 is resting on the playing surface. Inlet ramp 34 may be hinged along the lower edge of inlet aperture 12 so as to be automatically adjustable to span a selected height of housing 6 from the playing surface. Inlet ramp 34 may be pivoted up into a stowed position covering inlet aperture 12 and secured for storage by any suitable means.

Housing 6, conduit 16, inlet ramp 34, and other components may be formed of plastic, metal, or any other material suitable to withstand the impact of game piece 4. In various alternative embodiments, additional inlet aperture side extenders 32 may be used to separate from or in connection with inlet ramp 34 to extend the range of acceptable approach angles of game piece 4.

With continued reference to FIGS. 1-2, an access closure 24 provides access into housing 6 to removal of game piece 4. Game piece 4 may be removed individually or may be removed along with removal of a basket in the repository retaining game piece 4. Access closure 24 may be a lid, door, flap, or the like secured by a zipper, magnet, latch, touch fastener or the like. Closure 24 need not have a securing means, however, and may be biased in a closed position simply by gravity. Alternatively, an opening may be provided in housing 6 for removal of game piece 4 or a game piece basket from the repository without providing an access closure 24.

A handle 28 and wheels 26 are provided on housing 6 for ease of transport of collector 2. Handle 28 may telescope or otherwise be adjustable to different heights for increased convenience in transporting or storing collector 2. Any number of accessory racks, such as, for example, water bottle and golf club or hockey stick racks, may be connected to housing 6 or handle 28 for convenience in transporting or storing any additional desired associated equipment.

A marking area 30 may be provided on front portion 8 of housing 6, or on any other suitable portion of housing 6. Marking area 30 may serve, for example, for displaying team or sponsor logos, advertisements, equipment numbering, and the like.

With reference now to FIGS. 3-4, housing 6 further defines an internal game piece repository 14 for accumulating received projectile game pieces 4. Housing 6 further defines a conduit 16 disposed between inlet aperture 12 and repository 12 and configured to redirect the momentum of received projectile game pieces 4 towards repository 14. Conduit 16 extends at an incline within housing 6 from inlet aperture 12 to repository 14. Game pieces 4 entering inlet aperture 12 with a given entrance momentum proceed up the incline of conduit 16 and come to rest in repository 14. The incline of conduit 16 may define may define a continuous curve as shown in FIG. 3 or may define a series of discrete inclined sections as shown in FIG. 4.

Conduit 16 is preferably formed of or coated with a material having a relatively low coefficient of friction such that the entrance momentum of game pieces 4 is not unduly diminished prior to reaching repository 14. Friction between game piece 4 and conduit 16 is obviously of greater concern for sliding game pieces 4, such as hockey pucks, than for rolling game pieces 4, such as golf balls. Many plastics, resins, polished metals, and the like may be suitable materials for use in forming or coating conduit 16.

In the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 3-4, conduit 16 redirects the momentum of game piece 4 upward and forward towards repository 14. Game piece 4 follow a continuous reverse curved path as shown in FIG. 3 or may be deflected by acute impacts to discrete sections of conduit 16 as shown in FIG. 4. Alternative conduit configurations will be described below with reference to FIG. 5.

Repository 14 may be of any shape or size suitable to receive a desired quantity of game pieces 4. For example, repository 14 may be substantially box-like as shown in FIG. 3 with an open top or may be formed more as a bin as shown in FIG. 4 with a partially open top and front. Repository 14 may be formed of solid side walls, mesh side walls, flexible side walls, and the like. Repository 14 may receive a game piece basket for easy of transport and storage of game pieces 4 separate from collector 2. Various game piece baskets may be provided for use with collector 2 as a function of the game piece 4 to be used with collector 2. For example, one basket may be designed for use with hockey pucks, another for used with golf balls, and yet another for use with street hockey balls, or any number of other game pieces. A game piece basket may be received within repository 14 so as to be removable from housing 6 through an opening in the side, top, or bottom of housing 6.

An impact surface 20 may be provided along the path of game piece 4 for dissipating a portion of the kinetic energy of game piece 4 prior to receipt of game piece 4 into repository 14. For example, impact surface 20 is shown in FIGS. 3-4 positioned at the end of conduit 16 above repository 14. Impact surface 20 may be a fixed compliant member such as a rubber matt or may be a moveable member such as a compliant flap disposed between conduit 16 and repository 14. Impact surface 20 may be positioned so as to be contacted only by game pieces 4 entering inlet aperture 12 with a high degree of momentum. For example, some game pieces 4 may only have sufficient momentum to travel up the full length of conduit 16 and fall into repository 14 while others may still have significant momentum at the far end of conduit 16. Thus, impact surface 20 may serve to dissipate the kinetic energy of game piece 4 in excess of that needed for game piece 4 to reach repository 14.

With reference now to FIG. 5, in still another embodiment of collector 2, conduit 16 defines un upward and rearward incline between inlet aperture 12 and repository 14. Such a conduit configuration may be desirable, for example, for game pieces 4 having a lesser entrance momentum. Impact surface 20 may be constructed and positioned to dissipate the kinetic energy of game piece 4 prior to receipt of game piece 4 into repository 14. Impact surface 20 is shown in FIG. 5 as a pliable or compressible member extending at an angle to redirect game piece 4 into repository 14.

Collector 2 may further include a skid stop 36, shown here as a pointed cleat for use on an icy playing surface. Skid stop 36 serves to resist movement of collector 2 during receipt of game piece 4. In other embodiments, skid stop 36 may include a rubber pad or other anti-skid feature.

Inlet aperture 12, handle 28 and wheels 26 are depicted in FIG. 5 as being associated with the front surface 8 of housing 6. Handle 28 is depleted in both an extended position and a retracted position. Extension and retraction of handle 28 may be accomplished by telescoping, sliding, or other means. Thus, game piece 4 may travel up inlet ramp 34, through inlet aperture 12, and up conduit 16, rebounding off of impact surface 20 into repository 14. Skid stop 36 prevents collector 2 from moving as game piece 4 impacts impact surface 20 or as game piece 4 strikes front portion 8 of housing 6.

According to an exemplary method of collecting a projectile game piece, a puck is propelled into an inlet aperture of a collector and directed up an inclined conduit towards a repository. The kinetic energy of the puck is dissipated through movement or deformation of a compliant impact surface positioned above the repository. The puck is thus allowed to fall into or otherwise come to rest in the repository. Alternatively, the puck may ascend the incline into the repository without the need to contact the compliant impact surface.

A number of embodiments of the invention have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the inlet aperture may be formed on any side of the housing and the conduit may define any suitable path for conveying the game piece to the repository. Similarly, the repository may extend to or be positioned on the outside of the housing. Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.