How to Buy Hockey Sticks
Hockey Stick Buying Guide
Here is some advice from HockeyGiant.com on how to buy Hockey Sticks
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
- Wood sticks and blades offer the best feel but the least durability.
- Composite sticks and blades provide better shot power and durability, but they do cost more and do not have quite as much of an overall authentic "feel" compared to wood sticks when handling the puck.
One-piece (OPS) vs. Two-piece Hockey Stick Construction
- One-piece sticks (also called OPS sticks), whether wood or composite, are designed to have a consistent flex point and shaft response because there is no break in the shaft where it meets the blade. One-piece sticks also tend to be lighter because there is no need for glue and there is no overlap of materials where the blade and shaft meet.
- Two-piece sticks give you the option of choosing the separate shaft and blade that you like, which you combine to create the stick that will work best for you.
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 may take more slap shots than a forward and should perhaps therefore go with a stiffer flex. Forwards tend to do more puck-handling and take more snap and wrist shots, so they won't likely need as much resistance from the shaft to handle their shots. Personal preference also plays a large part in selecting the flex for your stick, so don't feel hindered by these generalized suggestions. Here is a simple breakdown of the shaft flexibility in relation to the size of a player:
|Hockey Stick Flex/Length
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, as stated previously, 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 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 are still farily 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 Sticks 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 used to call their grip finish "Snake Grip"; Bauer uses "Griptac" and "Tactile Texture", and they previously called their grip finish Stick'Um; Sherwood experimented with "Shark Skin Fade". For the most part, a grip finish will feel pretty similar from brand to brand, regardless of what the manufacturer has decided to call it, but there are some exceptions. 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. Top of the line models tend to run around $200 - 260 when they are initially released. Of course there are great, mid-range composite sticks produced as well, which deliver high performance results at a more affordable price, approximately $120 - 180. 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.
Hockey Stick Blade Patterns
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 direction, curve type, curve depth, face angle, blade length, and lie.
Curve Direction: When you're looking at a blade from the top view, it will look like the left or right curve pictured below. If you have never played hockey before, or you're at the very beginning stages of becoming familiar with hockey and have not yet solidified your decision regarding which way to shoot, there are some points to consider. There are different schools of thought on how to decide which way you ought to shoot, but the short answer is that your dominant hand (usually your writing and throwing hand) should be the top hand on your stick. This should give you the greatest amount of control over your stick as you puckhandle and shoot.
So, if you write with your right hand, you should select a "Left" curve, because your dominant hand (right) will be on the top end of the stick.
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 denotes (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.
Main points to consider when picking a blade pattern
- Deep curves make it easier to lift shots on the forehand and slight curves give you more overall control of the puck on the forehand and backhand.
- Closed face angle blades are great for puck protection on the forehand and open face angle blades provide an even greater ability to lift the puck with ease.
- The puck will naturally rest on the heel, mid or toe of the blade depending on which one of these types of curves you choose.
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, click on the following link which will take you to our Hockey Stick Blade Charts.
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.
- Blade Pattern
- Shaft Finish
Hockey Stick FAQ's:
What's the difference between tapered and standard blades and shafts?
The opening at the end of a hockey shaft into which a blade is inserted is called a hosel. There are essentially 2 different hosel types: Standard .620" & Tapered .520" – they are not interchangeable. Standard .620 (non-tapered) blades will only fit into Standard .620 (non-tapered) shafts, and Tapered .520" blades will only fit into Tapered .520" shafts.
In addition, blades are manufactured in Senior, Intermediate and Junior sizes. Junior blades will only fit into junior shafts; senior blades are most often manufactured to fit in both senior and intermediate shafts. Most manufacturers do not make intermediate blades, though most will offer an intermediate shaft.
If you are unfamiliar with the way a hockey stick curve looks, the image below shows you a top view of a left and a right hand curve. If your bottom hand is your left hand, you use a left-handed stick. If your bottom hand is your right hand, you use a right-handed stick.
How long should my hockey stick be?
Hockey stick length is ultimately a matter of personal preference, but it is most certainly a major factor as it relates to your ability to both handle and shoot the puck – it can even affect your skating ability. The general rule on stick length is that while you're wearing your skates, with the stick standing upright and perpendicular to the ground, the top of the shaft should come up to the underside of your chin.
Hockey sticks come in 4 main sizes: senior (60"), intermediate (57"), junior (52") and youth (48"), with a small amount of variance from one manufacturer to another. Hockey sticks are routinely cut down or extended (with an extender plug in the top end of the shaft) to accommodate the player's individual height. It's important to purchase a stick that is as close to the proper length as possible, but keep in mind that hockey stick flex is affected by length and should be considered while selecting the length of stick that you're ordering. This is because when you cut a stick down or add an extender to the top of the shaft, it causes the flex rating to change. Read on in the answer to the following question for further explanation of flex ratings.
What is hockey stick "flex"?
There is a general rule of thumb that will help you find the appropriate flex rating for yourself: take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2. So, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should use a 100 flex stick. Personal preference, playing style, position and several other factors come into play as well, but the half-weight rule is a good place to start.
Hockey stick flex ratings are indicated by a number ranging from 30 (very flexible, whippy) to 115 (very stiff). Youth sticks are for the shortest, youngest players, and they usually come in a 30, 35 or 40 flex. Junior sticks are best for 7 to 13 year old players and usually have a flex rating of 45, 50 or 55 flex. Intermediate sticks are usually best for young teens and come with a flex rating of 60, 65 or 70 flex. Senior sticks are for adults and full grown teens and they come with a flex rating of 75, 85, 100, 110 and 115 flex. The higher the flex rating, the stiffer the stick is and the harder it is to flex.
The flex rating is actually a number that indicates the amount of pressure in pounds that is required to flex the center of the stick 1". So, in order to get a 100 flex stick to flex 1", you must apply 100 lbs of pressure to the center of the shaft. As discussed in the answer to the previous question about stick length, when you change the length of a hockey stick by cutting it down or putting an extender in the butt end of the shaft, it affects the flex rating of the stick. If you cut down a 100 flex stick from 60" down to 58", for instance, the flex rating will go up to about 108, making the shaft stiffer and more resistant to flexion. Conversely, when you put a 2" extender in the end of a 60" stick with a 100 flex rating, the flex rating will go down to approximately 92, making the shaft more flexible.
Which blade pattern should I choose?
Selecting a blade pattern is a bit like selecting a golf club out of your bag, in the sense that each club will give you slightly different results and is intended for specific types of shots. Although, when it comes to selecting a blade pattern, you also have to account for your ability to puckhandle and pass with the blade, and you'll also likely be taking wrist, snap, slap and backhand shots, all with the same blade! Every blade pattern has unique characteristics that enhance certain shot types, puckhandling maneuvers and passing methods. Your goal should be to identify the aspects of puckhandling and shooting that characterize your playing style as an individual, and then select a blade pattern that will help you perform those maneuvers to the best of your ability.
We recommend trying several different blade patterns before settling on one, just to make sure you have an understanding of what each blade pattern can do for you as a shooter, passer and puckhandler.
If you would like to read more about selecting a blade pattern, read the section above entitled Hockey Stick Blade Patterns or you can read an even more comprehensive article on the HockeyGiant.com Blog entitled How to Choose a Hockey Stick Blade Pattern.
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.
"Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene"... Sounds complicated. Otherwise known as ABS, this material is the preferred choice of outdoor inline and street 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.