Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

After much work, the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual is now available for purchase.

This is my first attempt at self-publishing, so go easy on me.

For the initial run, I am asking $11 for a digital copy. After payment, I will e-mail you a copy of the book as a PDF. You will also receive a password which will unlock the file. You can then save and print the Manual as you wish. In the coming days, I will automate this process so that you can  download the book immediately.

The Manual checks in right now at 241 pages, and believe it or not, this is a very condensed edition of the book. The Manual will only get longer as new information and products become available. Your purchase of the Manual entitles you to all future editions, even if I later opt to increase the price of the Manual.

If you want to purchase the book with no additional soft-selling, here are the purchase links:


Buy Now Button

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=72VQZMPZCVF8A

If you need a little persuading, here are some of the topics that the Manual covers:

  • Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0
  • How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates
  • 2016 Hockey Skate Buyer’s Guide
  • Diet, Supplement, and Training Recommendations
  • Considerations for Flat Feet
  • Technical Points on Hockey Skating

As a bonus, I am also including full Diet and Training Programs, upon request and after a liability waiver is completed. If I was including nothing more with the book, I think a personalized Diet/Training Program completed after consultation via e-mail makes the book a high-value purchase, but I’ve included plenty with the purchase.

I’ve created an e-mail specifically for those who purchase the Manual: RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com. If you have any questions about the content within the book, or would like my help in designing a Diet/Training programs specifically suited to you, I am at your service. I will answer questions and help with Program Design as quickly and thoroughly as sales dictate and time permits.

But let’s assume you have your Diet and Training in order, and only care about the Hockey-specific content. Here is an overview of the content provided in the 1st edition of the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual:

Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0 is a re-written guide to selecting the Hockey Stick that will help you get the most from your game. Almost anything and everything you could possibly want to know about Hockey Sticks – History, Marketing, Performance, Pricing, Technical Detail – is included within the section.

Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0 covers all the Retail Blade Patterns available as of April 2016, and can greatly help in future purchasing decisions. This section will help readers of all experience levels better understand the core principles of shooting and stick-handling, and in turn guide them toward the equipment products that will maximize their play.

The current version of Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick checks in at 78 pages, and I will continually update the section as new products and information become available.

The 55-page section on How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates will help you get the most from your current pair of skates, and help you build some preferences for when you decide to purchase your next pair.

To that end, at the request of my editors I’ve included a 2016 Hockey Skate Buyer’s Guide, which I believe will help you make a strong purchasing decision. This section contains the most-current information available as of April 14, 2016, the first day I made the Manual available. I will also update this section as new products are released so that Reboot Hockey readers have the most up-to-date information at their disposal.

Between those three sections, I can guarantee that I will save you $11 when you opt to purchase your next stick or pair of skates. As someone who’s been through dozens of Hockey Sticks and 20 pairs of Hockey Skates in recent memory, I implore you to learn from my purchasing mistakes, almost all of which I’ve detailed within the Manual.

If that’s not enough, I’ve included sections on the Anatomy of a Hockey Skate and Technical Points on Hockey Skating that can benefit players of all experience levels. If you are new to the game and looking for an in-depth explanation on the way Hockey Skates are constructed, I believe this will suit you well. If you are an experienced player looking to learn more about the game, I believe I’ve included enough insight within these sections that they will still prove valuable to your continued development.

My Diet and Training Recommendations are exhaustive and exhausting. My education and passion is Exercise and Health Science, so if you have any interest in either topic, I assure you that the Manual will give you your money’s worth. But if for some reason you find the Manual light on Diet/Training information, a few e-mail exchanges with me will fix that in a hurry.

If you purchase the book, read it, and find that it’s not what you were looking for, again e-mail me (RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com) to help me understand ways in which I can improve the book for future editions. Right now, I am offering a conditional full refund for people who purchase the book and don’t find it helpful, with the condition being that they help me improve future editions of the book with constructive, courteous feedback.

Because this is the first edition and because I’m only promoting the book via the blog and the Reboot Hockey Facebook page at the moment, I am not going to go overboard on a Jordan Belfort-level hard-sell. Reboot Hockey readers know the quality and type of content Mark and I produce, and you’re going to have to trust that I wrote the hell out of this thing. Again, if you buy it and hate it, I’ll probably give you a full refund as long as you aren’t a huge jerk to me.

The people who have supported Reboot Hockey have by far and large been considerate and shown great passion for the game. In response, I have tried to cram as much value as absolutely possible into the first edition of the Manual, and I am sincere in my offer to provide as much support to purchasers as I can.

I will continue to provide plenty of free content via the Reboot Hockey blog in the form of Honest Hockey Reviews and interviews with equipment manufacturers. But in order for me to continue devoting time to creating free content, I have to charge something for some of my lengthier content. I believe I have kept the price for the Manual reasonable, and I hope that after reading you find the Manual to be a great investment.

Thanks again for supporting Reboot Hockey, and best wishes in your continued progress as a Hockey Player.

Jack

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Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

After much work, the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual is now available for purchase.

This is my first attempt at self-publishing, so go easy on me.

For the initial run, I am asking $11 for a digital copy. After payment, I will e-mail you a copy of the book as a PDF. You will also receive a password which will unlock the file. You can then save and print the Manual as you wish. In the coming days, I will automate this process so that you can download the book immediately.

The Manual checks in right now at 241 pages, and believe it or not, this is a very condensed edition of the book. The Manual will only get longer as new information and products become available. Your purchase of the Manual entitles you to all future editions, even if I later opt to increase the price of the Manual.

If you want to purchase the book with no additional soft-selling, here are the purchase links:


Buy Now Button

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=72VQZMPZCVF8A

If you need a little persuading, here are some of the topics that the Manual covers:

  • Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0
  • How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates
  • 2016 Hockey Skate Buyer’s Guide
  • Diet, Supplement, and Training Recommendations
  • Considerations for Flat Feet
  • Technical Points on Hockey Skating

As a bonus, I am also including full Diet and Training Programs, upon request and after a liability waiver is completed. If I was including nothing more with the book, I think a personalized Diet/Training Program completed after consultation via e-mail makes the book a high-value purchase, but I’ve included plenty with the purchase.

I’ve created an e-mail specifically for those who purchase the Manual: RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com. If you have any questions about the content within the book, or would like my help in designing a Diet/Training programs specifically suited to you, I am at your service. I will answer questions and help with Program Design as quickly and thoroughly as sales dictate and time permits.

But let’s assume you have your Diet and Training in order, and only care about the Hockey-specific content. Here is an overview of the content provided in the 1st edition of the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual:

Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0 is a re-written guide to selecting the Hockey Stick that will help you get the most from your game. Almost anything and everything you could possibly want to know about Hockey Sticks – History, Marketing, Performance, Pricing, Technical Detail – is included within the section.

Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick, Version 2.0 covers all the Retail Blade Patterns available as of April 2016, and can greatly help in future purchasing decisions. This section will help readers of all experience levels better understand the core principles of shooting and stick-handling, and in turn guide them toward the equipment products that will maximize their play.

The current version of Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick checks in at 78 pages, and I will continually update the section as new products and information become available.

The 55-page section on How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates will help you get the most from your current pair of skates, and help you build some preferences for when you decide to purchase your next pair.

To that end, at the request of my editors I’ve included a 2016 Hockey Skate Buyer’s Guide, which I believe will help you make a strong purchasing decision. This section contains the most-current information available as of April 14, 2016, the first day I made the Manual available. I will also update this section as new products are released so that Reboot Hockey readers have the most up-to-date information at their disposal.

Between those three sections, I can guarantee that I will save you $11 when you opt to purchase your next stick or pair of skates. As someone who’s been through dozens of Hockey Sticks and 20 pairs of Hockey Skates in recent memory, I implore you to learn from my purchasing mistakes, almost all of which I’ve detailed within the Manual.

If that’s not enough, I’ve included sections on the Anatomy of a Hockey Skate and Technical Points on Hockey Skating that can benefit players of all experience levels. If you are new to the game and looking for an in-depth explanation on the way Hockey Skates are constructed, I believe this will suit you well. If you are an experienced player looking to learn more about the game, I believe I’ve included enough insight within these sections that they will still prove valuable to your continued development.

My Diet and Training Recommendations are exhaustive and exhausting. My education and passion is Exercise and Health Science, so if you have any interest in either topic, I assure you that the Manual will give you your money’s worth. But if for some reason you find the Manual light on Diet/Training information, a few e-mail exchanges with me will fix that in a hurry.

If you purchase the book, read it, and find that it’s not what you were looking for, again e-mail me (RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com) to help me understand ways in which I can improve the book for future editions. Right now, I am offering a conditional full refund for people who purchase the book and don’t find it helpful, with the condition being that they help me improve future editions of the book with constructive, courteous feedback.

Because this is the first edition and because I’m only promoting the book via the blog and the Reboot Hockey Facebook page at the moment, I am not going to go overboard on a Jordan Belfort-level hard-sell. Reboot Hockey readers know the quality and type of content Mark and I produce, and you’re going to have to trust that I wrote the hell out of this thing. Again, if you buy it and hate it, I’ll probably give you a full refund as long as you aren’t a huge jerk to me.

The people who have supported Reboot Hockey have by far and large been considerate and shown great passion for the game. In response, I have tried to cram as much value as absolutely possible into the first edition of the Manual, and I am sincere in my offer to provide as much support to purchasers as I can.

I will continue to provide plenty of free content via the Reboot Hockey blog in the form of Honest Hockey Reviews and interviews with equipment manufacturers. But in order for me to continue devoting time to creating free content, I have to charge something for some of my lengthier content. I believe I have kept the price for the Manual reasonable, and I hope that after reading you find the Manual to be a great investment.

Thanks again for supporting Reboot Hockey, and best wishes in your continued progress as a Hockey Player.

Jack

Fall 2017 Off-Ice Hockey Training Program

A reader purchased the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual, and one of the things I include with the Manual is a personalized training program.

While the Manual contains plenty of diet and exercise recommendations, it’s been a few months since I’ve offered up a program with specifics. This is the program I created specifically for one reader, but I’m sharing it with the Reboot Hockey community in case anyone else is looking for a new program.

Questions can come to me at RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com.

These were the details I was given by the reader/trainee:

  • Trainee has recently implemented Negatives in an attempt to build strength. A Negative is an exercise done with an emphasis on the Eccentric or lowering component of the movement. In a Squat, for example, the Concentric component would be rising with the weight, while the Eccentric/Negative component would be lowering your body under control.
  • Trainee has used Bodyweight Isometrics such as Wall-Sits and Planks to build Muscular Endurance
  • Trainee has used a number of Lunge variations to build leg strength.
  • Trainee has opted for a fat-controlled, carbohydrate-heavy diet.

Program Recommendations

Diet

I’ve advocated and utilized lower-carbohydrate or even Ketogenic diets successfully, but I understand that approach isn’t for everyone. You can read about low-carb dieting here. If you wish to follow a carbohydrate-heavy diet, these are my recommendations:

  • Separate carbohydrate and dietary fat during meals, having meals with carbohydrates/protein or dietary fat/protein. The science behind this approach, which enhances Nutrient Partitioning, is well-covered here by Dr. John Berardi.
  • Dr. Berardi generally recommends less than 10g carbs or 5g fat during a fat/protein and carb/protein meal, respectively. A fat/protein meal might be steak/green vegetables with olive oil, while a carb/protein meal might be chicken/rice with very low dietary fat.
  • Rough protein recommendation is 1g/lb. of bodyweight. To convert to kilograms, multiply bodyweight in Kg x 2.2 for protein intake or divide bodyweight by 2.2.
  • Consider removing dairy from your diet. Pay close attention to how you feel after consuming dairy. It’s very possible to implement a higher-carbohydrate/lower-fat Paleo (no grains/dairy/refined sugar) approach under indicated parameters.
  • I always recommend trainees and readers look into acid/alkaline balance when considering diet. My favorite Strength Coach Christian Thibaudeau shares his thoughts here. Another take can be read here. Take a few minutes and educate yourself, as the ability to buffer acid has a major impact on both your health and your performance as a Hockey Player.
  • I would challenge anyone following a higher-carbohydrate diet to eliminate gluten and sugar as primary carbohydrate sources. I think rice and potatoes are cleaner sources of complex carbohydrates. and I think sugar is highly inflammatory in most individuals. I do not recommend that you use the insane calorie demands of Hockey to justify a high refined-sugar intake.

Base Strength Training (1-5 Reps Per Set x 3-10 Sets)

The core tenet of a good Strength Training program is gaining strength. This seems obvious, but a lot of trainees adopt bodybuilding-style programs in which they train in Functional or Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy ranges of 6-12 repetitions per set. This is not optimal for maximum strength gains.

I’ve written this before, but bodybuilding-style training has very little applicability in Hockey today. There are some undersized players who would benefit from a program that primarily focused on gaining size, but most players in Hockey today are aiming to be as lean, explosive, and strong as possible. Hockey has become a true Power-to-Weight sport. Most players do not want additional weight that does not come with a commensurate gain in strength.

There are many Rep Schemes to program for Strength. I think 5 x 5 is as effective as anything. Do not confuse simplicity with ineffectiveness. You can opt for one Strength day (maybe Saturday morning), or you can use 1-2 Strength movements per workout. I’ve opted for the latter in this program.

These are my favorite choices specifically for Hockey Players. E-mail me (reboothockeyhelp@gmx.com) if you want the science behind each selection:

Hip Dominant – Trap Bar Deadlift

 

Knee Dominant – Barbell Squat, Heels Elevated

Horizontal Pull – T-Bar Row

Horizontal Push –  Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press, Standard Grip

Vertical Pull – Pull-Ups with added weight

 

Vertical Push – Dips with added weight

Those are my favorite moves for Strength, specifically for Hockey Players. We could debate which are the most effective, but I believe in the big basics done consistently and properly (in tandem with appropriate nutrition).

I’m programing two of these moves into a 3-day per week program at 5 x 5. This can be adjusted based on results/schedule.

Functional Hypertrophy (6-8 Reps x 4-6 Sets)

Strength moves with enough duration to add size. Recommended rep scheme is 6-8 reps x 5 sets. Add weight when you can complete nine reps in a set. Recommended tempo: 4-X-1 (lower the weight to a four-count, then accelerate the weight cleanly with minimal pause at the bottom of the movement).

I’m programming three of these selections per day into a three-day per week program. More volume can obviously be added.

Elevated Reverse Lunge

DB Split Squat – Foot Elevated

Barbell Crossover Step-Ups

(Notes: keep weight reasonable, add box height very gradually, keep toes of plant foot as close to 45 degrees as possible. This exercise should work the Glute Medius if done properly.)

Single-Leg DB or KB Romanian Deadlift

(Note: focus on proper hinge and Glute Activation. I have the best results with a slight knee bend, shortened range of motion, and toes pointing out. Also, I do this as a Hockey Player, not a fitness model, so exercise-science nerds can be quiet about my form recommendations. K thanks.)

Heavy Back Extensions

(Notes: most people do these with bodyweight or 25-45 lb. plates. I didn’t get much value out of this movement until I really ramped up the weight. Don’t hurt yourself, but push the amount of weight you use on this movement. Make sure your glutes fire hard.)

Dumbbell Hammer Curls (Grip Strength)

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

(Note: please pay extra attention to this video. In fact, watch everything by Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean-X. He’s the best.)

Cable Lat Pulldown – Overhand/Pronated or Commando/Neutral Grip

Muscular Endurance/Partials (15-25 Reps or More Per Set)

Hockey Skating is an incredibly-unnatural position. An issue I see among most amateur players is that they lack the muscular endurance to keep themselves in hockey-skating position for extended shifts or deeper into a shift.

A few recommendations for building muscular endurance as a Hockey Player:

  • Keep yourself “between the joints” for a prolonged set of 60-90 seconds on a Squat or Hinge movement. This means don’t lock the movement out at either the top or the bottom so the tension is constantly on the muscles. If you are shooting for reps rather than time, I’d aim for 20-30 reps.
  • You can use the boring/awful cardio machines (elliptical, stepper, etc) if 1) you can get your feet comfortably to 45 degree angles, 2) you utilize “intervals” in which you go unnaturally-low to simulate a Hockey shift. Go low for 40-60 seconds, then come up to recover for 40-60 seconds. Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
  • When doing Plank movements, go more maximum contraction versus time. Pull your abs/belly button hard into your spine for 10-30 seconds. A hard 15-second plank is much more effective than a sloppy two-minute plank.
  • Wall-Sits are effective if 1) the tension is placed on the muscles and not the joints/ligaments, 2) an emphasis is placed on the posterior chain.

I think a better alternative to a Wall-Sit might be a Swiss Ball Curl partial. Elliott Hulse goes nuts for five minutes before explaining SB Curls well. I would consider doing these in the middle third of the range of motion so that the tension constantly remains on the muscles. Do them until your hamstrings/glutes are burning badly. Build up to 60-90 seconds of Time Under Tension.

  • Do other Endurance Movements (such as DB Scarecrows) in the 12-15 or 15-25 repetition range in a lowered position. You should be low enough that your legs start burning halfway through the set. Always remember that you trying to develop your legs so you can skate better. The goal isn’t to win a bodybuilding contest.
  • You should do abdominal movements constantly. Athletes, especially Hockey Players, don’t have “Abs Day” like bodybuilders do. For us, every day is Abs Day. The minimum should include 3-4 sets of Decline Crunches, V-Ups, or Cable Crunches. I’m not going to divert into an article on Abdominal Work, as there’s plenty of good information available online.
  • By the same token, for a Hockey Player, every day is Leg Day. Yes, you have days in which you add weight training, but you should be conditioning your legs daily with bodyweight movements or energy systems work, unless you have a game or practice. This goes double if you have an office job in which you sit a lot.

These aren’t the sort of recommendations you’ll find on a fitness website, but I’m a Hockey Player making training recommendations to other Hockey Players. I know what works to make Hockey players better at Hockey.

Lastly, there is an endgame here, and that’s to improve your skating stability. I hope that you’ve heard the term “10 and 2” to describe the position of your toes in an optimal skating stride. If not, this position is well-demonstrated by decidedly-average NHL Player Sid Crosby.

My view as both a Strength Coach and a Hockey Player is that 10-and-2 is optimal for both agility and power production because it properly incorporates the Glutes and Calves. I think a very common amateur/conditioning mistake is that players stay too high due to poor local muscular endurance, and their hips/feet become too narrow as they fatigue.

More science: there is a very strong correlation between Glute Funciton/Strength and the ability to resist Hip Adduction. Gym-goers have probably seen someone with a great ass doing Banded Squats or X-Band Walks. This is to build up the Glute Medius’ ability to resist Adduction, which in turn potentiates the power potential of the Glute Maximum. Got all that?

All of this concerns you in that these are the exact strengths you want to be an elite Hockey Skater. You need to be able to hold your legs in that awkward bow-legged stance for an extended period of time, and produce power while you do so, in order to be a great skater. The Muscular Endurance recommendations I make are in the interest of accomplishing that.

Your Program

Tuesday

Trap-Bar Deadlift 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

Weighted Pull-Ups (Supinated Grip) 5 x 5-6 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 2-X-1

Elevated Reverse Lunge 6-8 x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM

Single-Leg DB RDL 6-8 per leg x 5 @75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

DB Hammer Curl (Standing) 6-8 x 5 – 4-X-1

Empty-Bar Partial Squats 60-90 seconds or max time x 3

X-Band Walks 60-90 seconds or max x 3

Abs – Planks

Thursday

Squats! (Back or Front, Your Choice) 5 x 5 85-90% 1RM 3-X-1

Weighted Dips 5 x 5-8 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 3-X-1

DB Split Squat 6-8 per leg x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

DB Shoulder Press (Standing) 6-8 x 5 – 4-X-1

Heavy Back Extensions 6-10 x 5 @ Bodyweight + Max Weight 4-X-1

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl Partials 60-90 seconds x 3

DB Goblet Squat Partials 60-120 seconds x 2-3

Abs – Planks

Saturday

BB Snatch-Grip Deadlift 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

T-Bar Row 5 x 5 @85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

Bench Press Variation 5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1RM 2-X-1

DB Snatch 6-8 per arm x 5 @ 60-70% 1RM – Controlled Eccentric, Explosive Concentric

Commando Cable Pulldowns 6-8 x 5 @ 75-80% 1RM 4-X-1

Leg Extension Partials 60-90 seconds x 2-3

Leg Curl Partials 60-90 seconds x 2-3

Abs – Planks

I hope this is enough to get you started. If you have questions about any of the exercises, please e-mail me and don’t injure yourself. If you would like help reorganizing this program or have additional questions about Hockey Conditioning, you’re welcome to e-mail me.

Have a great start to your season,

Jack

Tips for Improving Your Slap Shot

Image result for shea weber slapshot(Yeah, I heard about the Weber-Subban trade, but this is still a great photo.)

The two most common questions I get from less-experienced Hockey Players are:

  1. How do I Hockey Stop?
  2. How do I take a Slap Shot?

Today, I’ll briefly tackle the second question. One can debate the merits of the Slap Shot itself within the context of the modern game, but I’ll write under the assumption that you want to develop a decent Slap Shot just to have another arrow in your quiver.

First, let me tell a quick background story:

My favorite player growing up was Jaromir Jagr, and to this day I don’t think I’ve seen him uncork more than five Slap Shots in his lengthy career. Jagr is proof you don’t really need a Slapper to excel in the sport.

Here are a lot of Jagr’s career highlights. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a clip of him blowing a clapper past a goalie. If you type “Jaromir Jagr Slapshot” into Google, you get returns like this:

Image result for jaromir jagr slapshot

What a player. Lots of pics of “Jagr epic flow” and “Jagr mullet”, nary a pic of Jaromir Jagr taking a full Slap Shot.

Anyway, I idolized Jagr growing up and thus felt no need to develop a Slap Shot. He certainly proved you could succeed in the sport without a big Slapper. But during one practice my freshman year of College, my coach insisted that I take a Slap Shot around the boards from just outside the Red Line.

I remember this moment like it was yesterday. Here’s the edited version of how things  went:

Coach D: “FARRELL, TAKE A F__KIN’ SLAPSHOT AROUND THE BOARDS!”

Jack: (Does European escape move, scores goal)

COACH D: “FARRELL, YOU F__K, DUMP THE F__KIN’ PUCK!”

Jack: (takes a hit, makes pass to cutting teammate, teammates scores)

Coach: (incoherent screaming, stick swinging) “F__KIN’ F__K F__K FARRELL F__K!!”

Jack: (Does Peter Forsberg-style QB/area pass to open teammate. Teammate scores.)

Coach D: “F__K! FARRELL, WHY WON’T YOU F__KIN’ TAKE A F__KIN’ SLAP SHOT LIKE I F__KIN’ ASKED???”

Coach D and I proceeded to have a brief, profanity-laced discussion about why I felt (and continue to feel) that dumping the puck is akin to a football player tossing the ball to the other team, while Coach D screamed at me hysterically about my unwillingness to cover the points or return his phone calls (don’t ask).

Anyway, my college coach insisted that I develop a Slap Shot, or he wasn’t going to play me. So I worked to develop a Slap Shot.

My Slap Shot has gotten respectable over the years, though I still only use it once in a blue moon during games. As I wrote at the top of the article, we can debate the Full Slap Shot’s usefulness within the context of today’s game, but Adult Leaguers and amateur coaches everywhere seem fascinated with mastering it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I get into it, I’m going to repeat the philosophy of the skills coach I had growing up:

The Slap Shot is the lowest-percentage shot a player can take most of the time. Unless it’s through a screen, Goaltenders often have plenty of time to square up to the shooter, and even with some pace on the puck, it’s an easy save for them. I don’t remember the exact statistic, but I think a player is about six times more likely to score on a backhand than a Slap Shot. And as a player moves up in the competitive ranks, there are less opportunities for most players to use Full Slap Shots within the context of a game. Between the speed of the game and the willingness of today’s players to block shots, there just isn’t much time or space anymore, even at the lower levels of the game.

So please keep that in mind as you read this article. The Slap Shot can be an effective offensive tool, but one that should be used sparingly.

Because I built my shot from scratch later in life, I’ve got a good memory of how I did it. Here are some things you should consider as you look to develop a Slap Shot:

Considerations

  • Adequate Starting Strength

I am a huge proponent of Strength Training as a tool to improve athletic performance. All of the other tips below are useless if you don’t have adequate strength/power relative to the puck.

I’ve worked with a number of 115 lb. players who barely generate enough force to lift the puck on a Wrist Shot, let alone a shot as dynamic as a Full Slap Shot. All of the technique in the world doesn’t matter if the player lacks adequate Relative Strength.

The Slap Shot is largely technical, but it’s also a dynamic athletic movement. The athlete needs to be able to generate some power. It’s silly to work on a Full Slap Shot if you lack the strength to put any pace on a Wrist Shot or Snap Shot.

The use of training tools like weighted pucks will help, but if you really care about adding a Slap Shot to your arsenal, you probably need to get stronger overall. Strength Training, in combination with a diet that supports it, is the most direct and effective way to gain strength.

I beat this point into the ground in the Manual and elsewhere, but Relative Strength is the biggest competitive advantage an athlete can give her or himself. This goes in tandem with an anabolic, muscle-building diet. If you need help getting started with either, you’re welcome to e-mail me at reboothockeyhelp@gmx.com.

  • Ability to Skate

Improving your skating will improve all other aspects of your game, including shooting. Everything gets easier as you learn to skate better. You don’t “leak” as much energy throughout your kinetic chain, and this leads to more efficiency and ultimately more power. Aside from improving your raw strength, improving your skating is probably the most effective, rapid way to improve your Slap Shot.

  • Ability to Flex Stick

Related image

Alex Ovechkin, 240-lb. bear of a man, uses some ridiculously-low Stick Flex (around 80 Flex) to blast pucks past goaltenders. He also goes through 4-6 sticks or more per game like clockwork, an advantage not shared by the average adult league player.

Ovi brought a ton of attention to the role of Stick Flex within the context of Slap Shooting. He absolutely maximizes Shot Power by combining his burly physique with a disproportionately-light Stick Flex. But you could give Ovi a 120 Flex stick, and his Slap Shot would still be world-class.

As for you, the Stick Flex needs to be light enough that you can flex it easily. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to flex a stick 1″ with almost no effort. As far as equipment factors go, insuring you can adequately flex your hockey stick is probably top priority in developing a Slap Shot.

Now, it’s also possible for a Stick Flex to be a hindrance. Stronger players will raise their ceiling for Shot Power by going up in Stick Flex, especially on Slap Shots. I go into Stick Flex in exhaustive detail in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual.

  • Backswing

When most people visualize the Backswing, they picture the huge 12-to-6 wind-up (thanks to InGoal Magazine):

Andersen2

My “little” brother is 6’3 and has a tremendous, God-given Slap Shot. He takes the big wind-up and pulls the stick blade right behind his ear. I think this might help taller players, like 6’4 Shea Weber, to get their arms fully extended

I’m 6’1 and use a half-moon wind-up:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But again, my Slap Shot looks pretty good at Stick-and-Puck, yet I very rarely get to use it during games. Even in Beer League, there’s rarely the necessary time and space to unload a Full Slapper, and even if there is, there’s probably a better play to be made than trying to blow it past the goalie.

I think Kris Letang has a really great shot, because his wind-up is so compact. He can get his shot off in the blink of an eye:

 

 

 

 

Letang uses more of a Snap-Slap Shot, and it’s obviously very effective. And let’s all take a moment to appreciate Sid Crosby.

Very loose rule of thumb could be that taller players might prefer a longer wind-up because it allows them to get their arms extended. But this will be very trial-and-error from player-to-player. Do some experimentation and don’t place too much emphasis on the backswing itself.

  • Placement of Puck Relative to Feet

I’ll use the terms Mechanical Advantage and Disadvantage liberally throughout this article.

Most players find the best success striking the puck just inside the front foot. Don’t pull out the measuring tape, but when I take a Slap Shot the puck is usually right between my legs, which are a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.

In terms of the coronal plane (back-to-front), you want to keep the puck in your “Wheelhouse”. If the puck is too close to your skates or too far from your body, you put yourself at a leverage disadvantage. There’s a sweet spot about 8-12″ in front of your body where you will strike the puck most-cleanly, which a lot of Hockey Players, including my boy Wade Redden, refer to as the “Wheelhouse”:

Image result for hockey one-timer

Notice Wade likes to load up and rip the puck from a bit further back (just inside his back foot). Again thinking in terms of mechanical advantage, this is going to force the player to put more of her or his weight behind the puck, perhaps at the expense of some accuracy.

Call it the “slingshot” principle: the further back you pull the band on the slingshot, the further and faster can potentially fling an object. But in doing so, you’re apt to lose precision. I’ve noticed really good players are able to get their weight back and behind the puck. Sid Crosby and Brett Hull, two of the absolute best, often get so much leverage behind their shots that they drop to one knee:

Image result for sid crosby slap shot

Image result for brett hull one knee

And since it’s here, let’s take two technique points from this tremendous pic of Brett Hull:

  1. His stick is all the way across his body outside of his hip, which he’s able to accomplish because his stick isn’t overly long. I beat this point into the ground in the Manual.
  2. His eyes are up, and he’s staring a hole through whichever early-2000s NHL goaltender he’s about to blow the puck past.

Following the puck with your eyes is a more-advanced piece of the puzzle, but it doesn’t hurt to practice good habits from the start. Also, make sure your stick is short enough that you can freely move your arms across your body.

  • Blade Pattern

I’ve found Blade Pattern has a big bearing on how I shoot. Here’s my rough overview as it pertains to Slap Shots:

I have the most success catching the puck up near the toe. If I am using an open or very open Blade Pattern, I have to really turn my hands over on the back swing, or the puck will go sailing.

My experience has been that trying to Slap Shoot through the heel is pretty ineffective. More often than not, the player ends up smacking the puck rather than cradling it, which is the opposite of what you want.

This graphic from Bauer provides a helpful visual:

Image result for slap shot hand placement

Notice that the player’s hands are “cocked” on the back swing. The face of the blade is turned downward toward the ice. I do this with all Blade Patterns to generate additional torque, but this is doubly important with Open Blade Patterns (P40, P92, P29, P28, etc.)

The Slap Shot will vary technically a bit from pattern to pattern. If I am using P40 or PP77, I will have to change the angle of my hands so that the massive curve catches the puck properly. If you are using an Open Heel such as P91A, you have the benefit of a large striking area, but you have to be very conscientious about keeping your hands turned over.

I have better shooting success with longer Blade Patterns, because I tend to “rotate” or “spin” the puck on the stick blade to generate additional torque. This is a technique players from the wooden-stick generation will know well. For this reason, shorter patterns such as PM9 don’t work as well for me, but that’s just a personal preference. Spin is discussed at length below.

In short, you need to consider a few things before you go to work on developing a Slap Shot. If you are a defenseman trying to develop a heavy, low point-shot, maybe using a 75 Flex P28 isn’t the best idea. And if you struggle to get your Wrist Shot off the ice consistently, you should probably work on developing that before you move onto the Slap Shot.

Assuming you’ve considered everything mentioned above, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up:

Common Errors and Technical Cues

  • “Smacking the Puck:

The main mistake I see amateur players make is that they try to hit the puck like it’s a baseball or golf ball. I think Hockey Shooting has more in common with Archery and Lacrosse than Baseball or Golf.

Here’s a good pic of Chris Pronger uncorking a shot:

Image result for al iafrate slapshot

Pronger has “caught” the puck, and he’s generating power by pulling with his top (right) hand while he stabilizes with his bottom (left) hand. The pull with the top hand is generating more of the torque than the drive with the bottom hand. The puck is just inside the front foot, and the shaft of the stick is bending right at the middle rather than just above the blade (mid-kick versus low-kick stick). Pronger has skated into his shot to produce power, and he’s transferring his weight from his back to front foot.

Pronger isn’t “smacking” the puck as though he’s teeing off at Augusta. Once Pronger has “caught” the puck in a preferred area of his blade, he’s violently pulling on the top of the stick to flex it, then snapping through with his bottom hand. The Hockey Slap Shot is surprisingly similar to a Low-to-High or underhand Lacrosse Shot, which can be seen here.

Here’s Ovi taking a signature Slapper. It’s happening in the blink of an eye, but he’s wrapping the toe of his stick blade around the puck, cradling it, torquing the stick, and releasing the puck. It only looks like he’s hitting a low hanging fastball. Also notice how his top hand is up and away from his body, pulling on the top half of the stick and not bumping into his hip (another common technical error):

Image result for alex ovechkin slap shot gif

I’ve made this recommendation roughly 2294 times, but get yourself a wooden stick and learn to feel what it’s like to catch-and-release the puck. Composite blades are often so stiff that players never learn to load the blade properly. Speaking of which ..

  • Blade Loading

Scott Bjugstad does a better job explaining this than I ever could:

 

 

 

You are loading the blade, meaning flexing it to store it with energy. You can accomplish this a number of different ways, including striking the ice before making contact with the puck or spinning the puck to yourself as described above.

Scott advocates letting the arms hang and letting the stick do all of the work. This is a great recommendation if you’re using a very flexible stick and if your sole focus in hockey is shooting. I generally use a stiffer stick for face-offs, puck control, etc., and I’ve found shooting this way takes a toll on my elbows. Because I use a stiffer stick, I use my hips and core a lot more when shoot. Slap Shots and One-Timers especially are more of a full-body effort. Sid demonstrates here.

One technical cue from Scott that I love is that the arms come back while the body comes forward. This is very advanced, and should be saved until you’ve developed a pretty good shot, but this could add a really nice polish to someone’s shot if done properly.

  • “Slicing” the Puck

Anyone familiar with golf knows what it means to “slice” the ball. It basically means that you strike just a bit behind the ball, and send it sailing laterally to your off side (left side for righties).

What I see a lot of inexperienced players do is swing at the puck with no regard to their blade face. They will often strike the puck with the lower lip of the blade, which produces almost no power and weakly knocks the puck in a random direction.

Related image

Even though it’s very brief on Slap Shots, the player is catching the puck with his stick blade prior to releasing it. It’s the same principle as in golf or lacrosse: the ball or puck is caught on the face or in the pocket, and then it’s whipped toward the target. A lot of amateur players just whack the puck as hard as they can like they’re swinging a sledgehammer, and it’s very ineffective.

Don’t overthink it, but be mindful of the fact that you’re using your stick blade to grip the puck, whether it’s a Wrist, Snap, or Slap Shot.

  • Hand Placement

Notice two things that all of the included pictures of NHL players taking Slap Shot have in common:

  1. The hands, particularly the top hand, are fairly far in front of and away from the body. A common technical error is that players can “jam” themselves by shooting with the puck too close to their feet. You can also shoot with the puck too far away from your body, and that’s no bueno as well. You basically need to find a sweet spot (Wheelhouse) about 12-24 inches from your torso, and this is only accomplished through practice.
  2. The lower hand is right around the middle of the shaft, give or take. Players can err too far in either direction, and they put themselves at a mechanical disadvantage if their hands are too close together or if the bottom hand is too near the blade. Again, practice is key, but start with your bottom hand comfortably low, about halfway down the shaft.

Image result for slap shot hand placement

(Note: this pic illustrates players using low-kick sticks, which I’ve found fight natural Slap Shot mechanics. This again is discussed thoroughly in the Manual.)

Adding “Spin”

Image result for slap shot puck placement

I was pretty skinny in High School, and I played a lot of Inline Hockey. To generate accuracy and power without raw strength, I got into the habit of putting a lot of “spin” on the puck, much in the same way a baseball pitcher puts spin on a throw to tighten up the trajectory and add velocity. This technique has traditionally made my shot very “heavy”, and would likely do the same for yours.

I think learning to “spin” the puck teaches a player how to generate power through the blade, and ultimately the shaft, of the hockey stick. The progression would obviously start with a Wrist Shot, but a player can teach her or himself a number of different shots by learning to effectively spin the puck on the blade.

For Slap Shots, I’ve had the most success “spinning” the puck on a very tight area on the stick blade. I catch the puck near the toe of the stick with a 2-3″ area of the blade, and forcefully apply spin to add energy and torque the stick. All of this happens very quickly.

Carrying over experience from playing baseball, there are two distinct “snaps” in the way I shoot, the same way a pitcher would double-snap his wrist to throw a curveball or slider: loading or cocking the wrists as they make contact with the puck to initiate spin, and snapping down on the stick on the follow-through of the shot.

Watch this clip of Al Iafrate, the Wild Thing, and see if you can spot the two distinct “snaps” I’m referring to:

 

For younger players, Iafrate was known was his 103 MPH Slap Shot at a time when that wasn’t common (and he did it using a wooden stick, FYI).

And since we’re educating youngsters, here’s an Al MacInnis compilation:

I’ll stow my “wooden sticks are better” tirade, but notice how on the follow-through of Mac’s shot that the blade face is almost facing the ice. This isn’t something you should emphasize, but on the second “snap” the stick blade usually follows-through face down toward the target.

I’m not sure this is how anyone else would teach shooting, but this is how I learned to shoot. I lacked raw power, so I developed spin techniques. Adding spin will definitely give your shots more accuracy, and will help you focus raw power more directly.

Putting It All Together

The Slap Shot, like a baseball or golf swing, can become a technical nightmare if you let it. Don’t get too far into your head thinking about perfecting every technical aspect. Instead, focus on one area that needs the most immediately improvement.

For example, if you aren’t paying any attention where the puck is in relation to your feet, now would be a good time to start. A big part of the problem could be that you’re hitting the striking the puck too far in front of or behind your Wheelhouse, or striking the puck too far from your body. Cleaning up puck placement is a good place to start, as well as insuring that your equipment isn’t a limiting factor.

Once you begin making consistent, solid contact, you can fine-tune and focus on Blade Loading, experimenting with backswing, play around with spin, etc. Just don’t start taking big wind-up one-timers if you can’t make consistent contact. You wouldn’t move to Advanced Physics if you couldn’t divide or multiply, so don’t make the same mistake here. Get good shooting a stationary puck before moving onto one-timers.

Specific questions can be referred to RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com. As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and thank you for reading.

Jack

 

Tips for Lengthening Your Hockey Stride

Image result for long hockey stride skating

In the quest for more speed, a factor some players may overlook is getting optimal Length and Extension from each stride.

What I commonly see amateur players doing – and this extends to myself – is churning their legs faster and/or harder in an attempt to generate more speed.

A player is after Economy, meaning maximum efficiency and power with minimum effort. This is the premise of Power Skating, which is taught by experienced coaches across the globe.

An amateur or even professional Hockey Player’s stride can shorten over time, if the Player becomes de-conditioned or fatigued. The Player ends up working twice as hard for half of the result, as outer ends of the stride (lower back/lower legs) are forced to take on an undue burden. This leads to a loss of speed and eventually injury, if steps aren’t taken to correct the problem.

This article is a quick guide on How to Lengthen Your Hockey Stride. A longer stride is something most players should strive for, as it will ultimately give skaters a major competitive advantage within the game.

Off-Ice

Image result for sitting glute inhibition

I’m a very common example of why a player’s stride might shorten over time:

I drive from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and back multiple times per year. As much as I like seeing my family and going to Sheetz, the 12+ hour drive from Wilmington, NC to my mother’s house is grueling. I would honestly rather run for 12 hours than sit for the same length of time, as prolonged sitting really messes up an athlete’s body. This concept is well-covered here by performance coach Kelly Starrett.

Back in late 2013/early 2014, I began to notice a sharp decline in my athleticism. This was because I was forced to sit for 4-6 hours every day for five months in my firefighter/EMT classes.  I remember going into the courses as an athletic specimen and completing them as a physical train wreck.

At the time, I was far less educated on what was happening with my body, but in retrospect, here are the hormonal/physiological pitfalls I hit, which took me from moving like a tiger to moving like a geriatric:

  • I fell into a negative Nitrogen Balance, meaning my body was Catabolizing my muscle mass. This was because I didn’t have the opportunity to eat frequently, as my instructors would often power through the courses for 4 or more hours at a time without a real meal break.
  • The Stress from the courses was overwhelming. I am in the part of the population that starves themselves (rather than overeats) when under duress, and this greatly contributed to a major loss of Gains.
  • I made the stress situation worse by coping with crazy amounts of Caffeine, which crushed my metabolism and further promoted the release of stress hormones (notably Cortisol) and promoted muscle-wasting.

If you would like to really get into nutrition/supplementation, e-mail me RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com, and I’ll blister you with information. Just understand that I, like lots of working adults, fell into a Catabolic trap. In short, if you want to continue to Play Hockey and move well as you age, it’s crucial that you maintain a positive Nitrogen Balance and mitigate the effects of Cortisol.

From an orthopedic/muscular standpoint, here’s what happened:

  • I was forced to sit for hours on end, which deactivated/inhibited my Abdominals/Glutes and further shortened my Hip Flexors. Hockey itself tends to shorten the Hip Flexors, and this condition tends to artificially shorten the Hamstrings. If your Glutes aren’t firing properly, you know which body part picks up the slack? Your Lower Back, which isn’t equipped to handle the dynamic movements of Hockey by itself.

Here’s a visual of what happens as one’s Hip Flexors shorten due to excessive sitting:

Pulled Hamstrings treatment Bellevue, NE

 

Image result for short hip flexors sitting

Pelvis falls into Anterior Pelvic Tilt, Hip Flexors become short/tight/prone to strains, Hamstrings artificially lose length, Abs/Glutes go to sleep, Lower Back muscles take on way too much of the mechanical burden.

The average person might not notice this dysfunction, but this combination is both devastating and highly-apparent to a Hockey Player. Again, the average amateur Hockey Player already has relatively-short Hip Flexors/APT, and chronic sitting only worsens the condition. Fortunately, this problem is correctable.

Cues/Drills

Your Glutes are often “sleeping giants”, and they don’t tend to fire unless the intensity is really high (i.e. Sprinting). Even then, they tend to go back to sleep if you aren’t going all-out every day.

Image result for sit bones

The Cue that works best for me to re-activate my Glutes and take some of the strain off my Hip Flexors is “tap down on your sit-bones.” Nerds will refer to the sit-bones as the ischial tuberosity.

Lots and lots of people, including elite Hockey Players, don’t use their Glutes properly during Hinge/Lunge/Squat movement patterns. People like this are often said to be Quadriceps-Dominant or Slow-Twitch Dominant. I am very quadriceps-dominant, and my tendency in Squats/Skating is to make my Quads to most of the work. As you try to optimize your skating or squatting, this overuse of the Quads – and the underdevelopment of the Posterior Chain – becomes a major limiting factor.

So, it’s important to get the Glutes, especially, firing and uninhibited while minimizing the contribution of the already-overused Hip Flexors and Quadriceps. To limit the use of my gargantuan Quads and fried Hip Flexors, this is my favorite drill:

Pistol Squat Progression

The key is to not get competitive with yourself, and to focus on using your Glutes to do the bulk of the work. I’ll often start with a higher box that only forces me to lower myself 4-8 inches. I get the most value from 6-8 reps x 4-5 sets, beyond which point I will A) add weight, and then B) lower the box/platform.

Keep your Hip Flexors out of the equation, and try to think of this as more of a physical therapy or rehab drill. This will be tough for some of you gym-rats who routinely squat six plates or more, but the goal here is to correct this dysfunction before it gets worse, and to lengthen your Hockey Stride. Don’t get caught up making this an ego drill.

A lot of coaches love Bridging and Barbell Hip Thrusts as Glute Activation Drills, but to be honest, I don’t get as much value from them as some do. I do recommend you read up on the subject, and try them yourself. The go-to for all things Glutes is definitely Bret Contreras, AKA The Glute Guy.

Once your Glutes are firing well, the next step is to focus on lengthening the stride and incorporating this additional power into the movement.

One of my favorite strength-training drills to combat shortened Hip Flexors, tax the Glutes, and work on adding length back into your Hamstrings is the Foot-Elevated Lunge:

Related image

Image result for foot elevated lunge

There are numerous ways to do this drill: forward lunge onto box, reverse lunge, with Dumbbells, Barbell, Goblet-style, etc. My suggestion is to play around a bit and find the variation that works best for you, as long as you are accomplishing the following:

  • Primary goal is to add missing length to your Hockey Stride. I would keep the weight relatively-light and try to add depth and distance to the lunge. You will be working some relatively-small muscles near your pelvis as well as trying to add length/strength to one or both of your Hip Flexors. No need to put 225 on your back.
  • Since your Hip Flexors are likely trashed, I recommend a slow Eccentric of 4-5 seconds, a one-second pause at the bottom of the movement, and a powerful Concentric in which your fire the working Glute hard and allow the antagonist Hip Flexor to take some of the recoil.
  • You are training both sides (Glute/Hip Flexor) of the front leg, but you want to condition your Glute to do most of the work. The Hip Flexor serves as more of a “brake” in this movement, which will be very similar to a quality Skating Stride.
  • I like to do this drill “Goblet-style”:

Image result for goblet front lunge

Doing a Goblet Front Lunge 1) takes my sizable ego out of the movement and forces me to focus on form, 2) encourages an upright spine, 3) encourages me to move forward/down rather than forward/forward.

Quad-dominant types and fellow Hockey Players will want to lean forward as they descend into a lunge or squat, bringing their heels off the ground and excessively driving the knees forward. While this is fine to a degree, the focus is on lengthening/strengthening the Posterior Chain (back part of the leg), and that includes the muscles near the calf (including the Anterior Tibialis/Dorsiflexion muscles) as well as those near the Achilles Tendon.

I recommend you keep your weight back a bit on your front leg and keep your heel locked down. This will work the musculature around the hip, and not continue to overtax the Quads/Knees/Lower Back.

Lastly, do some work on your Abdominals. If your Hip Flexors/Lower Back are shot and Sit-Ups are out of the question, I recommend you start with Stability Ball Diver Crunches:

Image result for stability ball diver crunch

These will take a ton of strain off the Lower Back/Hip Flexors while allowing you to work the Abdominals. I recommend you accelerate through the Concentric (without bouncing) and return the start position under control. I generally do sets of 20-30 reps, adding weight after I clear 30. To make the movement more challenging, keep your arms straighter and bring them further behind your head (but don’t tear your Rotator Cuff overloading beyond a stable Range of Motion). Crunch up toward the ceiling, not forward.

On-Ice

Image result for carl hagelin skating

On-Ice (or on Inline Skates), the goal is simple: reinforce the proper (longer) movement pattern. Focus on striding during games and build length into your stride rather than continuing to dart around with a choppier stride.

Carl Hagelin, seen above, is known as one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He also has a noticeably-long stride, on display here.

While Carl has tremendous efficiency/recovery, what jumps out to me is the way he lunges with every stride. I think a common mistake among amateur players is that they are overly-strong through a shorter Range of Motion (maybe through the mid-top of the Quads) and don’t stay low enough to the ice through the duration of the shift or game.

Training the smaller muscles high around the Pelvis, Glute-Ham fold, Ileus, etc. for both endurance and power will help keep you low as fatigue sets in. Strength Training and Corrective Exercise is a good foundation for this, but ultimately you will need to reinforce this longer movement pattern while you’re skating.

A great skating drill is the Drag Touch by Laura Stamm. This really hard-wires the proper movement pattern. Here is a video from Laura on the Forward Stride, if you’re more visually-inclined.

Dynamic Strength through the small muscles of the lower core, Hip Flexors, and Pelvis will enable the player to maximize knee bend and Quadriceps power. While a common cue from Hockey Coaches is to bend the knees more to get low, the Player needs to have adequate stabilizing strength through the muscles near the Pelvis and high leg. The drills at the top of the section will help develop those muscles.

Start slow. Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast. Practice long, smooth lunges on-ice or on Inline Skates, using a drill such as Ms. Stamm’s Drag Touch. Focus on extending the back leg maximally and generating power through a snap of the ankles and flick of the toes.

A few other players, in fact two of my favorites, who really maximized the length of their stride (and thus their power/efficiency) are Sergei Fedorov and Marian Gaborik.

Marian created tons and tons of breakaways for himself by pulling away from opponents with long, powerful strides. This is a great shot of Marian scoring in-stride on a breakaway:

Related image

There isn’t a defender in-frame because Marian pulled away from everyone. Look at how low he is compared to the net. His skating stride sits at 90 degrees.

Equally fast was Sergei Fedorov, who is best appreciated on film. Here’s an hour of Sergei Fedorov highlights, during which he uses his incredibly-long stride to power around opponents and create space for himself:

Here’s Fedorov vs. Pavel Bure in Fastest Skater competition. Notice how wide of a base both players take even while decelerating, a sign of great core/upper leg strength:

And thanks to Getty Images for this great shot:

Image result for sergei fedorov fastest skater

You can see that Fedorov is churning forward, rather than driving his weight down and into the ice as in a Squat. I think a misconception among a lot of amateur players is that skating is like running or like squatting, and thus you see many amateurs working twice as hard for half of the result.

Getting more length, and eventually more power, out of every stride is the most-efficient way to improve speed.

Additional Resources and Final Thoughts

Image result for taylor hall skating stride

This is a great, very technical article by Kevin Neeld that covers some topics I glossed over:

http://www.kevinneeld.com/a-3-step-approach-to-improving-stride-length/

I think between Kevin’s article and mine, there is plenty of information to get an amateur player started on adding length to her or his stride.

As always, questions can be directed to RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com, and it’s always appreciated when you Like Us on Facebook.

Thanks for Reading,

Jack

 

 

Reboot Hockey Redefined

It’s early February 2017, and I am at work on the Second Edition of the Reboot Hockey Training Manual. The First Edition remains a high-value gem, and is available for sale here.

In deciding how I’m going re-write the Second Edition and add more value for Reboot readers, I noticed that the articles I wrote for the blog gradually got away from being cost-effective ways to modify equipment and Hockey Theory, and became more about reviewing new equipment just for the sake of doing so.

While I think my Honest Hockey Reviews possess a certain amount of character that you won’t find elsewhere, I also believe I’ve gotten away from original Reboot concept – modifying existing Hockey Equipment for maximum on-ice effect – and fallen into the trap of writing just to increase readership.

To wit: one of my main goals in launching Reboot Hockey was just to find a pair of skates that fit. Over time, my orthopedic issues have gradually gotten worse while Hockey Skates have gotten stiffer and stiffer, and it’s been a battle to find a pair of skates that 1) I could wear without debilitating pain that 2) allowed me to skate to my ability.

In late 2015, I had the CCM Jetspeed skates on my feet, and you know what? They fit fine. Very well, in fact. They needed some minor skate-punching, but otherwise they were everything I had been seeking in a skate. So rather than do the smart thing and just drop the $800 on the pair I demoed, the little voice in the back of my head whispered, “the Makos might be better,” and “wait for the Super Tacks”.

So I did. I waited for a few months before I bought the Easton Mako II skates on closeout, and I couldn’t make them fit. So I went several more months without skates that fit/performed, then I bought the Super Tacks shortly after they came out. While the Super Tacks certainly perform, I’ve had to re-work my skating stride from scratch to accommodate them. And they still hurt while I wear them.

Acknowledging that I’ve learned a book’s worth about modern skate-fitting, the lessons learned were expensive in terms of actual cash, and more importantly Time. Time is invaluable, and as a Hockey Player that’s a lesson you’re not cognizant of until you’re closer to the end than the beginning. The amount of Time I lost fiddling around and waiting for the next, best thing is Time that would have been better spent just playing the game in skates that worked well.

In the course of the Super Tacks review, I also had to admit that I haven’t used a ton of Bauer skates in the recent past. I did a lot of research on the Bauer Supreme 1S and the Vapor 1X (as well as the now-released Nexus 1N), and started to wonder if I should start saving up for a high-end Bauer boot, as if that would finally solve my skate-fitting problems and make me a more-objective reviewer for Reboot.

Point being, I’ve thrown thousands of dollars at this particular problem over the past several years – and I was nearly prepared to throw more – while I’ve gotten further away from what I initially wanted. Yes, it would be cool if Reboot Hockey became an outrageous success, and it’s very gratifying to help fellow players with their Hockey-related problems, but what I really want – what gets me out of bed in the morning – is being the absolute best Hockey Player that I can be. Demoing, modifying, and reviewing equipment is just a means to that end.

And in the course of doing all of this, I’ve gotten away from what I really believe, which is that a commitment to conditioning, eating right, and improving athleticism will make up for deficient equipment in most cases.

So, I’m writing this piece to re-define what Reboot Hockey is all about moving forward.

First, I want you to reject the idea that the newest stick or pair of skates is going to dramatically improve your game. Do yourself a solid and check out this picture of San Jose Sharks Center and future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thornton:

Image result for joe thornton 2015

Jumbo led his squad to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in eight-year old skates – my cherished CCM U+ Pros -and a two-piece blade/shaft. It looks like Jumbo grabbed someone’s broken RibCor out of a trash can, shaved the end, and stuffed a 2007 blade into it. And at Age 37, Joe Thornton is still one of the dominant Centermen in the NHL.

Joe Thornton is Hockey. I would much rather that Reboot Hockey Readers take the same stance at Joe Thornton – who obviously puts a premium on familiarity at the expense of technological advancement – which is that the equipment is secondary. Jumbo literally has his choice of anything on the market, and he chooses to use a freaking two-piece stick. And using a two-piece stick and eight-year old skates, he finished fourth – 4th! – in the National Hockey League in scoring in 2015-16, en route to coming within two games of winning the Stanley Cup.

Image result for chris kunitz joel ward

Speaking of which, there’s also 37-year old Pittsburgh Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, he of three Stanley Cup Rings. In the above photo, he’s making the defensive play of the 2016 Cup Final, back-checking like a maniac and diving to rob Joel Ward (rocking the U+ Pros) of a clear-cut breakaway.

Chris Kunitz hasn’t had the behemoth statistical career that Joe Thornton has, but he’s been a rock and a warrior. I don’t think an NHL player wins one Stanley Cup by circumstance, let alone three, and I bet Jumbo would trade his 1400 regular-season points for a single Stanley Cup victory.

As he’s aged, Kunitz has had to make the adjustment from being Sid Crosby’s primary winger to being more of a depth winger. To start 2017, he found himself on the team’s 4th line, and you haven’t heard a whisper of a complaint from him. Chris Kunitz just goes out and plays, and finds ways to be effective in whatever role he’s placed in, whether it’s a depth-scoring role or winging the Best Player in Hockey.

A beat report in Pittsburgh asked Kunitz if he’s had to adjust his game as he gets older and the game quickens. This was his reply:

You’re not going to reinvent yourself,” he told me. “If you are, you might be getting away from the things that got you here.”

A problem that I’ve encountered as a Hockey Player is that I’ve tried fixing things that aren’t broken. I’ve got that Sid Crosby problem where I’m always picking at my own game and trying to do everything better, sometimes doing things differently just for the sake of doing so.

For example, at some point around 2011 I started getting chapped over the fact that my Slapshot has always been pretty mediocre. So I tuned down the flex on my sticks a little bit, went with a closed-face Blade Pattern, and took dozens upon dozens of Slapshots. Today, I have a really good Slapshot. And you know what? I almost never, ever use it in games. In the process, I got away from refining the things that I successfully did very well, such as my Alex Kovalev-style wrister.

The current trend in equipment has been for lower Stick Flexes in the interest of maximizing Shot Release and Energy Loading. But you know what you trade when you drop down to a whippier stick? Accuracy, for one thing. And if you subscribe to the same methodology as everyone else, or try to be too perfect at everything, you make yourself a more-common player. Sometimes, the trends and changes in equipment can get you away from what made you successful in the first place. This is a lesson most players won’t learn until they’ve invested significant time in the game. 

Chris Kunitz doesn’t have this problem. He’s known exactly who is as a Hockey Player for years and years. He initiates contact, as hard as he can. He’s probably scored the same way hundreds upon hundreds of times. He’s not fancy, but he’s extremely polished and professional.

Like Joe Thornton, Chris Kunitz is Hockey. If you look at a picture of Kunitz from 2007, you can see that his equipment – aside from those sick black Eagle gloves – has barely changed. One doesn’t get the sense that Chris Kunitz spends a lot of time or energy agonizing over which equipment to use in trying to refine his game. He gets the equipment right the first time, then he just goes out there and works on his game. The equipment is just window-dressing.

The game constantly evolves, and I’m proof that the temptation to acquiesce to the newest technology exists. But I’m urging you not to let equipment become a crutch for the perceived deficiencies in your game.

I could even argue that the latest equipment being pumped out at the Retail level is hindering players as much as helping them, but I’ll save that rant for the Second Edition of the Training Manual.

When Mark and I began Reboot Hockey, I think we both believed that eventually some of the equipment manufacturers would donate some gear to us for demo and review. Years and dozens of Honest Hockey Reviews later, that has not proven to be the case. I’ve paid out of pocket for pretty much everything I’ve tried, and again while this has been educational, it’s been expensive and not necessarily conducive to improving my game.

So for 2017, the focus from Reboot Hockey is going to be on helping players get the most out of they have on-hand, rather than reviewing new and different equipment just for the sake of doing so. Not to keep shilling for the Training Manual, but most of the information I’ve taken off the blog and reconstituted into the book has been on Lacing Methods, Profiling, Selecting a Stick Flex, Shooting and Scoring Techniques, Ways to Improve Body Composition, etc. I really believe that I put the most-effective, valuable stuff – the information that is going to make you a Better Hockey Player – into the Training Manual, and that new equipment purchases are like dessert for otherwise-dedicated players.

Equipment Purchases/Reviews are fun, and a nice way to celebrate the game. Walking out of a pro shop with a brand new twig or pair of gloves puts a smile on any Hockey Player’s face. But going to a Hockey Shop and throwing money at an on-ice problem is the laziest, and often least-effective, path to improvement. If you want to be a Better Hockey Player, you’ve got to put the work in, and that extends to taking care of your body and understanding the game from a mental perspective. Those are going to be primary focuses in the Second Edition of the Training Manual.

I understand that many readers check out Reboot Hockey for the equipment reviews. I have the stats from the blog right in front of me, and the majority of new visitors are looking for product information on the latest releases from Bauer and CCM. And when I pick up a new stick or a new pair of shin-guards (both of which I presently need), I’ll likely throw up an Honest Hockey Review. But I’m making a conscious effort to get away from buying new equipment just to review it for Reboot.

I do think that equipment can be a limiting factor in some circumstances. If you’re working on your stick-handling every night and the blade rattles, then the equipment is an issue. If you have 20+ years in the game, using a stick such as Bauer Supreme One.4 will probably hinder your game. But I also think too many people – and I’m guilty of this myself – focus too much on the brand of the gear or spend too-valuable Time micro-analyzing the differences between a 2015 RibCor and a 2016 Reckoner. That’s no longer going to be the focus of Reboot Hockey.

If you have a specific technical issue within your game – maybe you have a hard time getting your shot off the ice, or struggle with your backhand – I’m happy to take ultra-specific, hockey-related questions at RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com. If you’re having a problem with how a certain piece of your gear fits, I recommend you get in contact with Mark or me either via the e-mail posted above or via our Facebook page. One or both of us will come up with creative solutions that will help your gear fit so that you can focus on just playing the game.

If you have a number of general questions about how to gear-up so you can go out and just enjoy the game, I recommend you put $11 in my pocket and pick up a copy of the Training Manual. There is years worth of trial-and-error information that I wish I had on-hand as a high-school or even college player. As a bonus, people who purchase the 1st Edition get the free upgrade to the Second Edition, upon release.

I hope you as a reader appreciate this new direction, even if you’re a reader who came specifically for the equipment reviews. But in outlining the Second Edition of the Training Manual, it was important for me to re-examine what Reboot Hockey was all about, in the interest of producing the best content possible.

Thank you for reading, and for your continued support of Reboot Hockey,

Jack and Mark

Marc-Andre Fleury, My Favorite Goaltender

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I heard about Marc-Andre Fleury before I saw him. Literally, I heard thousands of fans chanting his name before I had seen him play.

In October 2003, I was driving back to my home at the time, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which sits atop a hill about three city blocks from the former site of Mellon Arena. I was listening to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ radio broadcast of a preseason game versus the Los Angeles Kings.

People from Pittsburgh will be able to visualize: I was coming from I-579N, getting off at the Sixth Street exit and heading toward Fifth Avenue. You come off the exit ramp, drive around a bend to a traffic light, and you’re staring straight at the parking lot where the Civic Arena used to be.

I’m listening to the radio broadcast of the game, and the Pens were predictably losing 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings, but the 2003 Penguins losing wasn’t newsworthy. The story was that the Penguins’ not-yet-19-year old goaltender was making his NHL debut.

I’ll get to back to what this meant to the franchise in a moment, but this is why this game will forever be seared into my brain:

During a Hockey game, fans make a number of very distinct sounds when certain plays happen. Even a diminished home crowd such as the one that watched this October 2003 preseason game makes these noises.

If the home team almost scores -especially if they whiff on an empty net, or the puck trickles through the away team’s crease – the sound the crowd makes is more of an “OHHH!”, as if to say “Dammit, we were so close,” or “Aw, shit”.

When the home team’s goaltender makes a great save, the home crowd makes more of an “AHHH!” sound. It’s nervous relief combined with wonder.

I stopped at the red light in front of the Civic Arena, about to turn right to go toward Duquesne, and I’m listening to the game. I swear to God, the “AHHH!” noises coming from inside the Civic/Mellon Arena were louder than the radio broadcast in my car. I could hear the crowd as clear as day appreciating the franchise’s newest teenage savior.

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There probably weren’t 5,000 people in the arena for that preseason game, which the Pens would go on to lose 3-0. Marc made 46 saves behind one of the worst rosters in contemporary NHL history. Here’s CBC’s recap of the game, if you didn’t click on the link above:

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury did everything in his NHL debut — except get the win.

The 18-year-old netminder stopped 46 shots, including a penalty shot, in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night at the Igloo.

Eric Belanger, Trent Klatt and Zigmund Palffy scored for the Kings, who were coming off a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Thursday night. Palffy and Klatt added assists in the win.

Cristobal Huet had a much easier time in the other goal, making 11 saves for his second career shutout.

Fleury, the first overall pick in June’s NHL entry draft, was spectacular between the pipes for the Pens, but was saddled with the burden of seven Kings power plays.

And that’s been much of Marc’s story in Pittsburgh: he has often played exceptionally-well behind an atrocious or indifferent defense, and his efforts would largely be forgotten or underappreciated.

A lot of people who jumped on the Penguins’ bandwagon in 2013 or whenever have no idea what Marc has meant to the franchise. He was Hope at a time in which the franchise had none, with the team having recently parted out players like Alex Kovalev and Marty Straka while the specter of Relocation loomed large.

The 2003-04 season was the lowest point in 20 years for the Penguins, dating back to the season before Mario was drafted, and prior to Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury was the light at the end of the tunnel signalling a better future.

I’m here to educate all of the newer and fair-weather fans: the franchise has been blessed to have drafted Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s been everything Penguins fans could have reasonably expected and more.

I’m not a naive fan. I recognize that Marc’s time in Pittsburgh is quickly coming to an end. The fourteen years since the team took him out of Cape Breton have flown by, and like Marc himself, I wish there was a way to keep him in Pittsburgh for the duration of his playing career. But the writing appears to be on the wall, for as I write this Matt Murray is set to start his 6th consecutive game for the team and has seemingly cemented his place as the team’s starting goaltender moving forward.

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But there are so many fans, both educated and otherwise, who can’t wait to see the team cut ties with Marc Fleury, as though he’s some albatross. Penguins fans and NHL trade-deadline junkies alike can’t come up with enough circle-jerk scenarios that land Flower on a Western Conference pretender in exchange for a top-flight defenseman or winger and a cascade of Cap Space.

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I’ll tell these groups two things right now: there isn’t a player that the Penguins are going to get back who is going to be more-impactful than Marc. And the Penguins absolutely cannot get back a better human being or teammate.

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 Marc has watched Matt Murray, correctly or incorrectly, wrestle his job from him. And by all accounts, he has been as positive and supportive as one could reasonably expect.

Is Marc pleased that some snot-nosed 21-year old punk has taken his position as the team’s top goaltender, just as the franchise for which he’s toiled under is experiencing a rebirth under Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan? Fuck no. Marc is very highly-competitive, even by the standards of a professional athlete. But I’ll get back to all of this at the end of the article.

I want to write a bit about all of the misconceptions related to Marc Fleury, as I feel he’s taken a disproportionate amount of criticism for the team’s underwhelming playoff performances between 2010 and 2016. 

Let’s start with the one-the-nose stuff, since Flower’s critics tend to be obtuse and thicker than wet cement:

The Penguins were still the underdog when they played the Detroit Red Wings for a second time in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Advanced stats geeks will tell you that the 2007-2009 Red Wings were a generational possession juggernaut.

The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. Flower defiantly told the assembled media in Detroit following Game 2 that the series was nowhere near over. Then Pittsburgh, with Flower in goal, beat Detroit four out of five times. To cap it off, Marc made one of the best saves in Stanley Cup Final history:

That’s Marc making a dead-to-rights save on Nick Lidstrom – Detroit’s Best Player, Captain, and Reigning Norris Trophy Winner – in the waning seconds of a Game 7.

For all the praise someone like Patrick Roy gets for being a Money Goaltender, I challenge anyone to come up with a more-clutch scenario. The opponent’s best player has the puck on his stick, with a point-blank opportunity in the final seconds of Game 7 of a hotly-contested, rematch Cup Final. If I wrote that as Fiction, it would be derided as being too unrealistic.

And that’s not to denigrate Patrick Roy. He was great. But Marc Fleury has also been great. Lots of great goaltenders – Hank Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, and Carey Price, to name a few – can go their entire careers without winning or even appearing in a Cup Final. 

It sometimes seems like endless bouquets, probably rightfully so, are thrown at certain goalies for their excellence in the regular season. Lundqvist is a key example. But when their teams fall short in the postseason, the shortcomings are perceived to be those of the team rather than a fantastic goaltender’s inability to win in a clutch situation.

Marc has won a Cup, appeared in another, and positioned his team to win a third. The guy has flat-out won a ton of games, playoff and regular-season alike. And that’s a big reason why he’s my favorite.

Marc is no different than any other NHL starting goaltender, except that maybe his highs are higher and his lows are lower. Unfortunately, his ten-bell robberies don’t earn him any more credit than routine stops from the outside, and that has been the basis of his criticism.

Every goaltender lets in bad goals, and admittedly Marc probably lets in as many as any NHL goaltender. These are the best players in the world competing against each other, and sometimes someone is going to the shorter end of the stick. But Marc also makes saves that no one else can. Like this one. And this one. And all of these.

In 2017, Marc Fleury is maybe too athletic for his position. Contemporary Goaltending has become extremely economical and positional, and in this regard many NHL goalies (including Matt Murray) are better than Marc. The modern NHL is a league in which five players help clog shooting lanes, with the goaltender minimizing movement. Marc has matured a great deal in this regard and become a better positional goaltender, but this is and never was his forte.

In fact, had he come into the League five years earlier, I suspect Flower would be viewed much-more favorably by casual fans and the at-large media. As an example, Marty Brodeur won the 2004 Vezina Trophy with a Save Percentage of .917, which would be a decent or even below-average  year for Flower. Meanwhile in 2016, the three Vezina finalists had Save Percentages of .922, .930, and .933, respectively.

This again isn’t to denigrate Marty Brodeur, but to point out how expectations and the position have fundamentally changed. 2004 Vezina Winner and nailed-on Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur would be a statistically below-average starting goaltender in 2017. Marc has not only kept up but improved greatly as a goaltender, and still the expectations for excellence have surpassed his statistical performance.

But Marc has been very good, and it seems like most people look to poke holes in his overall performance rather than celebrate his accomplishments.

To wit, much of the national media likes to cherry-pick Marc’s worst moments, such as his ill-conceived forays out of his net and the 2012 playoff flame-out against the Philadelphia Flyers. They haven’t watched him game-in, game-out every year like I have, and the outside perception is that he’s this head-case that has single-handily prevented the Crosby-era Penguins from ringing off a fistful of consecutive Cup runs.

Winning One Stanley Cup Championship, or even appearing in one Cup Final, is unfathomably difficult. But it’s the annual expectation of the Pittsburgh Penguins management, ownership, and fan base, not to mention intrigued outsiders. And that expectation has created a negative misconception relative to what Marc Fleury has helped his teams accomplish.

On the other hand, Marc gets relatively-little credit for reinventing his game at the onset of the 2014 season, and carrying his team through the dying days of Disco Dan Bylsma and the regrettable Mike Johnston era.

I’ll take a moment to specifically address the 2012 playoff series against Philadelphia:

I had just moved to Wilmington, NC from Pittsburgh, and I didn’t have a ton going on in my life socially at the time. So I watched every minute of that series like a hawk, and Marc inarguably let in some bad goals. But that was a team-wide collapse for which Marc has taken undue criticism.

The Penguins coach, Dan Bylsma, let the Flyers drag his high-flying skill squad into the mud. The Flyers were able to dictate the tone of the series, getting the Penguins away from the dominant, record-setting 5-on-5 possession game they had played for most of the season and turning the series into a penalty-filled Special Teams battle. Credit to Philadelphia for taking the wheel, but shame on Dan Bylsma for not getting a handle on his team or adjusting his tactics in any way.

As I write this, Dan Bylsma, who I like and respect, is struggling to keep his team competitive in Buffalo. He would kill to have Marc Fleury playing goal for him.

A number of Penguins’ players – notably Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Aaron Asham, James Neal, and the basically-useless Craig Adams –  lost their damned minds during that 2012 series, taking a ton of unnecessary penalties and putting their goaltender in a position to fail. If you read the Box Scores from the series, it reads a lot more like a team that emotionally-collapsed rather than a goaltender who self-immolated.

The defense didn’t do great work, it should go without saying. Kris Letang didn’t help matters by spending the bulk of the series in the Penalty Box and forcing Matt Niskanen to pick up his slack. Paul Martin was injured for half of the series and diminished when he was available. Deryk Engelland played to his capabilities, but he absolutely should not have been in the top-6 of a team with Cup aspirations.

And since we’re talking about it, let’s re-examine Ray Shero’s role in orchestrating this nightmare scenario. He girded up his fourth line with the likes of Adams, Asham, and Joe Vitale, a collective possession black-hole at the NHL level. His absurd strategy of having Sid/Geno/Staal/Neal account for 80% of the scoring looks worse with each passing day. He took a Pittsburgh Penguins “soul” and wrapped a Philadelphia Flyers shell around it, and a consequence was the 2012 series loss to the Flyers.

I like Ray Shero, and I supported him for a long time. But as I write this, he currently has his New Jersey Devils team dead-last in the Eastern Conference. I would argue that the nucleus of Sid, Geno, Jordan Staal, and Flower won in-spite of Ray’s roster-building as much as they benefited from it.

Marc certainly played his part in the Penguins’ 2012 playoff loss. Eight goals against in back-to-back games is horrid. But that was a team-wide collapse, barring a few exceptions (Malkin, Niskanen, Jordan Staal) that Marc has taken disproportionate blame for.

You can watch this preposterous series compilation and form your own opinion. But I think a lot of people, including his coach and general manager, scapegoated Marc pretty unfairly.

Marc got yanked again after Game 4 of the 2013 Eastern Quarterfinals, as the organizational slant was to blame Flower for being psychologically-frail rather than look at Bylsma’s inability to adjust his tactics or Shero’s decision to disrupt chemistry and over-stuff the roster with aging, plodding veterans like Doug Murray and Brenden Morrow (note: the Jarome Iginla trade was still a great one).

With Marc mostly watching from the bench, I unfortunately have to remind Penguins fans that the team got absolutely taken to the wood-shed by the Boston Bruins, getting shut-out in the 2013 Eastern Final. If that’s not an indictment of the coach’s inability to adapt, rather than a goaltender who barely played, then I don’t know what is.

Those two playoff series are the basis upon which the national media has built much of their Marc Fleury narrative. The narrative seems to be that Marc Fleury is a playoff choker and a mental case, but the truth is that he owns two Cup Rings and has won nine playoff series behind an often-porous defense and frequently over-matched coaches in Bylsma and Johnston.

The national media rarely mentions that Flower nearly stole a 2013 series against Tampa Bay – Sid and Geno were both out with injuries, Mark Letestu centered the 1st line, and James Neal had one goal in 20-odd games for Pittsburgh – or that his composure prevented the Columbus Blue Jackets from upsetting the 2014 team in the 1st round.

Most national pundits acknowledge that the Penguins lost to a greatly-superior Rangers team in the 2015 Eastern Quarterfinal, but Flower receives little credit for keeping the punchless Penguins in the series. The Penguins – the damn Pittsburgh Penguins, they of the myriad all-star forwards and scoring titles – meekly bowed out after one win and four 2-1 losses. Marc put up a .927 Save Percentage, and while Hank Lundqvist outplayed him, barely, the Penguins didn’t put enough pucks past Lundqvist for it to merit discussion.

Mike Johnston and his Junior Hockey systems nearly drained the life from the franchise, but Marc Fleury’s steady play allowed the team to maintain a modicum of respect. Marc put up a .921 Save Percentage in 2014-15, holding the fort while Johnston’s inane system and the team’s lack of puck-moving defensemen crippled the offense.

Smarter fans and followers will remember that the Penguins almost missed the playoffs in 2014, and needing a win on the last day of the season, Marc put up a Shutout in Buffalo behind five defensemen.

Something very similar happened in 2015-16, in which Marc put up a .920 Save Percentage for the season and banked much-needed victories until the Mike Johnston era mercifully came to an end. The 2015-16 Penguins simply do not win the Stanley Cup without Marc’s regular-season performance. This fact frequently gets swept aside by critics of Marc and proponents of Matt Murray.

If I really thought about it, I could come up with dozens upon dozens of games in which Flower was a standout for the franchise. Like I wrote at the top of the article, I’ve seen the bulk of them as they unfolded live, and frankly Fleury has had too many stellar performances to remember. But I’ll include some more of those at a later date.

The advanced stats crowd – for whom my contempt grows by the day – loves to cite statistics such as “Expected Goals Against/60” as their argument for why Marc Fleury isn’t a quality NHL netminder. I would take such statistics much more seriously if the geeks espousing them had ever played a meaningful hockey game, but more often than not that’s not the case.

The statistic that supporters of Marc such as myself will cite is Wins, a statistic in which Marc currently sits 17th in the history of the NHL and could easily jump to 13th with more routine work. If he starts three or four more years for a playoff-caliber team, Marc could crack the top-5 of all-time.

Flower’s detractors take a basic, dense stance on this matter, which is that the gaudy Wins total is a result of the teams in front him while the inconsistent individual stats are solely Marc’s fault. These detractors are typically the nerds who want to distill Hockey down to a something you can completely interpret with algorithms and spreadsheets. These detractors usually want to suggest that the juggernaut Penguins of the last decade would have won all of those games with any jamoke beer-league goaltender backstopping them.

But Hockey People – the real, knowledgeable ones, like Pens GM Jim Rutherford – will tell you that you win and lose as a team, and that certain attributes can’t be quantified. I’ll argue all day that the Penguins’ fast-and-loose style of play – combined with Marc’s baptism-by-fire behind the atrocious 2003-04 and 2005-06 Penguins – have suppressed his personal statistics to a large degree. If you throw out his first several years in the League, Marc’s career Goals Against and Save Percentage look a lot better.

Marc-Andre Fleury has always been the ultimate teammate, and that more than his personal statistics will be his legacy in Pitttsburgh. That and the two large pieces of silver hardware for which he is directly responsible. 

When someone like Steve Yzerman or Jonathan Toews sacrifices his personal statistics for the good of the team, it’s seen as commendable or even noble. And that’s what Marc Fleury has done for the bulk of his career: he’s put his team in front of himself, and I challenge anyone to argue otherwise.

Not to keep picking on Jonathan Toews, but if Joel Quenneville reduced his playing time to ten minutes a night – or even made him a regular healthy scratch – I wonder if he would accept a role reduction as gracefully as Flower has. Some are going to fail to see my comparison, but it’s apt.

It’s a team sport, and Wins are the ultimate statistic. It’s about time that Marc was applauded for his huge Win totals, rather than seen as a replaceable cog on the Crosby-era Penguins teams. Maybe after he’s playing and climbing the All-Time Wins list for another NHL team, people – Pittsburghers, especially – will have a greater appreciation for how fantastic his career has been.

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I think the biggest thing working against Marc Fleury the player is that he’s a normal, happy human being. He understands that Hockey is just a game, and he likes to have fun. He has a better overall perspective on Life and the sport’s place within it, and it ends up undercutting him in a way as a competitor.

A lot of hockey players aren’t like this. I’m not like this. Sid Crosby isn’t like this, and Matt Murray isn’t like this. 

Based on what I’ve seen from Matt Murray, he has a huge chip on his shoulder. He quietly fumes, smoldering and never lacking for motivation. And I like that in a player, too. I think what fuels Matt Murray is being overlooked as a fourth-round pick and a relative afterthought. He’s spent his entire career taking jobs from pedigree guys like Marc Fleury, a former 1st Overall and foundation piece of the team. Again, full credit to Matt Murray for creating an opportunity for himself. I’m very glad he’s a Pittsburgh Penguin. 

I also can’t deny the evidence – the eye-test, as well as some of the advanced and traditional statistics – many of which indicate that the team plays significantly better in front of Matt Murray than Marc Fleury. I sometimes scream at the Pens’ defensemen for the apathy they appear to show, watching mouths agape after firing a perfect one-time pass in the slot to an opposing forward for an easy goal.

For whatever reason, the team often plays to the tune of Ringling Brothers music when Marc is in net, yet they look like a sure-fire bet to repeat as 2017 Cup Champs in front of Matt Murray. I can’t fully explain it, but it’s certainly there. I don’t begrudge Matt Murray for taking the ball and running with it, and I think Mike Sullivan has handled a very difficult situation as well as he possibly could. But circumstances are forcing Jim Rutherford to make a very hard decision.

It’s possible, if not probable, that Marc-Andre will be traded by the time you read this. As I write this, the NHL Trade Deadline is looming, and the rumor mill is churning loudly. The situation is becoming untenable, as Flower is (understandably) antsy to play and Murray is entrenching himself into the team’s fabric. If a reasonable trade scenario presents itself, Jim Rutherford will probably pull the trigger. And Marc-Andre Fleury’s 14 years with the team will end overnight.

I have a dream scenario in which the Penguins repeat as Cup Champs in 2017, and Marc plays a pivotal role. And I don’t want that for me. I want that for Marc, because he’s been the ultimate good soldier. Short of that, I hope Marc gets dealt to a Western Conference contender, and I hope he has a chance to prove to both Penguins and NHL fans once-and-for-all that he’s an elite, generational NHL goaltender.

Time will tell. But whatever team employs Marc-Andre in the future will have a first-rate human being in their fold, and a dynamite goalie to boot. It’s disheartening that it’s not likely to be Pittsburgh.

This has been a long article, but Marc’s had a long career as a Pittsburgh Penguin, and too many people need to know how terrific he’s been for the organization on multiple levels. For his humor, his selflessness, his uniqueness, and his massive contributions to revitalizing the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury, the Flower, is my favorite goaltender, wherever he happens to play.

 

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Super Tacks Hockey Skates

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By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Based on reader feedback, a review many people have been waiting for is the Honest Hockey Review on CCM’s current top-of-the-line skate, the CCM Super Tacks.

This is the retail skate that I’ve been waiting for. With the release of the Super Tacks, CCM has produced a comparable to the VH Hockey Skate. While the VH Skates are full custom, the Super Tacks offers a more-than-viable alternative for players seeking elite fit and performance, but needing wheels on a quicker time-table.

I purchased the Super Tacks hoping to finally solve the skate-fitting issues that have plagued me for the last five years. Ironically enough, while the fit wasn’t quite perfect, the skate’s performance is so exceptional that I couldn’t bear to part with them. I’ll discuss all of this at length in the following sections.

Below is my Honest Hockey Review of the CCM Super Tacks, completing a “trilogy” of sorts along with the CCM Jetspeed and Easton Mako 2. This is one of my longer reviews, as I had plenty to write about the Super Tacks, so bring a sandwich and a Gatorade.

As usual, I appreciate constructive feedback and always accept compliments. But I really hate internet trolls. If you write something dumb or fit for a message board, you’ll be mocked and then blocked. Thanks in advance.

About (Briefly)

I’m Jack. I’m the co-owner and operator of Reboot Hockey. I’ve played hockey since 1990, and still play every chance that I get. I lift weights like it’s my job. I’m a former Strength Coach and author of the top-selling Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. I grew up in western Pennsylvania watching Mario Lemieux, and my Pittsburgh Penguins are your Defending Stanley Cup Champs.

At gunpoint, I prefer light-eyed blondes who work out, especially if they also play hockey. I eat healthy unless there’s pizza and I’ll sleep a lion-like 10-12 hours if afforded the opportunity. I have a really good sense of humor and my teammates love me, but if you’re rude or a clown I’ll play very elaborate pranks on you.

This review is 30th I’ve done for this blog, and the Super Tacks are the 24th pair of skates I’ve used since early 2012. I write reviews with Reboot Hockey readers in mind, and the review format evolves based on what I think will be most helpful to fellow players and Hockey Parents. Questions can be directed to RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com.

Executive Summary

The Super Tacks differentiates itself from most other pro-quality retail skates by being a Monocoque boot. This means that the boot is single-piece construction, and the holder is not attached to a boot by an outsole, providing unparalleled fit and foot-feel. A Monocoque boot is going to remove almost all of the negative space in a skate, conforming to the foot like gift-wrap, and combined with CCM’s reconfigured “Attackframe 2” is going to lead to the most-direct energy transfer possible.

In English, this means more power in every stride. While the Super Tacks might not position the player for lightning-fast takeoffs like the Jetspeed, the boot rewards stronger players who really bore into the ice with high-economy and output.

Monocoque technology – CCM labels the Super Tacks as “Monoframe” – is currently only seen at the retail level on the now-discontinued Easton Mako line and the custom-built VH Hockey Skates (interviewed here by Reboot). Monocoque boots are expensive to produce, but the player certainly gets what he or she pays for in terms of feel and responsiveness.

The Super Tacks is an almost-complete re-design of the Tacks skate released in 2014. As I understand it, the Ultra Tacks skate from the 2016 line was intended to be CCM’s top-level skate for the year, but CCM was able to complete the Super Tacks in time for the skate to join the 2016 lineup. Buyers for 2016 are in for a thrill, as in my view the Super Tacks is a remarkable upgrade on the Ultra Tacks, so much so that they almost entirely-different skates.

While the Monocoque boot/Monoframe is the main performance feature, the Super Tacks includes all of the bells-and-whistles one would expect on a pro-level skate: CCM’s SB Black steel (oxidized to retain edges longer), the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder, the skater’s choice among CCM’s Custom Support footbeds, anti-abrasion pads at the ankle, and an exceptional moisture-wicking system. CCM’s Tri-Tech pro-molded skate tongue conforms to the skater’s foot in tandem with the boot, further optimizing fit.

The Super Tacks is CCM’s top skate for 2016 and early 2017, and is the only skate of it’s kind on the retail market. This is a serious skate for dedicated, experienced players.

First Impression

I bought the skates on Black Friday 2016. Here’s my pair, upgraded with waxed yellow laces, right after the purchase:

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Shortly after their release, I tried on a pair of Ultra Tacks in my size, and they felt almost indistinguishable from a high-end Bauer Supreme skate. The reason I’ve never purchased or reviewed a Supreme model is that those skates just do not fit my feet well.

As you can see from the chart below, the Supreme line offers an Anatomical Fit with moderate/moderate-high volume:

Image result for bauer supreme skates fit

You might notice that the Supreme wraps around the ankle bones in a “cross-shaped” fashion. While many players love this fit, it’s always been painfully-uncomfortable for me. As soon as I had the Ultra Tacks on my foot, this was the fit I visualized.

However, I eventually got my feet into a pair of Super Tacks, and I was stunned by how differently the skates fit out of the box. Much like the Easton Mako skates, the Super Tacks sucks your foot into the boot like a vacuum. The Super Tacks made (and still makes) an audible noise when I pulled them onto my feet for the first time, even before they were baked.

As with most skates, the Super Tacks killed my feet out of the box. In all honestly, at the $900 retail price-tag, I was expecting better out-of-the box fit, but after a longish bake (just under 10 minutes) the skates predictably felt much better. As they cooled, the pain from my trouble spots began to return, and I took them off for an adjustment while they were still slightly-warm. As I did, I was struck by how quickly the skates took the very unique shape of my feet.

(Note: these notes might read in a contradictory way, so I’ll re-phrase. The Ultra Tacks/Supreme Anatomical Fit is for “most” players, but I’m not one of them. This fit really hurts my feet. But the Super Tacks, despite having these Fit Dimensions near the ankle, rapidly takes the shape of the forefoot and the top of the foot in a remarkable way. I was wowed by the Super Tacks’ fit in one sense, but had to account for the fact that my foot profile isn’t a great match for this skate. If you have a really High or Low Arch, you might have a similar experience.)

Notice the extra room I’ve made for myself along the instep of the skate, as well as the pronounced heel pocket and my very narrow ankle:

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My First Impression, and my advice, is this: if the Super Tacks are comfortable while you wear them unbaked in the store, they are going to fit tremendously after baking. While some of the performance features between the Super Tacks and the Ultra Tacks are similar, the fit/wrap difference between the Super Tacks’ Monoframe and the Ultra Tacks’ AttackFrame cannot be understated.

Having said that, if you do not have the foot for a Tacks/Supreme model – which I do not – the skates are not going to completely change to accommodate your Foot Profile. While the Super Tacks will take up the architecture of your foot, if you have a particularly high or low Foot Profile (and the corresponding bones), there is a good chance they will be painful to wear. Furthermore, the extremely-stiff quarter package of the Super Tacks is not meant to be punched out, as I’ll detail below.

If you ordinarily require punching on your skates, the Super Tacks are going to present a challenge. I decided that the juice was worth the squeeze and ultimately decided to keep my Super Tacks, but this is something you need to consider carefully before you blow $900 or more on a purchase.

On the ice, I noticed the same immediate benefit that I noticed with the Easton Mako 2s, which was that an appropriately-stiff skate threw my hockey-playing mechanics back into their correct alignment. As noted elsewhere, my fitting problems had forced me to continue using Reebok 11K/20K models, and at my size/experience level I was blowing through a pair of those fairly quickly. Having a properly-stiff skate to contract against allowed me to handle the puck and shoot with much-more precision.

Lace bite was no issue whatsoever, despite the fact that I typically lace my skates extremely-tight and use waxed laces. There’s a mark on the tongue of the skates that shows where I’m being particularly hard on the boot, but I didn’t feel at all while skating.

The skates, as advertised, were unbelievably stiff. To give myself a little bit more maneuverability, I dropped the 2nd eyelet, as I tend to do during a skate’s break-in process. As with the CCM Jetspeed, I immediately noticed and liked the added height from the SpeedBlade 4.0 package. I think experienced players can reap a lot of benefit from the holder/steel with added height.

The skates became too painful to wear after about 20 minutes of use, and unfortunately that’s my typical experience with hockey skates. I took the skates off, and marked the trouble areas for punching.

Second Impression

I took the skates back to Pure Hockey for additional punching work, and the store employee I’d been working with did his best to alleviate discomfort. However, the Super Tacks is an extra-stiff composite, and the boot is not meant to be punched. For the most part, cranking down with a skate-punch on the Super Tacks only serves to crack or weaken the composite quarter-package, not work out trouble spots for a skater.

My main skate-fitting issue is a series of calcium deposits on the inside of each foot. Science nerds can look at this picture of the human foot, and understand that I have a trio of small bone spurs that run across my navicular bone. Inside of an ultra-stiff composite boot, these bone spurs become extremely-painful when I put my body weight onto them, especially when executing movements such as the Mohawk or even a routine forward start. I’m a Hockey Player, and I can take a fair amount of pain, so when I say that these bone spurs are an issue, I mean it.

A player can attack this particular problem in one of two ways: the player can wear a less-stiff/more-comfortable boot (as I’ve done with my Reebok 11Ks and CCM U+ Pro Reloaded skates) and endure a drop in performance/responsiveness, or the player can purchase a narrower/stiffer boot and get aggressive with the skate-punch. After years of having softer skates limit my performance, I chose to focus on finding a skate that my feet can tolerate while maximizing my performance.

The more I used the Super Tacks, the more I found this to be the case. The level of discomfort gradually dropped to “tolerable”, and I was able to reap the unique performance benefits of the skate. I’ll explain which adjustments I had to make below.

My hope had been that the quarter on the Super Tacks would be both ultra-supportive and ultra-malleable. Maybe it sounds like I want too much from a skate, but if I’m investing a Grand into a pair of skates, I think it’s fair to have high expectations. The Super Tacks are certainly responsive, but not as malleable as I’d hoped to see in a one-piece boot.

This line of thought isn’t meant to sound like a burial of the Super Tacks. In fact, I loved most of what the Super Tacks brought to the table: as advertised, the Super Tacks provides a glove-like fit around most of the foot, and the player gets exceptional feel for the ice through the one-piece boot. The SB Black/SpeedBlade 4.0 remains a tremendous Lower Package (phrasing), and the performance benefits in going from a shorter holder such as an E-Pro to the SpeedBlade 4.0 were noticeable. The skates held my body weight with no problem through aggressive stops and turns, and really brought to light how little support I was getting from my 11K/U+Pro skates by comparison.

But all of the performance features were moot if I couldn’t find a way to make the Super Tacks fit my feet. After 4-5 trips to Pure Hockey for additional punching attempts, I took the skates to my specialist, Andy Scoggins of ProSharp in Raleigh, NC, for his opinion.

Intermission

Andy, who shakes his head every time he sees me walk in with a new pair of skates, sighed when I put the Super Tacks on his shop counter. He took one look at the work done to the quarter of the Super Tacks and noted that punching this type of boot only cracks the composite. If you can visualize trying to “punch-out” the windshield of your car, you get an idea of the effect this creates. An aggressive punch can easily ruin a pair of skates like the Super Tacks.

Here’s a comical picture of where I indicated “painful spots” on my Super Tacks. Notice the Jack-Crease already developing right under the 3rd eyelet:

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In this picture of the skate’s collar/neck, you can see what my feet were doing to the boot after only a few uses on-ice. The bone spurs on my feet were already warping the ultra-stiff eyelet rows of the Super Tacks:

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You’ll also notice that I swapped out waxed laces for unwaxed, which I haven’t done in forever. This might seem purely cosmetic, but it’s actually an important point:

Like a lot of veteran players, I usually wear my skates uncomfortably-tight and really crank down on the laces when tying them. But with the composites currently being put into skates, this method is not only unnecessary but counterproductive.

Modern composite skates, at least the pro-level ones, are like cars with an automatic transmission. Whereas older-style skates are more like manual transmissions – meaning that the player has to take a lot of responsibility over the fitting and lacing, in effect creating their own “skate-frame” to optimize power – modern pro-level composite skates completely take care of issues like lateral stability, and come with their own respective skate-frames.

In this case, CCM has taken care of as much of the engineering as possible so that that player doesn’t have to focus on the equipment, and can instead focus on improving and playing. The CCM Monoframe is unique on the retail market, and the Tacks frame is just about the stiffest retail frame available. It is meant to hold some very large, powerful players in place through cornering and turns.

The point in all of this is don’t over-tighten the laces. My recommendation is “comfortably snug”. It may help some players to do a second skate-bake to really capture the shape of the foot, but wrenching down on the laces is probably only going to damage the eyelet cuff and cause you unnecessary discomfort.

Anyway, Andy basically refused to work on my skates, as he correctly felt that heating and punching the composite would only serve to ruin the skates. Andy recently partnered with a gentleman who is on CCM’s advisory committee, and this gentlemen asked Andy to tell me the same thing that I’ve now heard a dozen times:

“With your feet, you are a perfect candidate for VH Skates.”

I don’t disagree, at all. While I think 95% of the hockey-playing population can find a suitable retail model, I think there is a small percentage of players who both need a full-custom skate and can justify the purchase cost. I happen to be in that group.

I was resigned to taking the Super Tacks back to Pure Hockey and returning them within the 30-day purchase window for a refund. But then something strange happened: I was standing around Andy’s shop in my Super Tacks, and suddenly they hurt less. The discomfort waned enough that I could stand in them without sharp pain.

I took the skates onto the ice at the Raleigh Iceplex for 20 minutes, and the discomfort was noticeable but tolerable. I have no idea what changed, as I’d only been able to skate on the Super Tacks in short bursts, but suddenly I could put them through a legitimate workout.  While making the Super Tacks fit was the equivalent of hitting a square peg through a round hole, their performance was so exceptional that I decided to keep hammering away.

Performance

As noted above, the Super Tacks are a one-of-a-kind skate, and possess a wealth of other performance features that most skates do not.

First, the Super Tacks available at the retail level is the same skate worn by NHL players. While most professional players use a product that bears only passing resemblance to its retail counterpart, the pros apparently use the same Super Tacks skate that’s available in retail stores.

Without blistering you with science and statistics, you simply cannot get this level of Foot Wrap from another retail skate. Removing the outsole from the bottom of the boot provides a complete, 360-degree wrap that a player cannot get from a boot with an outsole. The quarter and the Tri-Tech tongue work in concert with the appropriate CCM Arch Support to provide the most-seamless wrap available at the retail level.

The Super Tacks comes with a Lower package of the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder and the SB Black steel. SB Black undergoes an oxidation process allowing it to retain a skate-sharpening longer, and the black coating allows players to easily spot nicks-and-burrs. CCM now uses SB Black on many of their higher-end retail models, and it says a lot about the steel that CCM opted to package it with the flagship Super Tacks.

The now-standard SpeedBlade 4.0 holder is 3 millimeters higher than the previous generation E-Pro, allowing for sharper turning and greater angling without “bottoming out”:

attackangleThe front and rear posts of the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder are symmetrical, meaning that the posts are the same height. By contrast, Easton’s CXN Holder and various Graf Holders (including the Cobra NT 3000 Holders) have added height on the rear post, which pitches a player more-aggressively on her or his toes. All of the current Bauer and CCM retail models, including the Super Tacks, come from the factory with level posts and a Neutral Pitch. Interested players can read more about Pitch and Profiling in the Reboot Hockey Training Manual.

The Super Tacks comes factory-profiled with a 10′ radius. Bauer and CCM tend to send their skates from the factory at moderate profiles ranging between 9′ (greater agility/lesser speed) and 11′ (greater speed/lesser agility), and will often change factory-profiles from year-to-year. I think a 10′ radius is probably a good profile for many amateur players to use while they cultivate personal preferences, offering the best blend of acceleration and maneuverability.

I found myself occasionally catching an edge while I used the Super Tacks, but I attribute this to the fact that I generally use profiles of 9′ or less. But in all honesty, going up in profile length is probably a good thing for me and other players using shorter profiles. The game has become much more North-South than East-West, and for many players a longer profile is going to be beneficial.

The original Tacks was denoted as “XX-Stiff”, while the Jetspeed is “X-Stiff” and the 50K is “Regular Stiff”, as per CCM’s 2015 Frame/Stiffness Chart:

ccmframechart

I’ve used the Jetspeed, and I would agree that it’s quite a bit less stiff than the Super Tacks, which feels indestructible. This is a consideration, and not necessarily a negative against the Jetspeed. In fact, it was a lot easier for me to punch some extra room into the Jetspeed and allow myself to skate comfortably. Stiffer does not always equate better.

It’s worth writing that the difference in Frame and Stiffness between the Jetspeed and the Super Tacks noticeably altered my skating mechanics. As I wrote in the Jetspeed review, I was getting great forward flex and heel-lock with the Jetspeed. This allowed me to really lengthen my stride, and as promised by CCM maximized my acceleration.

On the other hand, the Super Tacks holds you remarkably-well in any position. While the 50K is currently marketed as the agility boot, I was wowed by how strongly the Super Tacks let me feel all four of my skate-edges at all times.

As an example, my weakest movement in skating is a backwards crossover to my backhand side. This is the position in which I am mostly likely to be exposed, execute poorly, or bottom-out. If you can picture a left-handed skater crossing-over backwards to come from the right boards to the left side of the ice, you can visualize the movement.

As an offensive-minded center, am I going to be executing this movement very often in a game situation? No. But I can’t stand sucking at anything hockey-related. I picture Scott Niedermeyer effortlessly back-peddling to halt an odd-man break, and immediately feel shame over how substandard my backwards crossover to my off-side is.

One thing I noticed and loved about the Super Tacks was how well it held me in this position, which for me is very unnatural. A lot of skates will feel great when you’re executing basic movements like your forward stride, but a better test of a skate’s usefulness is how well it holds you in the awkward positions you find yourself in during a game. The Super Tacks gets very high marks in this regard.

The combination of the boot’s stiffness and the lack of an outsole also led to maximum power with every stride. For a change, I felt if I pushed harder into the ice, I got a reciprocal uptick in power. If you have a more-powerful or higher-effort stride – if you’re like me and more of a “Crosby” than a “Niedermeyer” – the Super Tacks comes highly, highly recommended.  You simply cannot wear this boot out.

This performance upgrade, rather than ideal fit, was why I opted to keep my Super Tacks. If I can go onto the ice and perform to my capabilities, I’m OK with my feet hurting some while I play for a few hours afterward. But this is a very individualized decision, and lighter/newer players are probably not going to be able to reap the benefits of the skate.

My summary view is that the Super Tacks’ fit is very personalized but not perfect. But I don’t believe experienced players will find a skate that can outperform the Super Tacks, including top-end Bauer models.

Basis of Comparison

I may start removing this section from the Honest Hockey Reviews, because most Reboot Hockey readers can plainly see through the depth of the analysis that I’m qualified to review pro-quality skates such as the Super Tacks.

Unfortunately, there are always a few trolls who e-mail me or sass me in the comments section, and I usually try to preempt them with a deluge of insight and clever insults. But that’s usually not on-the-nose enough for your garden-variety internet troll.

Anyway, here’s some of the gear I’ve kept. Notice all the CCM:

ccm1

And here’s me in Beer League. I’m the one heel-dragging and spraying ice in the white 11Ks, not the one about to fall over:

No automatic alt text available.

My go-to skate for the past few years has been the Reebok 11K, and the 11K is a skate that professionals have used in the NHL. But Hockey is evolving at a breakneck pace. Every year, players are getting faster, largely due to the improvements in equipment and training.

As much as I’ve used and appreciate the Reebok 11K, I’ve gone through a pair every 6-9 months. The traditional frame in older Reebok skates feels great to me, but I cook them in a relatively-short period of time. And I hate to say it, but the game has become so competitive at all levels that players need to be aware of how equipment is helping or hindering them, if a player really wants to excel.

I also kid about how fat and lazy I’ve become, but I’ve demolished $400-$600 performance tier skates such as the Reebok 48K, Bauer Nexus 600, and Graf 535. I didn’t even review these skates because I ruined all of them within a month or less, either warping the boot badly or even torquing the holder. And I always have to give respect to the 11Ks, but even they aren’t really built for the pace at which the game is often played in 2016 2017.

At my experience level, it’s apparent that I probably should be using current pro-quality retail skates. An aging tiger is still a tiger, it seems.

Within the last year, I’ve also demoed and reviewed the Super Tacks along with the Mako 2s and the Jetspeed. I think those are the two most-comparable skates to the Super Tacks, maybe excluding the Bauer Supreme 1S or Supreme S190/MX3.

I’m sure it would be helpful to readers if I would cave and review some Bauer skates, but I’ve skated CCM/RBK since I was 8 or so. I think plenty of players continue to skate Bauer, and there are many people better-qualified to write a 1X or an MX3 skate review than me.

Having said that, I do keep up with what Bauer does from an R&D perspective, and I always check out the new Bauer skates when they come out. Bauer does not currently offer a Monocoque boot, but the closest Bauer comparison by construction and price-point would be the Bauer Supreme 1S. I write a bit more about the 1S and other comparable skates to the Super Tacks in the section “Which to Buy?”, seen below.

Durability

The Super Tacks is built like a tank, and as noted above, the retail version has identical specs to the professional version. This skate is built with withstand professional-level wear-and-tear. The removal of the outsole only makes the boot more durable in my view, as a detached outsole is probably the most-common break in a skate after broken blades and blown eyelets/rivets.

Personal Biases

I’ve purchased and reviewed yet another CCM skate, while I haven’t purchased a Bauer skate since I picked up a pair of Nexus 600s on closeout two years ago. Dedicated readers will notice that there is not a review of a Bauer skate in my archives. My bias in skates skews heavily in favor of CCM and away from Bauer, despite the fact the CCM served up several generations of lower-quality skates in recent memory.

I’ve written an entire piece on my “Anti-Bauer Bias”, which I may publish on the blog or save for the second edition of the Training Manual. But the two basic points I make in that article are:

  1. Plenty of players, both professional and otherwise, continue to use Bauer skates. Reboot Partner Mark, to cite one player, has used Bauer skates his entire life, and if he had time to write, he could give great insight on the generational changes in the Bauer line of skates. Bauer has a great following, and I think Bauer products get more than adequate coverage and exposure.
  2. Meanwhile, CCM basically lost an entire generation of players to Bauer, which they are finally starting to win back with the releases of the Jetspeed and Super Tacks lines. But I wasn’t one of those who jumped ship. I’ve almost always worn CCM skates, and only rarely worn Bauer skates. I think this knee-caps my Bauer expertise, even if I understand how skates are constructed and can grasp engineering and performance differences between various skates.

For example, I always have to triple-check myself when I’m looking at a Bauer Vapor X60 – a skate still worn in the NHL by players like Erik Karlsson – and the Bauer Vapor X:60, which is an entry-level skate. I can do a Bauer review if a product is a direct comparable – having reviewed the Jetspeed, I’d feel OK about reviewing the Vapor 1X or the APX2 – but I can’t bring the same insight and perspective to the line as a whole.

However, when I’m watching an adult-league game, I can eyeball from the bleachers if a player is wearing CCM Vector 8.0s or Vector 10.0s or even a Vector ZG 130, and I can talk intelligently about the differences between those skates. I can explain why I wasn’t wild about the 2012 CL/U+ line as well as why I disagreed with the choices made on the CCM RBZ. I can watch a Penguins game and notice that Sid Crosby continues to use the E-Pro holder on his 50Ks, and note that Carl Hagelin continues to rock white 20Ks with TUUK holders.

My niche in skates is CCM. As I’ve written before, the numbers scream that Bauer has a great product line. But some people like Coke better than Pepsi, and some people like Ford rather than Chevy. I happen to like CCM skates more than Bauer.

Which to Buy?

Having noted my bias toward CCM skates, my advice is that you check out skates from all product lines within your budget. Read about, and more importantly, try on skates like the Bauer Supreme 1S or the Bauer Nexus 1N if you’re willing to spend top-dollar on skates. There are a ton of great, insightful reviews on almost all of Bauer’s products available on the web.

These pictures are from Bauer skates, but I think all purchasers should take them into consideration:

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I wish this info-graphic had been available years ago. The skate companies – rightly or wrongly – have tended to market their skates based on a player’s skating-style or type, rather than her or his Foot Profile.

While the Frame of a skate certainly has a bearing on a player’s mechanics and performance, my view is that the profile of a player’s foot is more important.

My recommendation is that you start your search for skates with Foot Profile. You might not be after pure acceleration, but if you’re flat-footed and need optimal heel-lock, you can probably spare yourself a lot of aggravation by focusing on a Jetspeed or Vapor skate.

There will be other considerations – for example, a player with a mid-profile foot might find the higher-end Super Tacks or Ultra Tacks skates too stiff – but I think focusing on Foot Profile and being sized properly is a bigger consideration than Frame or Style of Play. Just my two cents.

Here are some things you consider if you’re looking at purchasing the Super Tacks versus direct competitors:

Super Tacks vs. VH Hockey Skates

If you have time to wait and discretionary income, I strongly suggest you investigate VH hockey skates. I am 100% sold on their process and their approach. Going with a full-custom skate ultimately saves a dedicated player a ton of time and likely a lot of money. If you’re considering the Super Tacks, you’re already willing to pay the cost of a custom skate, so it’s probably worth a phone call or e-mail to VH to help you decide if custom skates are right for you.

It’s worth repeating that, if you live in the United States, a VH full-custom skate is probably going to cost you less out-the-door than a top-end retail skate with MAP pricing. MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) on the Super Tacks is $899 USD, while my order from VH was set to come in at about $690 shipped due to the exchange rate. Something to consider.

Reboot Readers should be aware that True Temper purchased VH in November 2016, and I have no idea what that will do to VH from a production standpoint. I hope that VH continues to produce full-custom skates, and my suspicion is that True and VH will collaborate on a retail skate or line of skates. Time will tell.

But if you’re like me and can’t deal with the requisite 4-6 weeks for VH skates to be completed, I truly believe the Super Tacks is the best alternative to a true custom skate. The Super Tacks doesn’t provide full-custom fit, but it’s the next best thing.

Super Tacks vs. Jetspeed vs. RibCor 50K

This updated graphic from CCM should help you discern the fitting differences between Super Tacks, Jetspeed, and RibCore 50K skates:

Image result for ccm super tacks skates performance

If you’ve narrowed your purchasing decision down to a top-level CCM skate, here are my thoughts:

My experience was that the Jetspeed provided better forward flex and heel-lock while the Super Tacks, being an even-stiffer boot and lacking an outsole, allows for better edge control and holds even better through turns. If I had to assign grades, let’s say the Super Tacks gets an A+ for power/control and an A- for pure acceleration, and vice-versa with the Jetspeed.

Assuming you have a proper fit, you can’t go wrong either way. If I was a winger and needed to put an absolute premium on acceleration, I’d go Jetspeed. If I was more of an in-zone player or a center and did more lateral movement, I’d probably go Super Tacks. But my view is that they are both tremendous skates, and quantum leaps over what CCM did with the Crazy Light and RBZ lines.

I would recommend that you make your purchasing decision based on which skate better suits your foot profile, yet predictably I’m doing the opposite of what I’m suggesting. The Jetspeed is a better overall fit for me based on Foot Profile and skating mechanics, but the performance benefits of the Super Tacks – namely the amount of sheer power I can churn from every stride – are too strong for me to forgo.

I haven’t worn the 50K, but I’ve used the 48K, and my last three four pairs of skates have been Reebok/RibCor models. I think the Reebok/RibCor line provides the most-traditional feel and fit, but also the lowest grade performance among the current CCM offerings. I wore Reebok 11K/20Ks because I couldn’t find another skate that fit me, but I broke each of them down quickly and the fit – especially the heel-lock – was really sloppy.

Having said that, I did use Reebok 11K/20K/RibCor skates for four years, and NHL players like Sid Crosby – I’m told he’s pretty decent – use RibCOR models. Carl Hagelin, perhaps the fastest skater in hockey, uses white 20Ks. So a player can certainly skate fast/well in RibCor skates. A lot just depends on the shape of your foot and your skating-style.

Super Tacks vs. Ultra Tacks

Straight from CCM’s 2016 product catalog:

skatesultratacks

My view is that if you are debating Super Tacks versus Ultra Tacks, you’re weighing the benefits of the Monocoque boot, plain and simple. Holder/steel, moisture-wicking system, and fit dimensions are identical between the two. But the Monoframe molded around my entire foot in a way that’s difficult to describe. The Ultra Tacks fit, to me, like a high-end Bauer Supreme.

If you have a textbook Supreme/Tacks foot, the energy-transfer benefit you get upgrading to the Super Tacks might not be worth the $200 retail price difference. If you have unusual fitting issues, or if you understand and value what a Monocoque boot can potentially do for your skating, I assure you that the Super Tacks meets performance expectations and justifies the price difference.

One other note: the toe-box on the Super Tacks is different than the Ultra Tacks due to the one-piece construction on the former. Here’s a pic of the unique toe-box on the Super Tacks:

super-tacks

Notice how the toe-box attaches at the side rather than being glued/stitched into the outsole. I doubt this impacts performance in any way, but I thought it was cool.

Super Tacks vs. Bauer Supreme 1S

SUPREME 1S Skate

First, you’re splitting hairs talking about an $899 versus a $949 price-point. Both are outrageous. This is a mortgage and a car payment for a lot of buyers, and at these price-points, the skates are to be considered a multiyear investment for many players.

I haven’t skated the Supreme 1S, nor the MX3, nor the Total One, because I hated how those boots fit my feet. And out of the box, the Super Tacks has the same basic “anatomical” or “contoured” shape as a Bauer Supreme skate.

I worked to make the Super Tacks fit because of the way the skate performs. I have a “Jetspeed/Vapor” foot profile but I’m a “Tacks/Supreme” skater, and I decided to accept discomfort in exchange for increased performance. But I did this only for the Super Tacks because of the Monoframe, which Supreme skates obviously lack, and my comfort with CCM.

Compared directly to the 1S, personally I dislike the idea of the Lightspeed Edge holder because I’ve seen blades fly out of the skates of NHL players at inopportune times. I don’t like how TUUK holders/LS steel have felt since ever.

But there are things I prefer about Bauer and the 1S. I think the Bauer Speed Plate is a better footbed – ditto for the discontinued Graf Sidas 3D insoles – than the Custom Support footbeds that come with high-end CCM skates. I think the adjustable tendon guard and the tongue-stiffeners are cool features on the Supreme 1S that the Super Tacks lack. The Supreme 1S has Curv Composite Ankle Support, which improves wrap (and I love wrap). Hell, I think the classically-black Supreme 1S is flat-out better-looking than the Super Tacks.

But the Super Tacks is almost symbiotic in how rapidly it clings to and picks up the shape of your foot. This separates it from every other retail skate as far as I’m concerned.

You can read all about the Bauer Supreme 1S here. But putting all of this aside, we are really talking about an individual’s preference for Bauer vs. CCM, a topic which we could beat into the ground.

If you’re a Bauer skater, I’m going to have a hard time talking you into CCM skates, and vice-versa. So if you skate the Supreme 1S and love it, please comment below to help other readers, but don’t dump on CCM or the Super Tacks because you had a bad experience with the U+06 seven years ago.

Conclusions

I’ve been searching high-and-low for a retail skate that I could use while I waited for VH to complete my skates, knowing that correcting the anticipated fitting problems on the skates could take several back-and-forth mailings with VH. I suppose I could’ve purchased the Jetspeed skates in Fall 2015, ordered VH skates, and been done with it, but my commitment to Reboot Hockey and curiosity made me wait for the Super Tacks. I wanted to see if CCM’s Monocoque retail-release could compete with a full-custom boot.

The Super Tacks offers a fit that you won’t see elsewhere in the retail market. But it’s not a custom skate. Having stated the obvious, it’s also my view that no skate – custom or otherwise – is going to be able to outperform the Super Tacks. You may be able to find a better fit going full-custom, but you will be hard-pressed to find this level of performance.

For the moment, the Super Tacks is the engineering pinnacle of the mass market. I would recommend the Super Tacks to the following players:

  • I think the Super Tacks is a monster comparable to anything within the current Bauer Supreme line, including the 1S. It might be a tough sell to get a dedicated Bauer Supreme skater to switch to a CCM skate, but the Super Tacks is a true competitor to the Supreme 1S. If you have a classic “Supreme” foot – not too wide, not too narrow, not too shallow, not too deep – the Super Tacks will likely provide the best fit and performance you’ve experienced in a skate.
  • Elite or experienced players who can appreciate the advantages of a Monocoque boot. As advertised, the Super Tacks gives a player phenomenal control over her or his edges, and incredible feel for the ice. The removal of the outsole lets an experienced player really use the entirety of her or his blades, maximizing the power in each stride. If you have a Laura Stamm-inspired power-skating stride, this skate will dovetail nicely with your natural mechanics.
  • Players that CCM may have inadvertently chased away over the last 5-15 years. CCM may have a had a lull for a few years, but the company is now back in full lockstep with Bauer. I’m not going to open up a Jetspeed-versus-Vapor 1X argument, but I believe the Super Tacks is every bit the skate that the Supreme 1S is. If you switched from CCM to Bauer (or Easton or Graf) a number of years ago, the Super Tacks is a great reason to reconsider CCM.

I would not recommend the Super Tacks to the following people:

  • Inexperienced players. Giving this skate to a new player is like giving a Shelby Cobra to a new driver. It’s simply too much skate for a rookie.
  • Lighter and younger players. The Super Tacks is professional-grade stiff. I’m 210 pounds and a maniac in the weight room, and I still found this skate to be a beast. If the boot is too stiff to move in, a player won’t be able to appreciate the fit and performance features. I wouldn’t recommend the skate to any player who isn’t almost-fully grown, and even then I don’t think it’s the best skate for most 16-18 year olds. This is a skate for players who can or will play College or Junior.
  • Players looking for or needing a custom skate. This skate wraps the foot like no other on the retail market, but it’s not fair to compare it to a custom skate. The sturdiness of the quarter package – a primary performance feature – also prevents the skate from being punched or stretched traditionally. The boot will contour around most of your foot like a liquid, but if it kills your foot in the pro-shop, there’s only a limited number of adjustments an equipment manager or shop employee can make.

If you’re an experienced player looking for a new top-flight pair of skates with the very-latest tech, and money is no object, the Super Tacks comes highly recommended.

Thanks for reading, and for your continued support of Reboot Hockey.

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Easton Mako II Hockey Skates

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A question that plagues people in all walks of life is “What If?”

In December 2013, I was desperate to find skates that would fit my feet properly. At that point, I had been through a frustrating number of CCM and Graf models, and it had been over a year since I owned a pair of skates that let me to play to my potential.

The original Easton Mako had come out earlier in the year, and the various aspects of the skate – particularly the Monocoque/single-piece construction and the malleability of the quarter package – seemed tailor-made for someone with my fitting problems. I went back to the same store from which I purchased Graf 535s a few months prior, and I got my feet into a pair of the 1st-generation Easton Mako skates.

The thing is, you can’t appreciate any skate – let alone one as cutting-edge as the Easton Mako – wearing it unbaked in the store. Here were the only things I could take away from the fitting:

  1. In a D (standard) width, the skates hurt so badly I could barely stand, and
  2. In a EE (Wide) width, the skates didn’t hurt and wrapped my foot well

At the time, I was much less-experienced in skate-fitting, and of the belief that I needed a volume (deep/wide) boot to accommodate the bone spurs on my feet. After much research, I narrowed my choices to two models: the Graf 709 Textalite, which I ultimately purchased, and the original Easton Mako in an EE Width.

I dodged a minor bullet in not purchasing the Makos, as I would have purchased a skate that was not only too wide, but also too long, for $400 more than I paid for the Graf 709s. I’m not going to name the retailer who did not one but two apathetic skate-fittings, but it’s safe to say that a certain small-chain store in Southern Pittsburgh cared more about my credit card number than how well a given pair of skates worked for me.

But this chapter in my skate-fitting saga left a major “What If?” that I was unable to answer, until recently. I was able to finally pick up a pair of the re-conceptualized Mako II at a price I could justify, and I’m very happy that I did.

While the Mako IIs and I have irreconcilable differences, I got to experience the “Science of Skating” concept firsthand and see what all of the brouhaha was about. Below is my Honest Hockey Review of the Easton Mako II. As always, I appreciate smart feedback and commentary.

Executive Summary

The Mako II is a superb upgrade on the original Mako, surpassing it in every facet of looks and performance. I’ll go into detail below explaining the differences between both the Mako II and its predecessor, as well as the Mako II versus other skates available in late 2016.

Sadly, the Mako II will be remembered as both the apex and the final entry in the Easton Hockey line of skates, as Easton Hockey was purchased by Bauer’s parent company, the Performance Sports Group (PSG), in January 2016.

The Mako II, along with most other Easton Hockey products, have been closed out as of November 2016. The Mako II originally retailed for $799 USD, and as I write this a number of units remain available in atypical sizes at clearance rates of around $400-$500 USD.

First Impression

Image result for easton mako ii skates

My Mako IIs arrived in glorious resplendence, gorgeous and eager to undo all of the visual damage done by the original Mako. Describing how sharp and unique the Mako IIs look in person tests my descriptive powers.

Now that the Mako I is well-behind us, I think we can all admit that the parking-cone orange graphics on the Mako I were unfortunate, to say the least:

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Perhaps the fact that I’ve spent 25 years hating the Philadelphia Flyers with every fiber of my being explains my disdain for the Mako I’s graphics, and you may or may not feel the same way. But all of us can agree that the Mako I’s color scheme was a … bold choice, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the mostly-black, nightmarish color scheme on the Mako II is eye-popping when you hold it on your hand, nicely accentuated by the plush, white pro-style skate tongue. You’ll have to take me at my word that the black scheme really commands attention in-person. I baked them at the local rink, and while I was there more than one guy commented on how cool the skates looked.

Here’s a shot of the pair I purchased, complete with a Jack-Crease (TM) on the inside of the left skate:

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Warm, the Mako IIs feel incredible, with the comfort and weightlessness of a running shoe. They fit unlike any hockey skate that I’ve ever worn. I waited the requisite 24 hours for the bake to set in, and I took the skates out to an afternoon stick-and-puck.

I was expecting the worst, as I’ve heard and read repeatedly that the unique, aggressive pitch of the CXN holder takes some getting used to. However, the adjustment to the CXN holder/steel wasn’t bad for me, as I usually skate on a forward pitch/9′ radius.

Hilariously enough, I’ve been trying to “make” the Mako II for years by using my heat gun to force skates wrap my foot more anatomically, and I independently came to the same conclusion as Easton that a shorter radius and an aggressive forward pitch might maximize athleticism. I grew up playing every sport under the sun, so I wasn’t constricted to certain hockey dogmas, such as the recent trend for blade profiles to be longer. I’ve just always wanted skates that allowed me to play to my natural strengths, which include my Spider-like agility.

I almost have to discount my on-ice First Impression entirely, because the calcium deposits on my arches dug into the Mako IIs so badly that I could barely stand, let alone reap the benefits of the Mako IIs. It’s obviously a closely-cropped skate with a narrow fit, and while that suits my foot well (I measure a ‘C’ width/AA heel in CCM), the quarter was absolutely unforgiving on my bone spurs. It would take some work with the heat gun to get the Mako IIs usable.

Second Impression

Wanting to spend more time using them in non-game action (more on that in a bit), I took the Mako IIs out for a Sunday public skate. I continued to apply local heat to the rough spots on my arches, and while the skates were warm they felt “OK” – meaning the pain level was tolerable  – on my arches/bone spurs.

The crying shame is that the Mako IIs otherwise felt marvelous. They wrapped most of my foot in the anatomical way I’ve been seeking for years. I was getting great Heel Lock. I wasn’t experiencing any discomfort at the high ankle, the site of the notorious “Mako bumps” associated with the original Mako. But the Mako IIs were literally making the insides of my feet bleed, despite dedicated work with a heat gun. I removed the post-Mako picture of my feet because it’s gruesome, but suffice to say this was a major problem.

If you scroll up or down, you’ll notice that there’s a prominent “V” along the side of the Mako, right above the heel. This “V” is reinforced to support the feet, which would be a big selling-point if one didn’t have bulging bone spurs right underneath.

But this is my unique problem, and not something most players will have to deal with. As noted above, I got tremendous Heel Lock from the Mako IIs, and the reinforcement no doubt allows the quarter to be extremely-supportive despite it’s pliable construction. But the reinforcement sits right over top of my spurs, and caused very problematic blistering.

Nonetheless, I wasn’t prepared to punt on these skates without a fight. Tip-toeing like an exotic dancer in eight-inch high-heels, I stepped onto the ice for Sunday Public Skate and did my best to give the Mako IIs a legitimate evaluation.

Performance

I’m very glad that I toughed it out, because once I got into a groove, I really saw what Dave Cruikshank and Easton meant by “Natural Movement Equals Speed”.

The combination of the great Heel Lock, the exceptional Foot Wrap, and the Mako’s asymmetrical quarter allows for razor-sharp turning. The inside of the quarter is slightly taller (5 mm) than the outside of the quarter, which lets an experienced skater really lean into turns. Here’s a look a graphic from Easton explaining the benefits of an asymmetrical collar (image courtesy Ice Warehouse):

Image result for Mako II asymmetrical quarter

Notice that the skate is taller on the inside than the outside. This provides greater support to the inside edge while allowing greater ankle mobility on the other skate.

If you can picture a player turning sharply to her or his left, the Mako II allows a player to get more weight over the outside edge of the left skate while providing greater support on the inside edge of the right skate. This allows a player to get lower, balance better, and ultimately turn more-crisply.

Many skates, notably the CCM Crazy Light and including my dutiful 11Ks, have caused me major discomfort at the high-ankle because the top edges of the boot cut into my ankles, simultaneously limiting my mobility and making me bleed my own blood. There are numerous pics of this in the Training Manual as well as in the Honest Hockey Crazy Light review. Nothing of this nature to report on the Mako IIs, which I attribute to both the asymmetrical quarter as well as the anti-abrasion pads Easton placed at the top of the boot cuff.

A common criticism of the original Mako skates was that the skate collar was very abrasive. The Mako II addresses this criticism with extra padding at the collar of the skate. Most of the high-end skate models are now including this type of anti-abrasion padding. I’ve seen it on the Bauer Supreme 1S/Vapor 1X as well as both the CCM Jetspeed and the Super Tacks.

Image result for easton mako II skates ankle pads

Something else I noticed was that my body “settled back” into the boot, particularly on turns. The only comparison I can make is going from a front-wheel drive car to a rear-wheel drive car. My weight was pretty evenly distributed across the skate – with maybe a slight bias to the rear of the skate – allowing me to generate better power and a complete extension of the leg. Again, the term that comes to mind is “natural movement”.

I was able to reverse direction sharply with a non-existent turning radius. While it took a little getting used to, I was the belle of the ball at this Sunday Public Skate, impressing enough Hockey Moms and high-schoolers to slake my ego’s thirst for the day.

The Mako II – be it the frame or the suppleness of the boot – also placed my body into an optimal mechanical position, forcing me to drive from the heel and finish through the ball of my foot.

Once I got used to it, I really loved what the Mako II was doing for my skating, because it was forcing me to use the ball of my foot and heel as tent-pole components of my stride in a way that skates such as my 11Ks had not.

The Extendon Guard comes as advertised. I was getting better toe-snap/stride length with no discomfort. I was again limited by how badly my feet were killing me, but mechanically the Mako IIs skated perfectly. I actually liked the relatively-soft quarter, and certainly don’t see it as a detriment to reactivity in a way that some others might.

Here’s a glance at the Extendon Guard concept:

Image result for Mako II skates turning

Lastly, I’m glad I waited and got the Mako IIs rather than the Mako M8. While the primary difference between the two is a full composite boot-form on the Mako II versus a glass composite boot-form on the M8, I don’t think an even-softer quarter would have been to my benefit. My take is that if you’re an experienced player or over 200 lbs., shell out the extra for the Mako II if you’re debating between the two.

Performance Features Summary

  • Monocoque (single-piece) Construction: the boot is extremely reactive to heat in all but one flipping spot, and the CXN Holder is attached directly to the bottom of the boot, allowing for better Foot Feel and Energy Transfer. These are two Performance Features that I put a premium on, and the main reasons I keyed in on the Mako II rather than the Bauer Vapor 1X, original CCM Tacks, etc. It’s very easy to give yourself additional Heel Lock or work out most trouble-spots along the quarter. As promised, the Mako II delivers exceptional Foot Feel, and can give a precise skater great control over her or his edges.
  • Extendon Guard: Easton triggered a trend in which skate companies are now going to play around with the stiffness of the tendon guard on particular skates. The Easton Extendon Guard allows maximum Ankle Extension, which is going to help player optimize the power of their stride.
  • Asymmetrical Patterns: in tandem with the single-piece construction/lack of outsole, the Asymmetrical Pattern of the skate collar absolutely helps a player transition and turn directions more sharply. A great concept that works in actuality.  I expect to see Bauer and CCM experiment with the height of the skate collar in the near future.

In short, full marks to Easton and Dave Cruikshank for being so innovative. It’s a damn shame that Easton Hockey closed it’s doors, because the Mako II is a masterpiece of ingenuity and applied science. Easton was really on the cusp of something special.

My lone criticism, of course, is the hard plastic reinforcement across the back and lower-half of the quarter, which by itself prevented me from getting years of joy and use from the Mako II. Alas.

After public skate, I took off the Mako IIs, the insides of my feet bleeding like (insert borderline-offensive crucifixion joke), and I was ready to go home … when my adult-league team, the Misfits, showed up in typical style with six flipping skaters.

Not wanting to leave the boys in a lurch, I went out there, hobbled, and played a mostly-useless game. I can’t comment on how the Mako IIs could have helped or hurt my performance, because the arch/bone-spur issue was so significant that I couldn’t really contribute. But I was encouraged enough by how my skating mechanics had self-corrected at Public Skate that I wanted to take the Mako IIs to a professional to see if I could have them usable.

Intermission

I took the skates to my equipment guru in Raleigh, Andy Scoggins of ProSharp. Andy has done a number of unusual modifications for me over the years, and he can’t come any more highly recommended. If you are anywhere in North Carolina (or even the Southeastern United States), it’s well worth a trip to his shop if your skates need work.

Again, my feet measure a ‘C’ Width on both Bauer and CCM Brannock tools. I have a narrow foot full of bony protrusions, and the Mako is a narrow skate line with a very malleable quarter. It should have been a match made in Heaven.

However, the spots where my biggest bone spurs are located sit right where the footbed meets the bottom of the quarter. This part of the skate was not meant to be heat-molded:

makoiibacka

 

 

Andy did his very best to give me a little breathing room, and I did a re-bake on the skates. My feet were so sore from the Sunday double-session that it hurt to stand in the Mako IIs, let alone skate in them, so I decided to give my feet a full week to heal and let the bake set in before giving the Mako IIs another try.

In the mean time, I skated another mostly-useless game for the Misfits in my 11Ks. Going back to the 11Ks after the Makos really accentuated how mediocre the 11Ks fit my feet and how badly I had broken down the quarter. It’s not as noticeable in slower skates or at Stick-and-Puck sessions, but the fit of the 11Ks was so sloppy that I lost speed pretty much every time I changed direction. In a game situation, this is obviously the last thing a player wants.

The 11Ks/Reebok/RibCore skates have been good soldiers, but after four pairs and three years of use, I couldn’t grade the fit (and thus performance) out at anything higher than a C+. They’ve been serviceable. But I am damn tired of my skates limiting my performance, and the Mako IIs dictated the possibility of a skate that could finally maximize my skating rather than hinder it.

Whether I kept the Mako IIs or not, using them taught me two very valuable lessons:

  1. A natural-fitting (but appropriately stiff) skate reinforces proper skating mechanics the same way a wooden stick reinforces proper shooting and puck-handling mechanics. The Mako IIs were worth what I paid for them because they put my body back into proper skating position.
  2. The Mako IIs also spot-lighted how mediocre my 11Ks fit by comparison. My skating has been up-and-down for four years, which coincidentally was when I swapped my original U+ Pros for the garbage U+10. Skates can and do limit a player’s performance, especially players like me who work to stay in shape. Even if the Mako IIs don’t fit my feet, they still come recommended for other players because they can and do provide a tremendous, pro-level fit and performance.

Durability

I’m not grading the Mako IIs in Durability, as I only used them about 5-6 total hours. Having said that, a major concern that kept me from buying them at full retail was how well they would hold up under my bullish 210-lb. frame. In the limited time I used them, I skated the Mako IIs hard, and they showed no indication of flimsiness.

Basis of Comparison

As noted above, I’ve now skated my fourth pair of Reebok 11Ks into the ground, and generally I use higher-end CCM/Reebok skates. I tried, reviewed, and really liked the CCM Jetspeed skates, and the only reason I didn’t just sink $800 USD into those was that I wanted to see the Mako IIs and the CCM Super Tacks. One down, one to go.

 (UPDATE 12/31/2016: I purchased the Super Tacks, and by the time you read this, the Honest Hockey Review should be posted on the blog. I’ll link to it after it’s published.)

The Mako II was the first Easton skate I’ve ever used, and the only one I’ve ever really wanted to try. The Mako line comes on the heels of the very-underwhelming Stealth RS line. The next player I meet who raves about any skate from the Stealth line will be the first, as most of the players I meet who have used a Stealth skate have tried to resell them within weeks of purchase.

I’ve also written the best $11 e-book on skate-fitting that money can buy, so I’m your man when it comes to this sort of thing.

Personal Biases

No biases here, other than some sentimentality toward Easton. I’m really disappointed they’re no longer producing hockey gear, because Easton has been an industry titan for the length of my playing career. It’s my sincere hope that someone will buy Easton Hockey back from PSG in the future and re-open the operation.

(UPDATE: mercifully, a line of Easton Hockey Sticks will be released for 2016. The line is called the Synergy GX line, and it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Synergy. You can read about line here. Just ignore the fact that the cash is adding to Bauer’s big-stack.)

I’m biased against the Mako I because it’s a hideous shade of orange, but no such biases persist with the Mako II, a black beauty if ever one existed.

Conclusions

So your question might be, “how could anyone, even someone as insightful as Jack, accurately review the Mako IIs if he only skated them a few times, and they killed his feet anyway?”

People sometimes ask me how long I’ve been playing. I think about it for a second and then shrug and say something like, “24, 25 years.” And their mouths fall agape. But then you do the math: started in the very early 1990s, it’s almost 2017…do you need a calculator? The years really fly by.

My point, Junior, is that I was skating before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a thing, and I’ve seen generational changes in how equipment us constructed. I know how skates are “supposed” to fit, just like I know how sticks are “supposed” to shoot. This allows me to review a piece of equipment with plenty of historical context, not to mention that certain j’ai ne ce quois that makes my bosses cringe and women throw drinks at me.

Besides, as both a very-active player and the Author of the award-winning Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual – plenty of copies still available, folks! -my finger is firmly on the pulse of modern Hockey-Skate Fitting and Performance.

I would recommend the Easton Mako II to any experienced player, anywhere, with the following caveats:

  • The Mako line runs narrow. If your forefoot is even normally-wide, you may be more comfortable in a EE Width. If you’re considering purchasing a closeout pair of Mako IIs online, do yourself a favor and get measured by a quality hockey shop with enough professionalism to give a damn.
  • I do not recommend the Mako line for newer players, simply because the skates are so different from anything else on the market. Plus, God forbid a new player fall in love with the Mako IIs – obviously no longer in production – and then fail to re-acclimate to a Bauer or CCM model.
  • The Mako II is a relatively-soft quarter. If you block a lot of shots, it’s probably not the best pick.
  • If you skate on a longer profile (10-11′ or more) or on a neutral pitch, the Mako II is going to present challenges. The CXN holder is pitched forward, and while you could level off the steel, it’s going to feel very unnatural to someone who has skated on a TUUK or an E-Pro holder for years.

I would definitely recommend the Mako II to the following people:

  • Good all-around athletes who feel constricted by traditional Bauer/CCM offerings. What I liked best about the Mako IIs was how effortlessly I could change direction. They reminded me of more of snug baseball cleats than hockey skates. Most of the Bauer/CCM offerings for 2016-17 are going to be pretty restrictive at the ankle, which is the opposite of what a skater wants.  The Mako II is a stunning alternative, offering agility and suppleness not unlike a figure skate.
  • Anyone who wants to work on her or his skating mechanics. The Mako II really reinforced good mechanics for me. I was achieving great balance, leg extension, push/return, and body lean while using them, and that carried over when I went back to my 11Ks.
  • Skaters with narrow feet, or skaters who have a hard time finding skates with good Foot Wrap. The Mako wrapped my feet perfectly. If I could take the wrap of the Mako II and combine it with the quarter of the CCM Crazy Light, I might finally have a skate that fit, and I could quit writing skate reviews and leave you people in peace. Regrettably, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, so let’s all make the best of it.

This isn’t a typical graded Honest Hockey Review, because I couldn’t wear the skates without pain. But I toyed around with them enough to assess the pros and cons, and in my view the Mako II is a fantastic overall skate … if you can get your foot into it comfortably.

The Easton Mako II comes very highly recommended, if you can find a pair to fit your feet. As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and thanks for reading.

Jack