I had the opportunity to pick up a pair of CCM’s top-of-the-line skates from 2012, the CCM Crazy Light, at an absolute steal of a price. While I was thoroughly disappointed with a lower offering from the same line, the CCM U+10, the allure of a $700 skate at a fraction of that price was too strong to forgo. I gave the Crazy Lights a whirl, and here is what I have to report.
All Honest Hockey scores on the 1-10 scale, with 10 being “Must Buy” and 1 being “Avoid at All Costs”:
(UPDATE: 5/26/14 – I had a critic question my ability to review the CCM Crazy Light skates, so I have added two sections called, “Basis of Comparison” and “Personal Biases”. I think both of these will help add objectivity to the Honest Hockey Reviews going forward.)
Basis of Comparison
I have skated in CCMs since I began playing at age 7. I believe I used a pair of Bauer Supreme 1000s for a season or so when I was around 10 or 12, but for the most part I have always been a CCM guy. My feet are ridiculously-shaped, and traditionally CCM skates have almost always fit better than Bauer skates.
I currently have in my possession the following skates: 2008 CCM U+Pro, 2009 CCM U+Pro Reloaded (with a Bauer Lightspeed 2 Holder/9′ Radius), Reebok 11K Pumps, CCM 1052 Super Tacks, CCM Custom Pro Tacks (Pro Stock), and CCM 852 Tacks. I will put up a pic of all the skates to validate this shortly.
(UPDATE 7/25/14: Here’s a picture of my obnoxious stock of CCM equipment. Notice the multitude of CCM/RBK skates:
The CLs are on the bottom right with the yellow laces. So yeah, I know a thing or two about CCM equipment, and CCM skates in particular.)
In recent memory, I have also tried the 2011 CCM U+10, Graf 535 Supras, Graf 709 Texalites, and Easton Mako skates, all of which I re-sold for one reason or another. I wore a pair of 2006 CCM Vector 10.0s until they fell apart. As a kid, I had a number of other Tacks-era CCM skates.
In short, I am qualified to review the Crazy Light because I have used many skates that are directly comparable within the CCM/RBK family. Because I have purchased a CCM boot every 1-2 years on average for the past 20 years, I believe I am well-suited to note changes in the Crazy Light from prior models. As written above, I currently skate on two skates directly- comparable to the Crazy Light in the U+Pro Reloaded and the RBK 11K Pump.
The Crazy Light is a gorgeous skate. I picked up a pair of the original silver/black skates with the red accents, and I was wowed by how sharp they look. In fact, I may have somewhat-fallen into the “beautiful woman” trap of almost overlooking fundamental flaws in the skates because of how good-looking they are.
CCM has generally made a more meat-and-potatoes line of skates, based more on substance than style. However, the Crazy Light was a strong step toward revitalizing their brand from an aesthetic perspective. The Crazy Light compares very favorably looks-wise to other 2011/2012 offerings.
HH Rating: 8.5
The Crazy Light features CCM’s patented U+ Foam, which they included in their U+ models from 2008-2012. This technology is fantastic for people such as myself who have misshapen feet, as it provides instant customization in most cases. The skates are meant to be baked and re-baked until the proper fit is achieved.
One of the best things I can say about the CL is that the U+Foam used in the skates is a marked upgrade from that found in the U+10 boot. I have not seen a U+12 to compare the bridge between the two, but the foam in the CL boot is professional grade. You can take it as a positive that CCM includes such great materials in their top-end boot, or take it as a negative that there is such a marked drop-off to their mid-level boot, but Crazy Light buyers have nothing to be disappointed about.
Having said that, this is an extremely-stiff boot, at least compared to other 2012 models. That’s a positive or a negative depending on your personal preferences, but I found the Crazy Lights to be oppressively-stiff along the Eyelet Row. This prevented me from skating in my natural mechanics, which are pitched aggressively-forward.
Even after hours and hours on the ice, I was not achieving the uptick in performance that I had been hoping for. As with the U+10s I had purchased the previous year, the Crazy Light hindered my performance by greatly restricting my ankle mobility. While they felt fantastic as I laced them up in the locker room, I was not achieving the desired carry-over onto the ice. I tried 8 or 10 different lacing styles, and none of them really allowed me to skate to my potential.
To make the CLs usable, I had to resort to this absurd modification in which I dropped the top two eyelets and taped the ankle, basically mimicking Troy Brouwer’s 55 Flex concept:
The reason I ultimately resold the Crazy Lights is that I simply did not want to have to put this much modification into my skates every time I hit the ice. The Eyelet Rows – and the top 2-3 eyelets in particular – simply would not wrap around the curvature of my ankle. I have permanent scars on my ankles from trying to make the CLs fit adequately, but this process was the definition of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
My view is that a $700 retail skate should take most of the guesswork out of advanced customization. Sure, I could have ordered a device like 55 Flex to make the skates fit adequately, but I feel at this price-point that I shouldn’t have to.
(Update: a reader named Eddie had a very similar experience to me, getting inadequate flex and wrap along the top of the boot. Here was how Eddie solved the problem:
Eddie clearly has more patience than I. But this is a great example of modifying the equipment you have on hand rather than throwing money at the problem. Thanks again, Eddie.)
Along the outsole (the bottom of the boot), the fit could not be better. The U-Foam in the Crazy Light – called “U+Grip Rebranded” – could not have conformed to my foot better. The U-Foam in the Crazy Light may have conformed even better than the U-Foam in the 2008/2009 U+Pro models, which is really saying something.
Having said that, I prefer the customization of the Reebok Pump from my 11K models. The 11Ks give me tremendous support around the Achilles as well as superb Heel Lock. As a direct comparable, my view is that the fit of the 11K is better than that of the Crazy Light, though the Crazy Light certainly fits very well along the outsole.
My main criticism – and this is a criticism of modern skates themselves, rather than the Crazy Light in particular – was getting an appropriate fit along the top of the boot and the ankle. Due to the nature of the composite materials themselves, I could not achieve acceptable “Foot Wrap” or forward-flex in the Crazy Lights without drastic modification.
CCM completely rebuilt their skates for the 2013 RBZ line, and presumably will do the same for their 2014 Tacks re-release.
(Update: I demoed and reviewed the CCM Jetspeed, and had none of the same fitting problems that I did with the Crazy Light. I think the materials used to make up the Quarter on CCM’s 2012 “U+” line were ultra-stiff and exceptionally protective, but not advanced enough to conform in-step with the liner. CCM has obviously rectified this problem.)
HH Rating: 7.0
Again, I was most struck by the quality of the Crazy Light compared to it’s sister skate the U+10.
I looked, but I don’t have any pics remaining of the U+10s. You will have to take me at my word: I used a pair of CCM U+10s for no more than four or five months, and they looked like they had been used for four or five years under an NHL schedule. The U+10s were so misshapen and warped from routine use after half a year that I eagerly re-sold them for $50 on eBay.
But this article isn’t about the U+10. This is about the Crazy Light, which again compares favorably as the top-of-the-line offering from CCM for 2012.
The rigid materials that somewhat limit forward foot-flexion are, as you would suspect, extremely protective. I feel like the quarter package could withstand a bullet at close range. No one in my local league shoots at NHL caliber, but I think beer-leaguers could block shots in the Crazy Lights without much trepidation.
Ditto for the tongue, which I would not describe as especially soft or forgiving. “Rugged” – like the skin of a crocodile – would be a more apt description. If you are a flopper, i.e. you wear the tongue of your skates outside the shin-guards, note that the tongue of the Crazy Light skate is not particularly lengthy or plush. It’s not uncomfortably by any means, but it’s not cotton-soft, either.
Finally, the Crazy Light skate was considerably less “rickety” than the U+10. Out of the box, with the U+10, the steel felt loose in the holder. It rattled as I walked to the ice. Meanwhile, the CL feels like it could withstand a chainsaw attack. As you would expect from a $700 retail boot, it’s incredibly well-constructed.
HH Rating: 8.5
With skates, fit and personal preference become the issue. Here is what I will say on behalf of the Crazy Light skate:
1) As the name suggests, it’s hard to envision a lighter set of skates. CCM apparently lowered the weight by 25% for their 2013 RBZ line, but the Crazy Lights feel weightless. That’s going to appeal to a great number of buyers.
2) With the U+Foam, the skate will mold to your foot like few others. “Hot Spots” are easy to work out, and you can achieve tremendous fit around the bottom of the foot. This will undoubtedly improve performance in a great many skaters.
Here’s the deal-maker or deal-breaker:
The CCM Crazy Light is exceptionally-stiff. Depending on your skating style, this can be a boon or a major hindrance.
Like the U+10 and many contemporary skates, the stiffness of the boot along the Eyelet Row (and to a lesser degree the tongue) limits forward flex. Many players, pros especially, combat this by dropping or skipping one or more eyelets. I was never able to achieve desirable forward flex with either the U+10 or the Crazy Light, though again the CL fit 10 times better due to the superior U-Foam.
HH Rating: 7.5
I apparently have to state that I am not a professional hockey player. Having said that, I played college and have been playing continuously for since I was seven. I can properly skate in high-end retail skates, assuming a proper fit, since I am frequently mistaken for being a young Bret Hedican.
I am quite biased in favor of CCM/RBK. Despite the bad experience with the U+10, I convinced myself that the Crazy Light was going to work fine for me and that the U+10 was just a defective, low-end boot. Frankly I wanted to Crazy Light to fit identically to my 2008 U+Pros and save me further aggravation, but that simply wasn’t the case.
I did not compare the Crazy Light to a price-similar Bauer skate because I cannot get my foot into one comfortably. I do feel the Reebok 11K is a strong comparable, noting that both are made by the same parent company. The Easton Mako is a one-of-a-kind fit, and does not serve as a great comparable to the Crazy Light because of its uniqueness. I dislike Graf, and the models I tested were not terribly comparable to the Crazy Light.
(UPDATE: having used the 11K, U+ Pro, and Jetspeed, my assessment of the Crazy Light is that it traded conformity for protection/reactivity, especially compared to the U+ Pro. I would grade the Crazy Light as the stiffest/most-reactive of those four models. If you do not have an irregular foot shape and put a premium on reactivity, you will probably love the Crazy Light. But it limited me in a way that the other three CCM/RBK models above did not.)
Again, the Crazy Light is a massive upgrade on the U+10, but the most glaring problem with the U+10 (the oppressive stiffness of the Eyelet Row, and the inability of the skate to properly flex and wrap my foot) persisted.
My feet are just hideous, and I have major problems finding skates that fit. However, I got 4-5 years each out of both the CCM Vector 10.0 and the original CCM U+Pro. It’s worth nothing that a number of veteran NHL skaters – Joe Thornton, Loui Eriksson, and Brendan Morrow, to name a few – have continued to use the U+Pro, which I believe is stronger overall boot than the Crazy Light.
While the Crazy Light’s U-Foam wrapped the bottom of my foot wonderfully, the top half of the boot would not conform properly around the top half of my foot. If you have more-normal or less-damaged feet, you may not experience the problems I do with most skates, but if you are a long-time or more-traditional skater, you may find the Crazy Light to be too much of a “ski boot”.
I skate in an aggressively-forward posture ala American Hero Bret Hedican or Sergei Fedorov. If you skate with a very upright torso and 90-degree angles at both your hip and your knee (like Jordan Staal), the Crazy Light will certainly aid you in maintaining this form. If you skate more like Sergei Fedorov – i.e. with extreme forward-flex – you may find that the Crazy Light is so stiff through the front and tongue that it prevents adequate flex. I had to drop the top two laces to make the Crazy Lights usable.
If you’re considering a Crazy Light, than you are likely considering a close-out skate from 2012, which at this point would include the Easton Mako (2013) and the Easton EQ50. I’ve never tried an EQ50, but compared to the Mako, my assessment would be that the Crazy Light will provide inferior fit but superior durability and protection.
The Crazy Light is “meant” to be baked and re-baked. I personally think that one or two bakes should be more than sufficient, but again the Crazy Light is also crazy-stiff. If you decide to go with Crazy Lights, know that you’re in for a lengthy break-in period, and adjust your patience accordingly.
The Crazy Light uses CCM’s trademark holder prior to the SpeedBlade 4.0, the E-Pro. The steel comes factory-contoured at 10′. Most people, for whatever reason, prefer Bauer TUUK holders, which came factory-contoured at a 9′ prior to the release of the LS Edge/LS4.
As written above, CCM completely rebuilt their boot for the 2013 RBZ line. Additionally, the 2014 Tacks line is about to be released to the general public. If I were doing the purchase over, I would make sure to at least get my foot into both an RBZ and a 2014 Tacks boot before I made a purchasing decision.
(UPDATE: CCM overhauled their skate line following the discontinuation of the RBZ. The Jetspeed, Tacks, and RibCor skates now offer three distinct fits, answering almost all of my criticisms of the Crazy Light. In retrospect, the Crazy Light was a stop along the evolutionary train as skate companies have sought to perfect composite skates, and should be remembered as such.)
In keeping with this line of thought, the reason CCM has undergone a massive re-branding is that the company has gradually lost more and more market share to industry giant Bauer at the retail level. While the RBZ line was a major positive step for CCM and the Tacks line looks to make a similar leap in sales, the Crazy Light could in some ways be considered a low point in the CCM line.
The Crazy Light could potentially be a steal for you at closeout prices, but with updated offerings available, it’s also possible that the Crazy Light represents a failed concept. Read as many reviews as you can, and try to get into as many price-comparable boots as possible.
HH Overall Rating: 7.5