|How to Buy Hockey Sticks|
Need help buying a hockey stick?
Here is some advice from HockeyGiant.com on how to buy Hockey Sticks
Hockey Stick FAQ's:
When hockey players are choosing a hockey stick they tend to be pretty picky about what they like, and what they simply can not stand to play with. The decision mainly comes down to the "feel" of the hockey stick. "Feel" is the term used to describe the player's ability to accurately sense and control the puck with the hockey stick that they are using. This includes both offensive and defensive maneuvers, which consist of but are not limited to puck-handling, shooting, passing, reach and poke-checking. As a player develops these skills, they also acquire a better sense of which stick will do the trick for them.
What To Consider When Choosing A Hockey Stick
Wood Sticks vs. Composite Sticks
One-piece (OPS) vs. Two-piece Hockey Stick Construction
Hockey Stick Shaft Flexibility
The shaft of a hockey stick is going to be rated with a number ranging from about 40 to 110. The higher the number, the stiffer the shaft. Heavier players need a stiffer shaft that can handle the stress of their weight on the stick, and lighter players will need a more flexible shaft that will respond to their weight and help them generate a more powerful shot. Typically, a defenseman will take more slap shots than a forward and should therefore go with a stiffer flex. Forwards tend to do more puck-handling and take more snap and wrist shots, so they won't need as much resistance from the shaft to handle their shots. Here is a simple breakdown of the shaft flexibility in relation to the size of a player:
Blade Pattern / Curve
Curves are built mainly on these three options: curve type, curve depth and face angle. Blade lie is also an important attribute, but that will be discussed later in more detail. Generally speaking, defensemen require good control when making outlet passes and the ability to shoot hard and low, so it's usually best to go with a slight or moderate mid or heel curve that has a closed or slightly open face angle. Forwards tend to do more puck handling and take more wrist and snapshots than slap shots, so a mid or toe curve anywhere from slight to deep, depending on the player, with a closed or open face angle would be appropriate.
It is absolutely a matter of preference when choosing a blade pattern so don't be afraid to try a few different types. These are general recommendations and in no way should they be strictly applied. Finding the best formula for you as an individual player is a process that takes time, patience and willingness to experiment with different options.
Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Youth
The terms senior, intermediate, junior and youth are used to describe the general age groups of hockey players for the purposes of hockey equipment sizing. These categories are determined by the average dimensions (height/weight/waist size, etc.) of a hockey player at a certain age. Please refer to the chart above to see which category you fit into. Now that you know where you place in terms of general age group sizing, you'll want to consider the stiffness of the shaft you will be using. It is important to refer to the sizing chart for general guidelines on shaft flexibility, but depending on how the hockey stick is going to be used, there are a few key things to take into consideration. Shafts are built in different sizes and strengths to fit a player's needs based on his height, weight, strength and playing style. For instance, defensemen tend to take more slapshots and usually benefit from using a stiffer flex, whereas forwards are more inclined to take wrist and snap shots, so they typically benefit from using a more flexible shaft.
Hockey Stick Construction
Hockey sticks are made up of a shaft and a blade. Sticks have undergone drastic changes over the last 15-20 years with the advent of composite material technology. Despite its ever-changing "properties", the hockey stick will inevitably hold the same general geometric shape and appearance that it has for the last century or so. But with the endless research being done to create lighter, more durable materials for better performance, new and innovative construction methods have been discovered and have proven effective. The following section provides a brief history of the evolution of hockey sticks.
Wood Sticks & Aluminum Shafts
Traditional wood hockey sticks, much like the Sher-Wood 5030 SC Wood Hockey Stick, have been around as long as the game has been played. Wood hockey sticks make up a significantly smaller portion of the hockey stick market these days, but they are still used by many players who prefer more traditional equipment. In an effort to increase the durability and functional convenience of hockey sticks, the two-piece system was born. Aluminum shafts with replaceable wooden blades were introduced in the 1980's and became very popular because the shaft strength was unparalleled by the wooden sticks that had been used for so many years. Wood blades and sticks are still considered by most to have the best "feel", but of course the durability and weight of aluminum and composite sticks have given them a competitive edge over the traditional wood stick.
Composite Shafts & Blades
In the mid to late 90's, carbon fiber and Kevlar shafts were introduced as a lighter and more responsive alternative to aluminum shafts and wood hockey sticks. Replaceable carbon composite and Kevlar blades also made their way onto the market at this time and offered longer lasting performance, mainly because they are less susceptible to the water damage that causes wood blades to rot and split. Composite shafts, such as the Bauer Vapor APX SE Griptac Hockey Shaft, are still very popular today because they allow players to mix and match blades and shafts offered by different manufacturers.
One-Piece Composite Hockey Sticks (OPS)
With the turn of the century, there was a remarkable breakthrough in hockey stick technology. One-piece composite hockey sticks were created by taking the two piece system of a composite shaft and blade and combining it with the concept of the one-piece wood stick. This created the most dynamic approach to creating a stick that is both light-weight and durable, by the use of carbon composite materials, while still maintaining the benefits of the exceptional feel of the one-piece wood stick design.
There is a broad range of one-piece composite hockey sticks available from manufacturers such as Bauer, CCM, Reebok, Easton and Warrior. The Elliptical Taper featured on the Easton Velocity V9E Hockey Stick provides quicker loading for faster release on shots and maximum energy transfer. Breakthroughs in hockey stick performance, such as this, have been made possible as a direct result of the versatility of the composite materials being used.
Grip vs. Clear Finish
Choosing whether to use a hockey stick with or without a grip finish is an absolute matter of preference. Many players prefer the grip finish for the simple fact that the added texture keeps their hands from slipping on the shaft. Other players prefer clear finish shafts because they feel that the grip texture limits their ability to slide the bottom hand with ease. The third option, which has become much more popular recently, is the Matte finish, which is smooth and velvety, as opposed to the traditional slick gloss on clear finish sticks.
There are many different "types" of grip shafts. Reebok uses "Snake Grip"; Bauer uses "Griptac" and "Tactile Texture"; Sherwood experimented with "Shark Skin Fade". Most "grip" sticks feel like they have a sticky, rubber cement-like coating. Others, like the Sherwood Shark Skin finish, aren't tacky, but they have an abrasive texture which feels like grains of sand under the paint.
When grip shafts first came out, it seemed like everyone was making the switch from clear to grip. But, according to manufacturers, it appears that the market has reached its point of equilibrium – approximately half of the players are using grip and half are using clear finish hockey sticks. Once again, its a matter of preference and you should experiment with both options.
Consider Your Options
The hockey stick market is being driven not only by the ever-increasing competitiveness of the players, but is also being fueled by fierce competition between the "twigmakers" themselves. This is great for the players because the result has been an innumerable amount of options available in all price ranges. You can find a decent composite stick these days for around $50-60, such as the CCM RBZ 40 Hockey Stick. Higher-end models like the Easton V9E Hockey Stick and Bauer Supreme TotalOne NXG Hockey Stick tend to run around $200-250 when they are initially released. Of course there are great, mid-range composite sticks produced as well; for instance, the Reebok RibCor 24K Grip Hockey Stick and Warrior Dynasty AX3 Hockey Stick, which deliver high performance results at a more affordable price. Over time, stick prices tend to come down pretty substantially, especially with the introduction of the newest models each product-calendar year. So, always watch for the year-end clearance sales on last year's merchandise.
Fortunately, hockey sticks come in many different sizes and "patterns" that focus on the various strengths and tendencies of each hockey player as they handle the puck. The "pattern" of a stick refers to the specific type of curve that the manufacturer gives to the blade, such as the Pattern 88 (Lindros/Kane) curve which is made by Bauer and the Pattern 42 (Duchene) curve made by Reebok. There are usually somewhere between 5 to 10 different blade patterns available from each stick manufacturer. Each blade is engineered to focus on enhancing a unique combination of the different aspects of stickhandling: shooting, passing and puckhandling.
A few terms that you'll want to become familiar with are curve type, curve depth, face angle, blade length and lie.
Curve Type: There are basically 3 curve types (heel, mid & toe) that you can find in conjunction with the many other blade options previously mentioned. It's pretty straight forward, so when you see a heel curve this means that the curve of the blade begins at the heel as opposed to starting towards the middle or toe of the blade.
Curve Depth: The depth refers to the degree of the curve, whether it's slight, moderate or deep.
Face Angle: Face angle is best understood by looking at the concept behind a set of golf clubs. A closed-face angle hockey blade would be like a 1 Iron, whereas an open-face angle blade is equivalent to something like a pitching wedge. The range is anywhere from closed face (cups over the top of the puck) to open wedge (angled back away from the puck).
Blade Length: The blade length is exactly what the description annotates (short, medium or long).
Lie: The lie is a representative measurement of how the blade is angled in relation to the shaft, which determines how the blade will rest on the ice. Higher lies are usually best for bigger players who skate more upright. Lower lies work better for smaller players and those who tend to skate bent over, closer to the ice. You have found the correct lie when the middle portion of the underside of your blade is resting flat on the ice, rather than resting on the heel with the toe off the ice or vice versa. Below is a diagram that visually displays the concept of blade lie.
Here are the main points to take into consideration when picking a blade pattern.
As noted before, you must be willing to experiment with different patterns in order to find the one that fits you the best. For more information, refer to the blade pattern charts pasted below, provided by the manufacturers.
Click on one of the icons below to view hockey stick blade patterns from Easton, Bauer, Reebok, CCM, and Warrior.
You're Ready To Buy A Hockey Stick
Now that you have a pretty good understanding of what makes each hockey stick unique, we'll review the 6 factors that should be considered when you choose the best hockey stick for you. Always keep these factors in mind when you're purchasing a hockey stick.
Additional Information About Hockey Sticks
Tapered vs. Standard Hosel - The hosel is the rectangular end of the blade which is inserted into the open end of the shaft. There are two different Senior sizes manufactured: Standard .620" and Tapered .520". Standard blades will NOT fit into tapered shafts and tapered blades will NOT fit into regular shafts. The general idea behind a tapered shaft and blade is to decrease weight by using less materials. Tapered shafts also load and release more quickly than standard shafts, theoretically speaking. Standard shafts and blades are more common, but the number of tapered shafts and blades manufactured is steadily rising.
Cutting your stick down to size - If you take a look at the shaft flexibility chart above you'll notice the approximate stick length for each corresponding flex. The length of the stick is measured from the top of the shaft down the back side to the heel of the blade. Naturally, most players will find that sticks do not come at exactly the length they need right out of the box and therefore you must cut an inch or two off of the top of the shaft. Conversely, taller players may need to add an extender to their shaft if it is too short. When you are standing on your skates with your stick upright, on the toe, perpendicular to the ice, the top of the shaft should stop just below or above the chin, depending on personal preference.
Defensemen tend to use longer sticks which provide greater reach when poke-checking. Forwards tend to use shorter sticks in order to handle the puck with greater mobility and keep it closer to their body. You might find yourself to be more comfortable using a longer or shorter stick than players traditionally use at your given position. Once again, this is a matter of preference and you ought to experiment with different lengths in order to find the best fit for you.
Taping your stick - The next time you get a chance to take a look at a stick rack on the bench at a hockey rink, you'll notice a staggering degree of variation in the way that each stick is taped. There are "right" and "wrong" ways to tape your stick, although many will argue that the two pathetic strips on the toe of their blade are placed with purpose. Anyhow, the reason that you tape your blade is to increase the amount of grip that your blade has on the puck. Additionally, to a certain degree, tape protects your blade from other sticks and skates that it will inevitably come into contact with during play.
There are tricks of the trade that some players choose to employ, and others simply don't. The key is to make sure that any portion of the blade which could come into contact with the puck while you're handling it or shooting it is taped. The traditional way to tape a blade is to start at the heel and wrap the blade from bottom to top, overlapping each strip just slightly with each pass, working your way towards the toe. But there's no harm in going the other direction... is there? Once again, this is a matter of preference, and you will find your own way over time. Many players consider this a sacred art, so act accordingly.
You will also want to tape the top of the shaft (butt end). There's a good amount of variation in the size and shape of the knob that each player puts onto their butt end. Taping the butt end will give you a better grip on the stick, and if you drop it (a crying shame if you do) then a big butt end will elevate the stick off of the ice just enough to pick it up without making you look like an idiot without fingernails trying to pick up a quarter.
ABS Sticks/Blades - "Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene"... Sounds complicated. Otherwise known as ABS, this material is the preferred choice of outdoor inline hockey players because of it's remarkable durability. Rather than splintering into uselessness like regular wood or composite blades, ABS blades hold up incredibly well on concrete surfaces due to the plastic composition of the material. It's not ideal for ice hockey because it does not have the same rigidity as wood or composite blades, so it tends to work best with a street hockey puck or ball. Ice hockey pucks are heavier than inline hockey pucks and balls, so ABS blades flex a little bit too much to be effective on the ice. But an ABS stick like the Sher-Wood 5100 Hockey Stick would be the best choice for street hockey.
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