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