Honest Hockey Review: Bauer Re-AKT Hockey Helmet

Below is my Honest Hockey Review of the Bauer Re-AKT Hockey Helmet. As always, feel free to provide courteous feedback. For more on 2016 Helmets and Equipment, check out the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual.

Synopsis

The Bauer Re-AKT was Bauer’s top of the line helmet for 2014-15, having since been superseded by the Bauer Re-AKT 100. The Re-AKT is the second helmet in Bauer’s line for 2016, and currently has a suggested retail value of $199.99 USD.

The most-prominent features of the Re-AKT includes VERTEX foam protection (lighter/more protective than the IMS liner), an impact-management system, an Occipital lock (3.0) adjustment to lock the back of the head into place, standard tools-free adjustment, memory foam in the temples, and an anti-microbial agent applied to the liner.

The Re-AKT is available in eight color options, and is clearly distinguished from the 2016 Re-AKT 100 by being single-colored rather than two-tone. It features a much-more classic look than the Bauer IMS 11.0, which is a re-conceptualized version of the Cascade M11 helmet.

As you will read below, the original Re-AKT is a massive upgrade on mid-level Bauer helmets such as the 4500/5100, my preferred 5500 or even later-edition helmets such as the 9900. It compares to the CCM Resistance in terms of quality and price.

Basis of Comparison

I’m using a number of helmets for my Basis of Comparison: my dutiful Bauer 5500, the Reebok 11K, and the CCM Vector 10. While I do not have other elite-level Retail options on hand, I think I’ve used enough mid/upper-level helmets in the recent past to objectively review the Re-AKT.

Fit

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Like many higher-end Bauer/CCM helmets, the Re-AKT is adjustable at two points: the standard temple adjustment allows the helmet to be sized front-to-back, while the Occipital Lock 3.0 allows the helmet to fit securely around the back of the player’s head.

The Occiptial Lock 3.0 is a lever on the back of the helmet that tightens or loosens the fit very easily. The use of O-Locks is becoming an industry standard among upper-level helmets, and as time passes I imagine O-Lock devices will become standard on all Hockey Helmets.

The Re-AKT features a standard sizing adjustment, cleverly hidden in the helmet’s crown:

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The liner uses the aforementioned Vertex Foam as well as “Free-Floating Suspend-Tech utilizing PORON® XRD™ technology”. It should go without saying (but won’t!) that it fits much-more comfortably than a mid-level helmet such as the 5500 and significantly better than an entry-level helmet such as the Bauer 2100.

The Re-AKT does not feature the GIRO-inspired fit system of the Easton E700, but compares favorably to any helmet currently available on the Retail market – including the CCM Resistance and the Re-AKT 100, which uses Bauer’s patented CURV technology in the construction.

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

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The Re-AKT comes in eight different non-Pro Stock shell options, which should be more than enough to satisfy the average customer. It does not do Shell/Insert color-combos like the Reebok 11K did (and CCM FitLite presumably will), nor does it come in two-tones like the Re-AKT 100, but this shouldn’t be your primary concern when picking out a helmet.

The Re-AKT looks much more like a Bauer 4500/5500/7500 than a Cascade/IMS helmet, and in my opinion is more streamlined than the Bauer 9900. The new locations for the tools-free adjustment are well-placed, and the helmet has a good, classic look to it.

Here are a few shots of the Re-AKT next to one of my 5500s. The Re-AKT is on the left with the cage. Try not to judge the miles on the 5500:

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As you can see, long-time Bauer helmet users should be very pleased with the look of the original Re-AKT.

HH Score: 9.0

Performance

If you are picking out a Hockey Helmet for yourself or someone else, a main performance feature to look for regardless of price-point is an Occipital Lock. I’ve found that an O-Lock on both the Re-AKT and my 11K improves fit tremendously, especially compared to something less advanced such as a Bauer 5500. A snug lid is going to be a major asset in injury prevention.

Aside from an O-Lock – and I found the lock on the Re-AKT to work just as well as the Micro-Dial lock on my 11K – I have to take the manufacturers at their word that the science is cutting edge. When CCM enlists the University of Ottawa to help make the Resistance all-but-bulletproof, I have to believe that’s not fabricated marketing. The same obviously holds true for Bauer.

The Re-AKT has temple adjustments just like the 5500/7500, with the adjustment lock cleverly hidden on the crown of the helmet. I missed it the first time I used the Re-AKT, and was wondering why I wasn’t getting a great fit with just the O-Lock. Quick, find the writer who’s obviously been to the Quiet Room one too many times in his career.

The Re-AKT offers “Rotational Force Management”, which as an Emergency Care provider I know accounts for a higher percentage of head injuries than direct blows. This is the sort of tech that’s obviously not woven into helmets further down the pricing hierarchy.

As I’ve written before, I didn’t start banging my head off cars in the rink parking lot to test it’s durability, but I do get into the corners during games and receive a fair amount of jostling. Once I had both the temples and the O-Lock properly adjusted, the Re-AKT provided worry-free protection.

HH Score: 9.5

Value

With Helmets, Value is in the eye of the purchaser.

I have a friend who prioritizes his brain health much more appropriately than I do. He not only purchased the IMS 11.0 shortly after it’s release, but eagerly awaited the release of the CCM Resistance (as well as the Re-AKT and Re-AKT 100, presumably). Smarter people than me don’t even want to play around with the potential for concussions.

Then there’s me, owner of no less than 10 confirmed concussions, who continues to revert to the 15-year old tech seen in the Bauer 5000/5500 despite evidence to the contrary demanding that I upgrade.

To cite one example, I took a concussion from some tool in adult league on the weekend of my oldest friend’s wedding that potentially could have been stemmed by an elite-level helmet such as the Re-AKT. I spent her wedding muttering to myself like Rain Man and fighting the urge to throw up every 20 minutes, to say nothing of additional long-term neurological damage that a helmet like the Re-AKT might have  helped prevent.

While I recognize that it’s smart business to upgrade my chosen helmet, the old-timer in me is screaming “Mark Messier played 25 damn years in the NHL in a Mylec ball-hockey shell! Bobby Orr didn’t even wear a helmet! Keep your head up and maybe you wouldn’t get your bell rung!”

The thinker in me fully understands the value of an elite-level helmet such as the Re-AKT, but both the economist in me and my male-driven ego think I’m just fine with one of my 5500s or even my Reebok 11K. So once more, Value is in the eye of purchaser.

The original Re-AKT retained it’s $199.99 price-point even after the release of the Re-AKT 100. For the technology invested, the Re-AKT is reasonably-priced compared to other front-line helmets such as the CCM Resistance and the Re-AKT 100.

HH Score: 8.0

Personal Biases

I have absolutely no Personal Biases toward or against Bauer or the Re-AKT. As noted, my helmet-of-choice since I got to College has been the Bauer 5000/5500, but I also enjoy and use a number of CCM/Reebok helmets. If I were in the market for a new helmet and had discretionary income, I would absolutely consider the original Re-AKT.

Final Thoughts

The Re-AKT remains a major market option among elite-level helmets, and a high-value alternative to the $229 Resistance or $269 Re-AKT 100. If you opt to invest in the Re-AKT, you are very likely to get what you pay for, which is a top-level Hockey Helmet with outstanding protection.

HH Overall Score: 9.0

Thanks for reading. Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

 

Honest Hockey Review: Sher-Wood T90/T100 2nd Gen Hockey Stick

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(UPDATE 4/26/2016: the Sher-Wood T100 and T90 2nd Gen are covered along with many of the other sticks for 2016 in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

In my opinion, the most underrated Hockey Sticks on the Retail market continue to be Sher-Wood Hockey Sticks, and I continue to be one of their bigger customers/advocates. Sher-Wood composite sticks are currently available in two skews: the Rekker low-kick line, and the True Touch (TT) mid-kick line.

I’ve found most Sher-Wood sticks across multiple price-points to be very high-value purchases, and when I needed a twig on short notice, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Sher-Wood’s re-conceptualized performance stick for 2016, the T90 2nd Gen.

This Honest Hockey Review is a bit of a two-in-one, as I am reviewing both the Sher-Wood T90 2nd Gen and the Sher-Wood T100 2nd Gen. I broke the T90 2nd Gen two days after I purchased it, which in my experience was very unusual for a Sher-Wood stick.

I got to deal with Sher-Wood’s Warranty Department for the first time, as I 1) generally buy Pro Stock sticks and 2) have never previously broken a Retail Sher-Wood within the 30-Day Warranty window. I was very pleased with not only the ease and speed of Sher-Wood’s Warranty process, but also the fact that Sher-Wood upgraded me to a T100 2nd Gen for my trouble.

Below is my Honest Hockey review of both the Sher-Wood T90 2nd Gen and the Sher-Wood T100 2nd Gen. Constructive comments are always welcome.

Basis of Comparison

Kindly refer to this photo:

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The T100 2nd Gen, which arrived as a replacement for my broken T90 2nd Gen, is the two-tone black beauty situated in the middle. From left to right, those are three original T100s (black/red), a T100 Pro Stock, a T90 Pro Stock, an EK9 Rekker, a bunch of Nexon N8s, a 9950 Iron-Carbon, a few 7000 Feather-Lites, a 5030, and the broken T90 2nd Gen.

That collection is just what I currently have on hand, and it’s fair to say I am an authority on Sher-Wood Hockey Sticks. If you want to talk Sher-Wood, I’m your guy.

Almost every Sher-Wood I use is a 95 or 105 Flex PP77 (Coffey), cut to an identical length. My backup Blade Pattern in Sher-Wood is actually the PP09 (Ryan I) AKA the Kova-Launcher.

First Impression – T90 2nd Gen

Both in the store and at the rink, the T90 2nd Gen felt indistinguishable from one of my Retail T100s. I repeatedly switched the two off between hands, trying to find the slightest difference in Balance or Weight, and I could not.

On the ice, the T90 2nd Gen played identically to one of my original T100 Retail sticks, with the difference being the fresh pop on the brand-new T90. I was impressing the hell out of the retirees and high-school kids who joined me at a Noon Pick-Up Hockey session, as I was picking corners with authority.

I was so pleased with the purchase that I planned to circle back to the Total Hockey that I purchased the stick from and pair it with another, as the T90 2nd Gen for some reason had been discounted to about $100 (?!!?).

Second Impression – T90 2nd Gen

The next day, I again attended the Noon Pick-Up session at a local rink. The T90 2nd Gen continued to handle/shoot very well. I got into a short-side pick-up game with a handful of guys, and while I was making a routine shot-pass, the blade of the T90 2nd Gen flew off the end of the shaft:

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This is the first time that I’ve ever seen this happen on a Sher-Wood composite. I’ve worn the blades and the sticks down heavily from thorough use, but I’ve never seen one break in-half in this way. I estimate I’ve used about two dozen Sher-Wood composites at various price-points since 2011.

To their credit, Sher-Wood was terrific in replacing the stick. I did not need to mail the broken stick back to Sher-Wood, and the process was zero hassle. The company requires you to fill out a relatively-short Warranty form, snap a few pics of the broken stick and the receipt, and inside of a week they have a new stick delivered to your door. Beautiful.

Sher-Wood was out of T90 2nd Gens in PP77 95 Flex Left, so I was upgraded to a T100 2nd Gen, free of charge. Thanks again, Sher-Wood.

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First Impression – T100 2nd Gen

After cutting it down to my standard length, I took out the T100 2nd Gen along with one of my original T100s and my Pro Stock T90, with the full intention of rotating the three:

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From left to right: 2013 Sher-Wood T90 Pro Stock, 2014 Sher-wood T100 Retail, 2016 T100 2nd Gen Retail.

I’ve used the original T100 enough to write a thesis on it, and my T90 Pro Stock probably remains the best stick I have on hand. The Retail T100 is a beaut, but the Puck Feel on my T90 Pro Stock (the one with the candy-cane tape-job) is just outstanding. I save the T90 Pro Stock for special occasions at this point.

Again, my plan was to rotate the three sticks. But after 30 seconds with the T100 2nd Gen, I couldn’t put it down.

My First Impression of the T90 2nd Gen was that it felt and played identically to my original T100s, and I was very pleased with it. But the T100 2nd Gen was a marked upgrade on both the original T100 and the T90 2nd Gen, and I adore both of those sticks.

In fact, my 1st Gen T100 even felt a bit sluggish after I switched back from the T100 2nd Gen. Puck Feel, Responsiveness, Pop, and Weight were all noticeably superior on the T100 2nd Gen, even accounting for the wear I had on my original T100.

I’ve never used a Sher-Wood T120, but my suspicion is that the T100 2nd Gen and the T120 play very similarly.

Eventually, I put the T100 2nd Gen down, for fear of some wayward clown at Stick-and-Puck cracking it. But my initial impression of the T100 2nd Gen was that it was all-around better than both my original and the T90 2nd Gen, both of which I think are great.

The Sher-wood T100 2nd Gen: Better Than Great.

Second Impression – T100 2nd Gen

The T100 2nd Gen continues to be the finest stick I’ve used in recent memory. Using the T100 2nd Gen after using one of my original T100 reminds me of upgrading from standard to high-definition television. It’s like having a 6th gear added to an already-fast vehicle. Amazing.

My number one complaint concerning both the Rekker and True Touch lines is that my preferred Blade Pattern/Flex – PP77/95 Flex/Grip – remains a chore to find at the Retail level. None of the major online equipment wholesalers currently have the T90 or T100 2nd Gen available for purchase in PP77/95 Flex/Left, even if I wanted to buy more. This has been an issue since the 2015 EK40 Rekker line was released.

Balance

As noted above, the T90 2nd Gen feels indistinguishable from my Retail T100s, which is to say it among the best-balanced sticks available on the Retail market. As noted repeatedly, I put more of a premium on Passing/Puckhandling/Touch, and I believe that Sher-Wood composites offer the best, most-traditional Puck Feel available.

The T100 2nd Gen made my T100s feel slightly-sluggish by comparison, and that’s a statement I would have considered blasphemous prior to reviewing the T100 2nd Gen. But in switching back and forth between the two, the T100 2nd Gen handled noticeably crisper, even accounting for the wear on my original T100s. I can’t imagine a Hockey Stick handling better.

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Durability

I’m convinced the break on the T90 2nd was a freak thing. I’ve used 20-25 Sher-Wood composites in the last several years, and I’ve never broken one in that way.

What tends to happen is that the sticks gradually lose pop. I picked up four Retail T100s in August 2014, and 18 months later I continue to use three of them. I’m on the ice an average of 3-5 times per week, so these sticks receive a heavy amount of use. The fact that I can continue to use them in game action speaks volumes about their durability.

But if I go at full bore, I “cook” a Sher-Wood composite pretty quickly. 95 Flex is a bit light for me, so even if I am conscientious about rotating the sticks, the sticks lose power pretty quickly. I’ve found I can get about 4-6 months out of a Sher-Wood composite before the wear leads to major inconsistency in my ability to shoot. All things considered, I have to say that’s pretty exceptional.

Sher-Wood composites are probably not the absolute best shooters available, but the Puck Feel/Touch remains strong after months and months of use.

HH Score – T90 2nd Gen/T100 2nd Gen: 9.0.

Looks

See the photos above. The T90 line is decked out in the Black/White scheme seen on the original Rekker line, while the T100 line is marked up in a savage Black/Red.

Once more, the T90 2nd Gen looks Fantastic, and the T100 2nd Gen looks Better Than Fantastic. When the Rekker line debuted in Black/White, in my review of the Rekker EK9 I referred to the look of the line as “all business”, which holds true on the two-tone Black/White T90. But both the T100 and the T100 2nd Gen look menacing in the Black/Red scheme.

HH Score – T90 2nd Gen: 9.0.

T100 2nd Gen: 10.0.

Performance

I am sounding very repetitive at this point. The 2016 T90 2nd Gen/2014 T100 play very, very well. I could use those sticks for the rest of my Hockey-Playing life and feel great about it.

The 2016 T100 2nd Gen plays like those sticks on speed. It’s noticeably lighter – the T100 2nd Gen is listed at 430 grams compared to the 454-gram T90 2nd Gen – but even dismissing the weight difference, the crispness of the shooting action and the effortless handling of the puck is almost artistic. The T100 2nd Gen is a clear upgrade in all respects over the T90 2nd Gen/original T100.

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Personal Biases

I almost titled this article, How I Fell in Love with Sher-Wood Hockey Sticks”. I’ll enter a purchase saying I’m going to try a True stick or a Bauer stick, but the fact of the matter is that I am very comfortable with Sher-Wood sticks. Until Sher-Wood gives me a reason to really consider a switch – for example, if PP77 remains harder to find than a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket – I’ll be a dedicated Sher-Wood customer.

As Reboot Hockey readers know, I periodically review other Hockey Sticks in the interest of objectivity. But I always circle back to Sher-Wood because I believe they deliver the best product at the best price.

Lastly, as noted above I tend to purchase Pro Stock sticks, for reasons discussed in the article “Pro Stock vs. Retail: Which to Buy?” I think because Pro Stock sticks tend to greatly outperform Retail sticks, and because I can typically purchase Pro Stock sticks at a significantly-lower cost, it has maybe compromised my ability to fairly evaluate a Retail Hockey Stick. Compared to most Pro Stock sticks, a lot of Retail sticks seem expensive and sometimes underwhelming. Just sharing in the interest of full disclosure.

Value

Anyone who knows me or has read anything I’ve written knows at least one thing about me: I am extremely value-conscious. Value is the factor that will determine your purchase, and what really separates the T90 2nd Gen and the T100 2nd Gen.

The T100 2nd Gen is a tremendous, tremendous stick, but at their current suggested Retail price-points of $179 and $139, I think the T90 2nd Gen is actually an equal or better value.

Compared to what is currently being asked on the Retail market for a CCM Ultra Tacks ($269.99) or a Bauer Supreme 1S ($279.99), I think the T100 2nd Gen is priced very reasonably. I’ve never used a Supreme 1S, but there is no way you or anyone else will ever convince my wallet that the Supreme 1S or the CCM Ultra Tacks outperforms the T100 2nd Gen by a margin of $90-$100.

You may have more disposable income, or go through sticks at a less-rapid rate than me. But at a Retail price of $179, the T100 2nd Gen would be a rare treat for me, rather than a stick I would routinely purchase.

For some bizarre/fortuitous reason, the T90 2nd Gen I purchased had been discounted by about 25%. The T100 2nd Gen is a masterpiece, but the T90 2nd Gen is no slouch. As written above, I’ve happily used a pack of Retail T100s for the past year-and-a-half, and the T90 2nd Gen plays identically to those. The T90 2nd Gen is a steal at anything close to $100, and very competitively-priced at $139.

I’ve written before that I prefer Pro Stock sticks because of the disparity in Value between Pro Stock and Retail. But I paid a little under $100 for my Retail T90 2nd Gen, and with the Warranty protection (combined with Sher-Wood’s efficiency/speed in replacing the broken stick), I have to consider that a very high-value purchase.

Don’t let my new-found obsession with the T100 2nd Gen mislead you: the T90 2nd Gen is a great Hockey Stick. You can probably pick one or two up for around $100 a pop and be ecstatic with them.

HH Score – T90 2nd Gen: 9.5. T100 2nd Gen: 8.0.

Final Thoughts

Like every other sector of Hockey Equipment, the number of choices – particularly on the Retail market – is narrowing. As I write this, your current major options are one of the CCM or Bauer skews, the upstart STX and True Hockey stick lines, the in-limbo Easton Hockey line, Warrior, and of course Sher-Wood.

If you are not beholden to one of the other lines, Sher-Wood Hockey Sticks come highly recommended at most price-points. Sher-Wood sticks continue to have a distinct feel, and perform in a fundamentally-different way, than most of the sticks available on the market. If you are someone who regularly shells out $270 for a stick, you may be thrilled with how the T90 2nd Gen performs at half the price. The T100 2nd Gen is a beaut, and I feel strongly that it compares favorably to anything available on the Retail market.

HH Overall Scores

Sher-Wood T90 2nd Gen: 9.1

Sher-Wood T100 2nd Gen: 9.4

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy Honest Hockey Reviews or want to learn more about equipment, check out the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual and Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

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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

Honest Hockey Review: Reebok 11K Helmet

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(UPDATE: a comprehensive Helmet overview is available in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. Most of the 2014/2015 helmets are covered.)

Overview

The Reebok 11K is a pro-level helmet offering from Reebok that originally debuted in advance of the 2011-12 NHL Season. While helmets released in the same time period such as the CCM V10, the Bauer 9900, and the Messier M11 have since been discontinued or reconstituted, the 11K was a top-seller as recently as 2014.

It remains to be seen how or if CCM will re-brand the helmet as they have with other Reebok lines (such as the RibCor), but I’ve had multiple retailers confirm that the 11K has been among their strongest sellers over the last few years. It appears the current 11K will be discontinued as the Reebok name is phased out, but it’s very possible CCM will release a revamped version of the helmet later in the year or early in 2016.

(UPDATE: 8/18/2015: it appears CCM will continue to offer the Reebok 11K for the 2015-16 season, which speaks to the helmet’s enduring popularity.)

(Update 4/26/2016: the 11K and other Reebok helmets have been re-conceptualized by CCM as FitLite helmets.)

The 11K line is quite popular on the whole, and 11K protective has a Jofa-like following in the aftermarket. While I don’t like to pay exorbitant prices for used hockey equipment, I was able to pick up an almost-new 11K at a reasonable price. I opted to resell the helmet, but I used it long enough to write a brief Honest Hockey Review for Reboot Hockey. 

Basis of Comparison

As mentioned previously, I’ve mainly used two helmet models during my playing career: the Bauer 5000/Nike Bauer 5500, and the Jofa 390. Having said that, I’ve branched out over the last few years and picked up different style helmets when available in the interest of education.

For example, I picked up a pro stock CCM V10 helmet about a year and a half ago, which was released at the same time as the original Reebok 11K. I grabbed a Tron 20K because it cost less than dinner from Denny’s. I bought and quickly resold a pair of Bauer 9900 helmets. I recently picked up a CCM V08. I finally sent my college helmet Red Rampage into retirement, eventually swapping it out for a red V10.

I also happened upon a lot of Reebok 8Ks, one of which I gave to Reboot partner Randy and another that I gave to our clownish goaltender for when he skates out. I kept one for myself and have tooled around in it, but it hasn’t seen major game action because I haven’t done the color modification that Randy did to his.

(UPDATE: Randy rebooted my 8K, and it looks gorgeous.)

For what it’s worth, Randy raves about the 8K, and the fact I greased him with it a while back has no doubt prolonged our friendship, such as it is.

Reboot partner Mark also uses the 11K helmet and loves it. At some point, I’ll get a few words from Mark about the 11K, but he’s harder to pin down than a greased pig, so don’t hold your breath waiting for his go-ahead.

(UPDATE: 6/15/2015: I re-sold the red 11K depicted below, but I found another 11K in the Reboot Hockey/Misfits Hockey Black-and-Silver scheme. Given how auspicious this was, I’ve of course kept the Black/Silver 11K. Having owned two of them and used the 11K for a longer period of time, I think this Review now carries more weight.)

(UPDATE 8/10/15: along with the 11K, I happened upon a Bauer Re-AKT (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) and an Easton E700, which was their pro-level helmet for 2015. My notes on the E700 are posted below.)

In any event, I’ve probably – strike that, literally – spent half of my life wearing hockey helmets, and I can tell the difference between a good one and a bad one. In the CCM V10, CCM V08, Bauer Re-AKT, and Reebok 8K, I’ve also used a number of directly-comparable helmets within the past year.

Looks

reebok11khelmetbksv

The 2014 2015 11K comes in a wide variety of Shell/Insert color schemes. While the retail Shell colors are pretty standard (Black, White, Navy, Royal, Red), the 11K can be purchased a wide variety of different accent colors. If a player cannot find the color combination he or she wants, Reebok also released 11K sticker kits in a variety of colors.

The helmet is sharp without being gaudy. It has a classic, understated look. The liner features Reebok’s signature RibCor lime-green color, which helps immediately separate it from other offerings on the shelf.

Here are a few pics of the 11K I purchased, Red with Red inserts, next to its cousin the CCM V10:

019

020

The 11K may not be as distinct as something like a Jofa 366 or a Messier M11, but helmets aren’t designed for aesthetics. The 11K looks good, and comes in enough color combos to reasonably satisfy any player.

HH Score: 9.0

Fit

The 11K has tools-free adjustment at the temples, and has a very handy version of Occipital Lock called Micro-Dial II. This improves fit tremendously without adding advanced wizardry to the helmet-fitting process.

I have two CCM Vector 10 helmets, neither of which have an Occipital Lock. The V10 happens to fit my head well, but I believe the 11K offers a more-secure overall fit for most players.

The 11K uses a material called Flex-Liner on the inside of the helmet, which is similar to many of the low-density foams seen on high-end hockey helmets. Flex-Liner seems space-age compared to the standard foam seen in something like a CCM V08 or a Bauer 4500. The 11K is noticeably lighter than the Bauer 5000/5500s I usually wear, to the degree that I felt like I was wearing a Jofa broomball helmet.

The two main complaints I have of both the Easton E-Series and the Bauer 9900 helmets are that they’re 1) a bit bulky-looking and 2) adjusting the helmet’s liner becomes a feat of engineering. This is not an issue at all with Reebok’s O-Lock, which tightens the helmet around the back portion of your head with a few clicks of a dial. So simple, even I can use it properly.

(UPDATE 8/10/15: I got my hands on an Easton E700 helmet, which is a major leap in fit from the Easton E600. The Easton E700 is just about the lightest helmet I’ve gotten my hands on, and fits much better/differently than the E600.)

(UPDATE 9/15/15: I quickly re-sold the E700 after a gentleman in Minnesota offered me five times what I paid for it. This came to the chagrin of Reboot partner Randy, who had low-balled me with an offer of $25 for it. Randy didn’t talk to me for weeks afterward, which is a testament to how nice the E700 is.

eastone700

I won’t be writing a full review on the E700, but here are my thoughts:

I can’t talk about how protective the E700 is, but the E700 was by far the lightest and most-comfortable helmet I had on hand. I had it sitting next to a Reebok 8K, 11K, Randy’s M11, and a CCM V10, and the comfort/weight of the E700 was by far the best.

The E700 comes in an array of color options, including Matte options. I don’t care for the Matte, but the Matte finish does make the E700 look distinct. The liner is “Giro” inspired, and an elastic netting wraps the back of your head to ensure fit and optimize comfort.

While Randy loved the weightlessness of the helmet, it felt to me like I was wearing tin foil. I can’t deny how comfortable the E700, but the lack of heft would probably make me nervous in a contact game.

One of our Reboot teammates had purchased an Easton E600, and it had zero appeal to me. I thought it fit poorly and was mediocre in overall quality. I was very surprised at the large quality jump from the E600 to the E700.

The E700 is being closed-out, and as I write this you can possibly pick one up for $60-$70, if you can find one in your size. It’s a very nice lid, again noting that I didn’t run any IMPACT concussion studies in it. Back to the 11K review.)

Because I’m used to the Bauer 5000, I sometimes look at certain helmets and immediately think of the Great Gazoo. The Tron 20K, for example, looks pretty over-sized. It’s not a primary consideration, but the Reebok 11K looks proportional.

gazoo
The O-Lock is my favorite feature on the 8K, and the 11K features a fine-tuned version of the same feature. In fact, it would be fair to say that the 11K is a beefed-up 7K/8K in most respects, excluding weight. It’s hard to imagine a better-fitting helmet, which no doubt contributes to it’s popularity.

HH Score: 10.0

Durability

I didn’t go out and start ramming my head into the boards in the 11K for the greater glory of Reboot Hockey, and being a mere A-leaguer I didn’t receive a ton of contact while wearing the 11K. I also did not keep the 11K long before reselling it, so I’m going to decline to give it a score in Durability. However, I will say that the 11K I used was very well-constructed, and I would have no safety concerns using it in a contact game.

(Note: this explains in a nutshell why I kept the 11K for myself and sold the E700. The E700 is lighter, but the 11K feels “sturdier” to me. I would have more confidence in taking a head hit wearing the 11K. Just my opinion.)

(UPDATE 11/2/2015: I’ve worn my Black/Silver 11K quite a bit now, and it would be a stretch to say that the 11K provides the protection of the meticulously-research CCM Resistance. But the 11K provides a very secure fit, and I have great confidence in using it.)

HH Score: 9.0

Performance

Again, it’s difficult to grade a helmet’s performance in mostly non-contact play. I will say that the helmet is basically weightless, fits incredibly well, and was a complete non-factor – meaning no pesky in-game adjusting – while I was using it.

Helmets are like insurance, and it’s hard to measure a how well a helmet performs without a series of impact tests. What a player should consider when selecting a helmet is how confident he or she is while using the helmet, and how well the helmet fits.

(UPDATE 7/22/15: I took an elbow to the back of the head about a month ago while wearing one of my Bauer 5000s, and am currently recovering from an undiagnosed concussion. Would the 11K have prevented the concussion? Impossible to say, but concussion prevention is a good argument for upgrading your helmet every year or two.) 

(UPDATE 8/18/15: I was able to pick up another 11K on the cheap, which Randy and I rebooted. It’s black with silver highlights, which of course matches the Reboot Hockey color scheme, so I will probably hang onto it.

I did hang onto it. Everything I previously wrote holds true. The 11K is a really nice lid. If you can get your hands on one, it comes highly recommended.)

HH Score: 9.5

Final Considerations

If you are one of those who has to make a lot of your hockey equipment purchases online, I think the Reebok 11K is a very sound choice. It’s a marked upgrade over mid-level helmets such as the CCM V08 or the Bauer 4500, it’s considerably less-expensive than a helmet like the CCM Resistance, and the features Reebok implemented on the 11K are going to accommodate a lot of different head shapes.

The 11K is an elite helmet on par with the Bauer IMS 11.0, and the current suggested retail price for those helmets is around $160-$180 U.S. I can verify that you’re certainly getting a very nice helmet for the price, but there are players who simply don’t have that kind of cash to sink into a helmet. If you are not playing in a contact league, you may do just fine with a performance-level helmet such a Reebok 7K or a Bauer 7500.

Reebok 11K protective gear is notorious for fetching large sums on the aftermarket, as lots of pros prefer the 11K line for the same reasons they prefer the now-extinct Jofa line of equipment. The 11K is a great helmet, but you’re almost better off going the retail route versus trying to find one secondhand, as aftermarket prices will be high.

The Reebok name is being phased out of performance hockey sales, and as I write this in early June 2015, the Reebok 11K has been closed out. If you are considering a helmet purchase and have a bit of discretionary income to put into a helmet, the Reebok 11K comes highly recommended.

(UPDATE: CCM kept the 11K for 2015, no doubt due to demand and sales. For 2016, CCM is repackaging the 11K in the CCM FitLite line, which is already seen on professional players.)

HH Final Score: 9.5

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy this type of content, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

Pro Stock vs. Retail Equipment: Which to Buy?

(UPDATE 4/26/2016: Many of the additional differences between Pro Stock and Retail Hockey Equipment are covered along in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

If you’ve participated in Hockey for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “Pro Stock” bandied about by fellow players. Pro Stock equipment is made for professional players, and often times excess or unused equipment finds it’s way into the hands of amateur or adult-league players.

Pro Stock equipment is generally made for one specific player or team. While the quality of Pro Stock gear is usually outstanding compared to most Retail products – meaning those you can purchase online or at your Local Hockey Shop – it can be extremely different from most products available commercially.

Here is an overview of some of the differences between Pro Stock and Retail hockey equipment, as well as Reboot Hockey’s overview on which way you may want to consider purchasing:

Skates

Let me first get this out of the way: if you are going to pick one place to bite the bullet and overpay for a piece of Hockey equipment, do yourself a favor and buy your skates at a quality Local Hockey Shop. Invest the additional dollars you might save purchasing online or aftermarket in the shop itself, knowing that you are getting an educated perspective, a personalized fitting, and likely continuous adjustments if you have problems with your skates.

After all, no piece of Hockey equipment is more personalized than skates. This makes buying Pro Stock skates a tricky proposition, to say the least. I’ll use my personal situation as a token example:

One of my favorite skates is the CCM U+Pro. Here’s my pair of the U+ Pro Reloaded next to my Reebok 11Ks:

upro11k

I have a TUUK Lightspeed 2 holder on my U+Pros, but otherwise they are Retail. Notice the silver Eyelet Row and the lack of lace-lock (as opposed to the 11Ks, which have a lace-lock at the 4th eyelet). The quarter-package is Retail Stiff and has already shown signs of breaking down under my 210-lb frame.

By comparison, here’s a Pro Stock pair of CCM U+ Pros made for Loui Eriksson:

prostockupro

Loui’s skates are 9.5 D/A, meaning that a heel cup has been made for the player to improve fit and heel lock. This is seldom seen on Retail skates any more, as Retail skates are actually made to fit “most” feet in a given length/width. Many if not most Pro Stock skates have heel size specification, commonly something like E/A or D/A. You will regularly see obscure heel width such as AA or B on Pro Stock skates.

Loui has had the Retail Eyelet Row removed and had a leather or polyurethane piece stitched into the skate, as well as lace-locks on the 4th row. Ironically enough, I went to Reboot partner Mark with a request for this exact modification. I love the fit I get from the U+Pro/U-Foam around the quarter-package area, but I have always wanted the traditional-style leather/faux-leather Eyelet Row seen on older CCM and Graf skates. I’ve never done this mod because I haven’t yet found a leathered pair to rip up, but it’s been on my to-do list for quite a while.

(Note: it appears CCM/Reebok has put this pro-style Eyelet Row on the 2015 CCM RibCore 50K. The 48K and all skates beneath it seem to have the composite eyelet row seen on previous late-model CCM/RBK skates.)

Interestingly enough, Brenden Morrow has this same modification, along with an A heel cup. I guess both feel, as I do, that the Retail Eyelet Row on the U+Pro inhibits traditional foot-wrap. Both prefer the traditional D/A configuration that was commonly seen on skates in the 1990s and prior.

Loui uses the CCM/RBK E-Pro holder and has his #21 stamped on the back, and he uses the standard Pro Reloaded tongue. I am also sure the Pro Stock U+Pro is significantly stiffer than the Retail version, but otherwise they look quite similar.

Pro Stock skates are highly-individualized, and you will frequently see skates that are L: 8.75 D/A R: 9.25 C/AA, or sized in a similar way. This is great if you happen to have identical foot dimensions to the pro player in question, but 99% of the time that’s not the case.

Former Edmonton Oiler/LA Kings forward Ryan Smyth wears two different sized skates: his left skate is a Size 9 1/4 and his right skate is a Size 8 1/2. Forefoot width is a C and heel width is an A. This is obviously very unique, and very, very few players could comfortably play in these. This is a good example of why Retail is a better option for most players for skates.

Here is a pic of another pair of Pro Stock skates, in this case a pair made for Dion Phaneuf:

RBK_Phaneuf

These are a pair of Reebok 9Ks made for or worn by Dion Phanuef earlier in his career. The skates are heavily reinforced along the outsole, appear to be double-stitched, have had a TUUK Lightspeed 2 holder put onto them (in place of the Reebok E-Pro holder), had Nash Sniper tongues sewn in, and have had Dion’s #3 stitched onto the heel.

This is a pretty specialized pair of skates. I have no first-hand information, but I’ve read Dion uses a standard 10D skate. He has had these skates heavily-customized with different holders, tongues, and specs from the 9K Retail version.

Most amateur players are not going to be able to reap a performance benefit going from an RBK E-Pro holder to a Bauer TUUK LS2. If anything, some players might notice the 9′ factory radius on an LS2 versus the 10′ factory radius seen on an E-Pro. But the work done on these 9Ks is fairly advanced customization, and not needed for many recreational players.

Most people are probably better going the Retail route and having a baking/fitting done by a smart Pro Shop employee. Higher-end Retail skates are so heat-moldable that they can be very highly-customized. Unless you have a ridiculous pair of feet (cough, cough), you can probably find a Retail model that fits you just fine.

If you are one those people who has obnoxious feet (cough) that don’t seem to fit into any of the standard Retail offerings, I suggest you look at my article on How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates. Even then, I think most people are better starting down the Retail route, or saving themselves time and going full Custom, than chasing Pro Stock models.

Verdict: Retail. The feet of most Hockey Players are highly unique, and purchasing a pair of Pro Stock skates is often gambling, at best, in terms of finding a proper fit. The materials themselves – minus a Pro Stock perk such as Clarino liners or a custom holder/tongue – are going to be very similar to those seen on high-end Retail skates. Unless you have the opportunity to try the skates on and know exactly what you’re looking for, you’re probably better going the Retail route.

Sticks

towes-nameplate-no-logo-2(Image courtesy of Prostockhockey.com)

Some companies try to deliver professional-quality sticks at the Retail level, while others shrug and save their best work for the pros themselves. My experience has been that Pro Stock sticks are generally much more durable than their Retail counterparts, and come with a noticeable performance upgrade. The question comes down to availability and value.

The puck feel on Pro Stock sticks is often top notch. Composite sticks are always a crap-shoot to begin with, but you push the odds in your favor by investing in a professional-grade stick. Again, you do not have any kind of Warranty or store-return protection if you absolutely hate the stick, but going with Pro Stock increases the likelihood you’ll be pleased with your purchase.

Pro Stock sticks often come with highly-customized blade patterns, so this can be a good or bad thing depending on how well you like a particular pattern. I will say that the quality of the stick itself is usually so high that you as a player will spend less time compensating for the pattern itself, and more time shooting and stick-handling on autopilot.

Just to overwhelm you, here’s a Reebok chart showing off some of their Pro blade patterns:

reebok-hk-pro-10k-sk2-blade-chart

That’s just one company’s chart from one particular year. It only gets more confusing from there.

One advantage of Retail sticks is that the blade patterns are relatively-consistent. You can expect an Easton E3 on a Mako II stick to be very similar to an Easton E3 on an Easton HTX stick. But the quality of a Pro Stock stick itself is so high that unless a blade pattern is completely detrimental for the player in question, the Pro Stock stick becomes a major upgrade.

Now, a trap is buying or overpaying for a stick because you like a certain player, unless you intend to use it strictly as a collectible. My Reboot partner Mark purchased a pair of Warrior Pro Stock sticks because he and the player have the same last name, but the sticks sit unused in his office because they are way too short for Mark. The Pro’s pattern is also an H20/open-wedge, and it’s comical to watch Mark try to shoot with it.

Meanwhile, paying $500 for a used Evgeni Malkin stick – as cool as it would be to have – is a bad investment as a player because A) the stick is likely to break at any time, and B) Geno has ripped some slapshots with it, and likely softened it up quite a bit. I don’t recommend purchasing used sticks under any circumstance, unless the stick is being purchased as a collectible. A mid-level Retail stick is a better purchase than a used Pro Stock stick at the same dollar figure.

Retail sticks are almost always unused, and you of course get the instant gratification of walking right out of the hockey shop with your new purchase. But many Retail models are so inferior to their Pro Stock counterparts that it’s barely worth discussing.

Just as an example: I heaped praise on the 2014 Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker, as I believe the EK9 was the best stick released in 2014 at the $100-$120 price-point. However, the Sher-Wood T90 Pro – which I purchased for a very similar price – is such a quantum leap from the EK9 in terms of balance, weight, puck feel, and overall performance that it’s almost not worth discussing.

The only category in which the EK9 might challenge the T90 Pro is durability, as I got 6-7 months of heavy use from the EK9 before it began to lose it’s pop. That’s phenomenal for a Retail stick.

For reference, here are the tags from two Pro Stock Sher-Wood sticks next to my Retail EK9. Almost every Pro Stock stick I’ve seen has been stamped Pro Stock No Warranty, and many include the player’s personal tag:

032

(Note: I’ll review the Sher-Wood T90 and T100 Pro sticks in a future article, but take my word that most Pro Stock sticks are massive upgrades on their Retail counterparts.)

Next, I’ll have some fun at the expense of Reboot partner Randy and point out the advantage of going the Retail route:

Randy picked up a Bauer 1X, the 2015 high-end stick from the Bauer Vapor line. Due to some faulty reporting from an unnamed Online Hockey Warehouse, Randy purchased his 1X in the Giroux P28 pattern, which aficionados will recognize as an Easton E28/Ovechkin Pro (open-toe) clone. Randy ordinarily uses an E3/H11/P92/PP26, which is a pretty standard moderate-open mid-curve. In short, the P28 is a pretty big departure from the E3.

Like a kid at Christmas, I grabbed a spot on the bleachers at our local rink and waited with giddy anticipation for Randy to start launching – and I do mean launching – shots with his brand-new 1X. For educational purposes, I picked up the Easton Synergy 60 stick in an E28, and I know all too well how the open-toe pattern can send routine shots into the netting around the rink.

I didn’t get much of a chance to watch Randy shoot pucks over the glass, because he wasn’t on the ice for five minutes when the toe of his brand-new $260 1X got caught in a crack along the boards and snapped off. The tape wasn’t even wet on the just-purchased stick. Five minutes on the ice, never to be used again.

It was a clear sign from the Hockey Gods, who are obviously huge fans of Sher-Wood and for some reason find hubris in the P28. Randy’s face reddened up with rage like a thermometer as he glared at his clipped 1X before going back to his ever-dutiful EK15 Rekker. Bauer of course immediately replaced the 1X and Randy continues to adapt to the P28, but the takeaway point is this:

Had he paid anything similar to what he paid for his Retail 1X for a Pro Stock stick, it would have been like Randy jumped out of a plane with no parachute. Pro Stock sticks generally cost less than their Retail counterparts, but Retail sticks also have Warranty protection for instances such as this.

Randy lives in the big house on the wealthy end of town and wears shoes made of alligator (WOO!), so he can endure the loss of a $260 stick. Meanwhile, $260 is just about a three-month stick budget for me. If I paid anything close to that amount for a Geno Malkin Pro Stock stick and broke it immediately, I would have gone full Happy Gilmore.

The point being that Retail Warranty protection is certainly a consideration. If you are one of those who loves the Warranty protection of Retail and isn’t all that interested in digging around for Pro Stock gear, more power to you. But I’ve found that I actually get much better value going the Pro Stock route.

Verdict: Pro Stock. You absolutely see a big performance jump going from Retail sticks to Pro Stock sticks, even at the highest end of Retail. With Retail you have a window of Warranty protection, but Pro Stock sticks are simply better built top-to-bottom. Compared to a lot of other Pro Stock items – Protective, in particular – Pro Stock sticks are pretty affordable and available. I recommend you at least look into Pro Stock sticks prior to your next purchase.

Gloves

  1. Gloves are a signature piece of Pro Stock gear, because they generally come stamped with a specific player or team’s name on the cuff. Pro Stock gloves can also be highly customized compared to the Retail versions. Here are a few examples of custom jobs done on Pro Stock gloves:

nashwinnwell

These are a pair of Rick Nash’s gloves from his time in Columbus. To my knowledge, Rick is the only NHL player who sports Winnwell gloves. The #61 was sewn into the thumb and “Nash” was sewn into the collar. The collar goes high into the wrist for added protection.

ccmgloves

Here is a pair of CCM gloves meant to go with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ former 3rd (Navy) jerseys. The gloves have been heavily reinforced across the top of the hand with a slash guard/shot-block guard, and I strongly suspect they were made for a defenseman.

mainegloves

These gloves were obviously made for the University of Maine Black Bears. As you can see, U-M has one of the most distinctive color schemes in all of college sports. The gloves look quite a bit like Retail CCM U+ Crazy Light gloves, but obviously have added value due to their look and rarity.

hossagloves

Finally, these Warrior gloves were made for Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks. Unlike Rick Nash, who seems to prefer a higher cuff, Marian Hossa despises the cuff and has it shortened on his gloves. “Hossa Cuff” is a term tossed around by those in the know. You can clearly see “Hoss” on the short cuff along with Hossa’s #81 on the thumb.

Most Pro Stock gloves are not fundamentally different from Retail gloves prior to modification. Many players take advantage of the world-class equipment trainers on their professional or college teams, and have gloves bulked up, repalmed, lengthened, and shortened. It’s routine at the college/professional level to have the player or team’s name on the collar.

As a prospective buyer, the question becomes how much you will pay for a unique-looking or highly customized pair of gloves. The quality of high-end gloves at the Retail level has become so great that the differences between the Easton Pros you can buy at most hockey stores and the Easton Pros worn by Marian Gaborik are miniscule.

gaby

The choice material for palms by professionals is a high-grade material called Nash. Nash is tremendous for puck feel, but it’s somewhat expensive and not particularly durable.  When money is no object, Nash is the palm material of choice. The CCM 4R II/III, 2014 Easton Pros, and Bauer Nexus Pro gloves all use Nash palms in some variation.

Some palms gets overly technical – I’ve read the phrase “digital palms” more times than I would like – and while there is a quality difference between certain types of glove shells, finger gussets, etc, in the end gloves are relatively simple and serve the same purpose. Pro Stock gloves are sometimes a bad value because they can be identical to high-end Retail gloves, the difference being that a well-known player or team’s name is stitched into the collar.

While you will usually not see a big performance spike from high-end Retail gloves to Pro Stock gloves, you could simply want a pair of gloves from your favorite team. The custom colors of a team like the Maine Black Bears, the Swedish National Team, or even the Pittsburgh Penguins, can be difficult to find at the Retail level.

Verdict: Push. While there’s no performance bump to speak of going from Retail gloves to Pro Stock, with gloves it’s more about the look and the comfort level. Pro Stock gloves are almost like collectibles, and you can expect to pay accordingly – sometimes double or more the Retail price – due to relative scarcity.

Helmets/Protective

Let’s start with helmets first, since they’re unique among protective gear:

Surprisingly, Retail helmets are often more protective than non-modified Pro Stock helmet. As you know, Hockey Players are creatures of habit, and many of them who reach the professional level opt to wear the same style of helmet that they’ve worn since Junior or College.

Concussion awareness has brought a new level of safety to the Retail market, seen in helmets such as the CCM Resistance. The Resistance hit Retail shelves as a Suggested Value of $229 (!), but a little bit of investigating will show that the science behind the helmet is incredibly-sound. CCM has taken potential head injuries very seriously, and spared no expense in constructing the Resistance.

For some people, particularly those with a history of concussions or head injuries, a helmet like the Resistance or the Bauer IMS 11.0 Pro is going to be a great purchase. A player could conceivably get five or more years of use from a helmet, and given the serious nature of concussions, spending a bit more money in a helmet is simply a smart investment.

Now, as stated above, Hockey Players are creatures of habit. To use myself as an example, I’ve basically worn two helmets over the course of my 25-year playing career: the Jofa 390 (Forsberg/Jagr), and variations of the Bauer 5000/5500.

I have a number of other helmets at my disposal, including a Pro Stock CCM Vector 10.0, a Pro Stock Reebok 11K, and a Pro Stock Reebok 8K, but I just get optimal comfort from the Bauer 5000. I’ve tried beefed-up Bauer helmets such as the 7500 and 9900, and I’ve taken a look at the Cascade/IMS line, but at the end of the day I’m just most comfortable and confident in a Bauer 5000/5500.

Observant players will notice that a lot of Pros prefer the denser foam seen in helmets such as the Bauer 5100 or the CCM Vector 8.0 as opposed to the space-age materials seen in helmets like the IMS 11.0. This style of helmet lining is even called “pro-style” in many marketing materials. Here are Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk showing off pro-style helmet liners:

genostaalsy

Geno and Jordan Staal are admiring some of their handiwork. Geno is wearing something akin to a Bauer 9900 with pro-style lining (the beige, memory foam-like padding). Jordan Staal is rocking a broken nose because he didn’t have a visor on in 2011, though he wears one now. Which leads me to my point: put on a damn cage or visor.

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils

Here’s Kovy also sporting the pro-style liner on a Bauer 7500/9900. I suspect Geno and Kovy, among hundreds of other players, wear this style of helmet just because it’s what they were issued when they were 15 or 16 and grew comfortable with it.

Professional Hockey Players can’t be told what to do in most cases, so they often wear helmets that are far less protective than those seen at the Retail level. Before developing his own M11 helmet line, Mark Messier continued to wear his Cooper/WinnWell broomball helmet as recently as 2006. Teemu Selanne famously wore the Jofa 366 model years after the company was dissolved, much to the chagrin of the primary NHL sponsors. Notice the blacked-out Jofa logo:

teemu2

A Pro Stock helmet from an NHL player is more likely to be a collector’s item than a piece of equipment you would wear. A game-worn Evgeni Malkin helmet, for example, is going to cost a buyer no less than $300-$500, and is customized to Geno’s head. This makes it an impractical purchase for game use.

If you are looking at Pro Stock helmets, you are far more likely to see batches of helmets from Junior or minor-league hockey teams. Depending on your needs, you may be able to pick up a higher-end helmet for a fraction of the cost. A team-issued helmet would likely fit more like a standard Retail helmet than a NHL helmet crafted for a specific player.

A trap would be to overpay for a “Pro Stock” helmet. I’ve noticed Reebok 11K helmets – which admittedly are great lids – fetch a minimum of $100-$150 on the aftermarket. If the helmet has AHL/ECHL stickers, that adds another $50 to the purchase cost. Of a used hockey helmet.

My advice would be to look at Retail helmets first, especially if you are newer to the sport. Try on a number of different models from different manufacturers, and talk with someone reputable from a local hockey shop. If you are considering price, invest a bit more in a helmet, as it will be a piece of equipment that you can get years of use from. To this day, I still sometimes use my college helmet “Red Rampage”:

redrampage

As for the rest of the Protective equipment – shoulder pads, elbow pads, and shin-guards – I strongly recommend you stick to the Retail market.

The Pro Stock Protective market is by far the most overinflated. To start, take a look at Sidney Crosby’s shoulder pads:

shoulders1

Notice that Sid (not his friend holding Sid’s stick backwards) has had Reebok 7K/8K shoulder caps sewn onto the Jofa chest pad that’s probably worn since Junior or before. Alterations of this type are frequently seen at the professional level, as players frequently insist on comfort to an obsessive degree.

Here’s another Pro Stock mashup:

shoulders2

The player, much like Sid, has Warrior shoulder caps sewn onto a Jofa chest piece. This pic is also a good demonstration of how armored-up many modern NHL players are, with a double-flap extension sewn into the arm pad and a very cumbersome (by Retail standards) Jofa elbow pad.

Professional players are playing every other night on 60-82 game schedules, and often times laying in front of 100-MPH slapshots or hitting other 220-lb. players at full speed. NHL players take the ice in veritable suits of armor, especially compared to players of generations past. For giggles, check out this video of Brendan Shanahan, in which his “shoulder pads” are featured prominently:

Shanny isn’t really happy unless he or someone else is bleeding, so you can understand why he maybe prefers a less-bulky set of shoulder pads. But I digress.

Pro Stock shoulder pads, and professional-level Protective in general, are vastly different from their Retail counterparts. Some Protective equipment, notably discontinued Pro Stock Jofa equipment, can fetch ridiculous sums of money in the aftermarket.

As an example, I found a pair of 7k Pro Return – meaning unused Pro Stock – Jofa elbow pads available for the low, low price of $230. Jofa/older RBK gear has taken on a near-mythical status in the hockey equipment aftermarket, probably because so many older players grew up using Jofa protective.

Some players with discretionary income will see the value in an admittedly-great pair of elbows like these Pro Return 7Ks, but most beer-league superstars will do just fine with Retail protective gear.

Conclusion

As always, my interest lies in educating fellow Hockey players and parents, and keeping consumers as well-informed as possible. You can’t go into a locker room anymore without someone spouting off about the “Pro Stock” stick or skates they picked up, and I’m interested most in helping Reboot Hockey readers weigh the merits of purchasing Pro Stock versus Retail.

“Pro Stock” is a very undefined and nebulous term. Any equipment that has passed through the hands of an organized team’s trainer is by definition “Pro Stock”, and there is a community of people who make their living obtaining and reselling “Pro Stock” hockey equipment.

Reboot Hockey is predicated on making needed and requested equipment modifications, so I am not criticizing the value of all Pro Stock hockey gear. But you should know as a consumer that the market for Pro Stock gear is quite inflated, as Pro Stock gear is often a combination of a collectible and the highest-quality product available.

In many cases, Pro Stock equipment will be noticeably higher in quality than Retail hockey gear. It’s not always the case, and often times well-used gloves or helmets are pawned off as “Pro Stock” in the interest of commanding greater value. But unused Pro Stock, or Pro Return gear, can be a great value based on the quality of the equipment. Read up and make informed choices before purchasing.

As for the Retail side:

Hockey as a sport has been hit hard at the Retail level. Hockey is not recession-proof, and as you know it’s very expensive to play. This has squeezed a lot of equipment manufacturers at the Retail level, most of whom made healthy profit margins in the 1990s/early-2000s. There are simply less players playing, and those that continue to play aren’t spending as lavishly as they once did.

Long-time players will note that many of the brands from their youth – Koho, Jofa, Canadien, Micron, Louisville, Mission – are no longer in production. Most have been assimilated by the industry juggernauts, and some companies have simply gone under. We are at the point that five or six companies are producing the majority of all Retail equipment. This isn’t ideal from a Competitive Market perspective.

Compounding the fewer total-dollars problem at the Retail level is the fact that Online Hockey Equipment Wholesalers – I won’t site names – have killed the margin of profit for the Retailers. By continuously offering 15-20% off MAP (Minimum Advertised Price), the Online Wholesalers have dealt a body-blow to Local Hockey Shops by 1) skimming the margin of profit razor-thin, and 2) circumventing local State Sales Tax in most cases.

I’m not going to continue to bore you with an Economics thesis, but there has been a major adjustment in how Hockey Equipment Retailers do business. Retailers are forced to charge more because Online Wholesalers are underselling them by a minimum of 15-20%, which is significant when you’re talking about a $700-$800 pair of hockey skates or a $260 composite stick. As a result, the sticker price for quality Retail hockey equipment has never been higher.

In any event, most consumers today are extremely value-conscious, and Hockey Players (or their parents) are no different. Finding the best product for the best price has become an ongoing project for most people involved in the sport. Helping to break down some of the advantages and differences between Retail and Pro Stock hockey gear is the primary goal of this article.

As always, feel free to provide intelligent feedback. Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and look for future articles on all things Hockey-related.

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Easton Pro 4 Roll Hockey Gloves (2014)

eastonpros

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Overview

This is my review of the Easton Pro (2014) Hockey Glove. The Easton Pro is a marked upgrade on several recent retail releases by Easton, including the underwhelming EQ Pro and the Total Hockey-exclusive Total Pro.

The Easton Pro differs from Easton’s other flagship lines, the Mako and the Synergy lines, in terms of Aesthetics and Fit. The Easton Pro is a direct comparable to traditional-style 4-Roll gloves such as the Bauer Nexus 800/4-Roll Pro, the CCM 4-Roll Pro II/III, and the Reebok 9000/4-Roll Pro. The design is very classic, while the Fit is somewhat wider. Like many Pro-style gloves, the Easton Pro uses a Nash palm, which is an exceptional upgrade over materials found on lower-end gloves.

Basis of Comparison

I did a lengthy review of CCM’s Pro 4-Roll II from 2013 here. The Pro II is fundamentally similar to Reebok releases such as the Reebok 9000 4-Roll and the Reebok 4-Roll Pro. I have even seen the red Pro II liner on both the Reebok 9000 and 4-Roll Pro, and I feel comfortable writing that these lines of CCM/Reebok gloves are going to fit very similarly.

I’ve never purchased a Reebok 4-Roll Pro or 9000, but I do own a pair of Pro Stock Reebok 852T 4-Roll gloves. The 852T has Pro-style Fit dimensions and palm quality (naturally), but I’m pleased to note that the retail Pro-level gloves recently offered from CCM/Reebok, Bauer, and Easton compare very favorably.

The other comparable glove currently available on the retail market would be the Bauer Nexus 800 4-Roll/4-Roll Pro, which like the CCM Pro II and the Easton Pro is a traditional volume-fit 4-roll.

While all three offer a similar fit, my view is that the CCM Pro II offers the most roomy fit while the Easton Pro offers the snuggest fit. All three are terrific gloves and share a lot of the same fundamentals, but if you have access to all three gloves you can notice subtle differences.

I may eventually do a full review of the Bauer Nexus 800 4-Roll, but as of yet I have not written one.

Also, it should go without saying, but I’ve used dozens upon dozens of hockey gloves over the years, including 5-10 Easton gloves. I have commitment issues.

Looks

Here is a color chart for the 2014 Easton Pro:

eastonProGlovesColorChart

In the past Easton has offered up to a dozen color variations on a given glove, but for the 2014 Pro they opted for a very trimmed-down selection. CCM did something similar for their 2014 Pro III 4-Roll, paring down the color choices from thirteen on the 2013 4-Roll Pro II to eight for the yellow-palmed 2014 Pro III:

ccm-4r-pro-iii-sr-hockey-gloves-59

4-Roll gloves are something of a niche item, in that veteran players are going to greatly prefer them while newer or younger players may find them too bulky. Easton certainly offers the 2014 Pro in enough color variations to satisfy most customers.

The Easton Pro comes in a really sharp Royal, which I almost purchased to match our prior adult league team, P.T.’s Grille. However, Reboot Hockey ultimately sponsored our 2014 Fall League team, and we opted to go with the LA Kings Black/White/Silver scheme. I purchased the Easton Pro in the Black/White to match.

When I made the purchase, I immediately pictured Marian Gaborik, who has worn Easton gloves for a number of years. Here’s Gabby sporting the Easton Pro for the Kings:

gaborik3

Black is never a bad choice for hockey gloves, and noting my personal bias, I think the Black/White, Royal, and Red/White/Blue schemes are the strongest offerings on the Easton Pro.

The palms on the 2014 Easton Pro are luxurious black Nash. It’s a high-quality material that looks great aesthetically on all of the color schemes. I slightly prefer the beige Nash on the 2013 CCM Pro II, but both are extremely high-quality palms. The black Nash looks good on the Black/White Pros, but looks really sharp on the Royal glove.

HH Rating: 8.5

Fit

The Easton Pros were quite soft right off the rack, but did require a 2-3 skate break-in period. As noted above, the 2014 Easton Pro offers the most-snug fit of the three primary retail 4-Roll offerings for 2014.

Having said that, the Easton Pro immediately reminds me of memory foam, in that the inside of the glove contours to the user’s hand. While I prefer the looser fit of both the CCM 4-Roll Pro II and the Bauer 4-Roll Pro, there’s no way I can criticize the professional-grade Fit of the Easton Pro.

The cuff on the Easton Pro is angled and slightly-wide, but not flared out as with some gloves. It’s a fitted glove, including at the cuff, offering a compromise between the lacrosse-glove type Fit seen on gloves such as the Bauer APX2 and a full volume-fit glove such as the CCM Pro II or the Nexus 800 4-Roll.

This Fit Chart might helps you better understand what I mean by “Traditional” Fit versus “Modern” Fit:

glovefitWhile the Pro II and the Nexus 800 are both strict “Traditional” fits, the Easton Pro seems to me like a hybrid between Traditional and Tapered Fit. The cuff of the Easton Pro is not overly flared, at least not compared to prior releases.

For fun, let me show you a 20-year evolution in Easton Hockey Gloves, both of which I wore this year for Reboot Hockey:

006007

You can see obvious similarities in Fit and Design between the 2014 Pro and the mid-1990s Ultra Lite. The most noticeable Fit difference would be the straight flare on the cuff of the Ultra Lite versus the angled cuff flare on the 2014 Pro.

Easton Hockey has been around for a long time, and I assure you they know how to make a Hockey Glove. In my opinion, the 2014 Pro is the best glove Easton has released in years, though I admittedly don’t care for the close-cropped Fit or gaudy look of the Synergy/Mako lines.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the 2014 Easton Pro is a quantum leap over recent Easton traditional-fit glove offerings, most notably the Easton EQ Pro (ugly shell, weak aesthetics) and the Easton Total Pro (Total Hockey exclusive, value-grade version of the EQ Pro), in terms of both Fit and Looks. I did not even consider purchasing the EQ Pro or the Total Pro, even at a steep discount. If I did not prefer leather gloves so greatly, I would probably be head-over-heels for the Easton Pro.

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

The Durability on the Easton Pro seems to be very comparable to that of CCM 4-Roll Pro II, perhaps even a bit better. The black Nash on the Easton Pro seems to be slightly thicker and a bit more resistant to tearing than the beige Nash on the CCM Pro II. The black shell on the Easton Pro also negates the standard stick/puck marks that made my Pro IIs look so beaten after six months.

Like all contemporary nylon-shell gloves, I do not think the Easton Pro would be worth repalming at $25-$30 per palm, even if black Nash were more available. Structurally, the Easton Pro is perfectly fine when put against market-comparable gloves like the Bauer 4-Roll Pro, but contemporary gloves are not meant to be kept for years and years like leather and polyurethane-shell gloves were.

Still, as with the CCM Pro II, I would expect a minimum of 6-8 months in almost-flawless condition from the Easton Pro at 3-4 skates per week, more if you take care of them properly.

HH Rating: 8.0

Performance

As noted above, the first thing that came to mind when I tried out the Easton Pro was “memory foam”. It’s almost like the Easton Pro remembered each of my knuckles as I put them back on a few days after use.

In terms of injury protection, I put the Easton Pro right there with the Pro II and the Nexus 1000. The materials that comprise the gloves are naturally supple, and while 4-Rolls are quite thick across the back of the hand, I would consider a Pro-style modification if you’re a playing in a higher-level league. Of course, if you’re playing in a league where someone modifies your gloves for you, you probably aren’t reading this review.

Regarding Performance, personal preference comes into play to a great deal. As noted above, I prefer the Pro II to the Easton Pro because I like an extremely loose-fitting glove, but that’s like saying I prefer Angelina Jolie to Cougar Jen Aniston. When we’re talking about gloves of this quality, it’s really splitting hairs nit-picking Fit Dimensions.

The question for you is whether you prefer a loose-fitting, standard-fitting, or close-fitting glove. From there, you can go into details such as locked-thumb versus articulated thumb or whatever. Assuming you’re in the right ballpark, you will likely be ecstatic with the Easton Pro.

HH Rating: 9.0

Final Considerations

Like the 2013 CCM Pro II, I think the 2014 Easton Pro is an excellent value at the current suggested retail of $80-$100. Most people could purchase a pair of Easton Pros and be thrilled with them for the next 18-24 months.

The new reality is that you are meant to get about one year of use from gloves. You can certainly go past that, but common issues like holes in the palms and frayed stitching are to be expected. As I noted above, I think it’s a better bet to get a high-quality glove like the Pro II or the Easton Pro for $80-$100 and love it than to get an economy-level glove for $40 and be annoyed all the time. If you play more than once per week, going up a tier to something like a Pro II or an Easton Pro is a solid investment.

As noted above, the liner on my Black/White Pro II gloves is a deep shade of red. This red dye wore onto the edges of my white elbow pads quite a bit. I don’t care because it’s only my elbow pads, but if the gloves had dyed one of my favorite white jerseys pink around the wrists, I would have been pretty aggravated. Something to be cautious about if you purchase gloves with dyed liners. This does not appear to be an issue in any way with the navy liner on the Easton Pro.

The Easton Pro is a top-seller for most of the online Hockey retailers, and with good reason: it’s a top-of-the-class glove. It compares very favorably within the 4-Roll glove family, and offers top-notch value compared to recent Easton releases. The Easton Pro has classic styling, and fixes many of the basic problems associated with other recent releases from Easton.

The Easton Pro comes highly recommended. Thanks for reading.

HH Overall Rating: 8.5

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