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The Bauer Re-AKT was Bauer’s top of the line helmet for 2014-15, having since been superseded by the Bauer Re-AKT 100.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

IMG_3709 IMG_3710

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:

IMG_3711

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

bauer-re-akt-hockey-helmet-42

 

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:

IMG_3723 IMG_3724 IMG_3726 IMG_3727(MERICA)

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

zz_stick_t100_banner3

(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:

003

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:

011 (5)

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.

005

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:

003 004

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

 

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Jetspeed Hockey Skates

jetspeed

(UPDATE 4/26/2016: the CCM Jetspeed is covered along with many of the other skates for 2016 in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

CCM’s signature skate release for 2015 is the all-new CCM Jetspeed, which is a top-to-bottom redesign that replaces the now-discontinued RBZ in CCM’s three-skate lineup.

Thanks to a great promotion via CCM and Total Hockey, I was able to demo and review a pair of the top-of-the-line Jetspeed skates for Reboot Hockey. Below is my Honest Hockey review of the CCM Jetspeed skates, broken down into Basis of Comparison, Fit, Looks, Performance, Durability, Personal Biases, and concluding with Final Considerations. Feel free to provide feedback and intelligent criticism.

Basis of Comparison

As I do at the beginning of all Honest Hockey skate reviews, I mention that I’ve been playing hockey since I learned to walk, and have used lots of hockey gear, hockey skates in particular. After I gave the CCM Crazy Light skates a so-so review a few years ago, I had a critic question my ability to review skates, so I took a picture of all the CCM gear I had on hand at the time:

ccmskates

Again, those aren’t all of the skates I’ve used over my 20+ year playing career, and that’s not the inventory from a used-gear store. Those are just the six pairs of CCM/Reebok skates I had lying around the house at the time I wrote the Crazy Light review, amid a living room full of other CCM/Reebok gear.

As I’ve written before, I believe my extensive use of the CCM/Reebok product line allows me to make an accurate Basis of Comparison when grading out CCM skates. However, I have never skated in a CCM RBZ or a 2014 CCM Tacks, both of which would be comparable to the 2015 Jetspeed. Neither the 2014 Tacks nor the RBZ provided the fit I was looking for, as both are quite wide. I have however used many prior generations of CCM skates, and currently use both the Reebok 11K and Reebok RibCor 30K.

(UPDATE 8/8/2016: I am on my third pair of Reebok 11K skates, which as I write this are on their last legs. While editing this article, I was surprised to see that I had never written a full review on the 11K, though I write about them at-length in my Honest Hockey Review of the CCM U+Pro/Pro Reloaded. I’ll get a full review of the 2011 Reebok 11K Skates, which have been very serviceable, written in the near future. 

11k-black-skates

I picked up and eventually re-sold a pair of 2013 Reebok 30Ks, which would have been a $399 retail skate in late 2013/early 2014. I would use them occasionally to give my 11Ks a break, but my experience with the 30K was that it wrapped my foot poorly while allowing too much lateral play during starts-and-stops. It was simultaneously too rigid and too soft for me. I am not doing a full review on the 30Ks because at my size/experience level, I should have purchased the RibCor 40K. 

reebok30k

The one thing I will say about the 30K is that I really liked the added height from the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder. I can’t speak to the durability of the SB Black steel, but with the SpeedBlade 4.0, I definitely had a sharper turning radius (as described in the promotional materials).

I was “bottoming out” quite a bit in the 30Ks – meaning that I would slip and fall trying to hold very severe body angles – but I attribute that to the lateral play in the Upper rather than the Holder. The good news is that the SpeedBlade 4.0 now comes standard on many CCM skates, including the Jetspeed.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve also written this article on How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates, and gotten a doctorate-level education in Skate Fitting as a result.

Lastly, it should go without saying that while I am not a professional, I played hockey in college and I continue to play 4-5 times per week. I think I’m qualified to talk about the strengths and weaknesses in a pro-quality skate such as the Jetspeed, even without having reviewed a direct comparable such as the 2014 Tacks or the Bauer Vapor 1X.

First Impressions

As I stood in front of the wall of skates at a Pittsburgh-area Total Hockey store and considered my options, it didn’t even occur to me to check out the Jetspeed line. I had seen a few pics of the red-trimmed Jetspeed on NHL players late in the 2014-15 NHL season, and I had just assumed the Jetspeed was a re-conceptualized or repackaged RBZ.

With all of the red highlights, the Jetspeed line closely resembles the CCM RBZ from preceding years. It’s certainly a nice-looking skate, but at first glance the Jetspeed would not look markedly different from the RBZ to the casual player:

skjetspeed2

rbz

I had come into the Total Hockey store intent on fitting an Easton Mako M8 or a Bauer Nexus 7000, but was persuaded to fit the Jetspeed as part of CCM’s no-obligation demo program. I could have a pair of Jetspeed skates, baked and sharpened, to use on the ice for 2-3 days. Being such an experimentalist, I jumped at the chance to try the skates, and immediately began to focus on the Jetspeed’s potential upside.

After a few years of using Reebok/RibCor skates, I was confidant in purchasing a CCM RibCor 50K or 48K at respective price-points of $650 and $400. The Reebok/RibCor line has provided me with a good-but-not-great level of Fit and Performance, and while I was looking to upgrade, I would have no qualms about again investing in a RibCor skate.

My main issue with the Reebok/RibCor line was that while the skates while the skates eventually conformed to the anatomy of my foot, I had a hard time getting good Heel Lock from Reebok/RibCor boots. I was getting inconsistent results from the Pump feature, so I eventually stopped using it, and even in a D/AA sized pair of 11Ks, I was getting sloppy Heel Lock compared to Bauer Vapors skates and older CCM skates.

The RBZ had failed to appeal to me in part due to the unusual sizing of the boot, and in part due to the skate’s Fit Dimensions. I have somewhat-narrow feet, and the RBZ is a wider-cut skate. I’ll discuss Fit in the next section, with the point being that I had initially dismissed the Jetspeed because I thought it was a gimmicky RBZ clone.

In short, when I walked into the store that day, the Jetspeed line wasn’t even on my radar. But as soon as I had the Jetspeed on my foot, I realized my impressions were way off-base.

Fit

The Jetspeed has a snug fit totally unlike the somewhat-cumbersome RBZ. For visual reference, here’s a shot of the RBZ next to the Jetspeed:

JetSpeed-top1

The Jetspeed has Fit Dimensions that in my view approximate those of a Bauer Vapor. After a proper bake, the Jetspeed wrapped my forefoot in an anatomical way that I had not seen from a CCM skate since the U+Pro.

The Jetspeed also fits with a snug Heel Lock, and as you can see from the picture above, the Jetspeed utilizes a narrow, V-shaped heel similar to the Bauer Vapor. The Jetspeed skates, as the name suggests, have a compact feel seemingly geared for quick take-offs and speed.

To get a better idea of what I mean by Fit Dimensions, take a look at this chart from Bauer:

Bauer-Skate-Comparison

Since the release of the Nexus line several years ago, Bauer has offered three distinct Fits that cater to three distinct styles of skater. This has proven to be a very successful strategy, as Bauer continues to be a sales leader at the retail level. The logic goes that, no matter what kind of a player you are, Bauer offers a skate that will be an ideal fit for you.

(Update 12.1.2016: check these fit profile charts – one from Bauer and one from CCM – to get an approximation of the three-fit model now used by both companies:


The Bauer chart is super-helpful. The Vapor/Jetspeed are both made for people like me, meaning flat feet and narrow heels. The Tacks/Supreme lines are “standard arch/forefoot/moderate heel” while the Nexus/RibCOR booots are high-arch/volume fit. 

In my opinion, these charts take a ton of the guesswork out, but always try to get fit by an experienced pro shop employee.)

With the release of the Jetspeed, CCM also now offers three distinct Fits, and by proxy now caters to a wider variety of players than it has in years past. While the CCM RibCor has some properties that work well for people with narrower feet, you would be hard-pressed to argue that the RibCor is built to maximize acceleration and quickness. The Jetspeed now serves as a true competitor to the Bauer Vapor, and fills a needed niche for CCM.

(UPDATE: Here’s a CCM Fit Chart, followed by a CCM Frame Chart. These charts should help you differentiate between the fit and performance differences between CCM’s three skews. If you have any questions related to these charts, feel free to e-mail me RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com.)

CCMfitchart

ccmframechart

While some might argue that the Jetspeed has an “anatomical” fit similar to a Bauer Supreme, the fact remains that CCM has released a Fit for a different type of foot. My view is that the heel of the Jetspeed fits more like a Bauer Vapor – meaning narrow and V-shaped – than that of a Bauer Supreme, which in my view locks around the ankles bones and the Achilles as the Bauer Fit Chart above suggests.

The Toe Box on the Jetspeed is pretty standard. It’s smaller than the Toe Box on Reebok/RibCor skate, but doesn’t feel cramped at all. The theme of the Jetspeed skates is “fitted”, and the Toe Box on the skates left me with just enough room.

I wear Size 12 US shoes, and I have a pair of Size 11.5 Nike running shoes that I can barely squeeze into. I was pretty shocked when I got into a Size 8D pair of Jetspeed skates after measuring a Size 9.5 or even a Size 10 on a CCM Brannock tool. I’ve been wearing Reebok 11K skates in Size 9D/Euro 44, but in a Jetspeed I got all the way down to an 8D/Euro 42.5.

My point, as I’ve often repeated, is this: do yourself a favor and buy your skates at a quality hockey shop such as Total Hockey. You can do all of the tape-measure arithmetic you want before you purchase your skates online, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get your feet into a pair of skates before you buy them. If you are trying to save a few dollars – and I don’t blame you, because Hockey is damn expensive – pick a place other than Skates to scrimp.

Finally, the Jetspeed is extremely heat-moldable and reactive. I would have described the Fit as instantaneous had I not needed punching adjustments.

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

I’m not going to lie: at first, I didn’t love how the Jetspeed looks, or even particularly care for the Jetspeed name. I like a traditional-looking, understated Black/White skate such as the 652 Tacks or even my Reebok 11Ks. I’m clearly getting old, because I just shake my head at the colorful lineups the hockey-skate companies unveil every year.

But I haven’t cared how a hockey skate looks since George H.W. Bush’s presidency. I’ll wear a day-glo orange monstrosity if it will optimize my skating, and if the florescent highlights on a particular skate start singeing my retinas, I’ll spray-paint the skates black.

But as always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure there are a bunch of eight-year olds who think that the Jetspeed is simply stunning. If I’m nit-picking, I guess I like the cleaner look of both the RBZ and the Crazy Light better than the current Tacks/Jetspeed-style, but my opinion should have zero bearing on the skates you purchase.

The Bauer Vapor is so closely associated with the red/silver/black colors that CCM maybe should have packaged the skate differently, but by the same token, CCM has seemingly wanted to make the Black/Red scheme their signature series since the Crazy Light line:

crazylight

I do think CCM should have done more to distinguish the Jetspeed from the RBZ looks-wise. The RBZ was likewise a good-looking skate, but people who don’t study hockey gear religiously might have a hard time discerning between the two.

HH Score: 8.0

Durability

I don’t think it’s fair to grade a pair of demo skates that I only used for a few hours in Durability. I would say the skates wore normally for a pro-quality skate used by a player with my experience level. I put the Jetspeed through a bag skate, and there was no sign of loose nuts on the holder or detaching rivets.

HH Score: N/A

Performance: First Impression

I first used the Jetspeed skates at a stick-and-puck, in which I basically had the ice by myself.

The first thing I noticed was the complete absence of a break-in period. The skates went from the box to the ice with no hassle whatsoever. I would have been confident in using them in a game situation, save for the additional boot punching that all of my skates require.

An issue I have with contemporary skates is that I have a hard time getting enough Forward Flex while maintaining stability. I usually skip the second eyelet in the interest of getting adequate Forward Flex, and I did so with the Jetspeed. I had no problems achieving needed Forward Flex with the Jetspeed, especially when compared to more-rigid skates like the Crazy Light or the APX/APX2.

The Jetspeed, as with many of the later-model CCM/RBK skates before it, features CCM’s SpeedBlade 4.0 holder and SB steel, both of which I really like. When you transition from a shorter holder such a CCM E-Pro, you can really notice the difference in how aggressively you can sink into turns by using the SpeedBlade 4.0.

I am not as picky about steel as some are, but I think the Hyper-Glyde runners seen on the Jetspeed are super-nice. Maybe it was my imagination, but I preferred the Hyper-Glyde coating on the Jetspeed runners to the SB Black coating seen on the RibCor/Tacks steel. I felt very fluid in transition while using the SpeedBlade 4.0/Hyper-Glyde Lower.

CCM now includes the SpeedBlade 4.0 and SB steel on many of their skates, which in my view only serves to increase the value on a skate such as the RibCor 48K or the Jetspeed 290/300. It’s a really nice Lower, especially when you’re getting it on a high-value skate such as the 48K, and it’s a great part of the Jetspeed line. Again, the Hyper-Glyde runner is superb, and a great feature on the top-of-the-line Jetspeed.

I really like the tongue on the Jetspeed, which CCM calls the JetProtect tongue. Aside from being a plush, pro-style white felt, the outside of the tongue fit in a very anatomical way. It allowed me to get as low as I like while accelerating and transitioning.

There was no lace-bite whatsoever. I skip the second eyelet on most skates and skate very aggressively-forward, and I’ve become very used to having my ankles/feet torn up. No such issue here, despite me bag-skating myself like I was a wayward charge on the 1980 Olympic Hockey team.

I also noticed that I got exceptional Heel Lock from the Jetspeed. I put myself through repeated “V-Starts“, almost deliberately trying to kick my heel out of the back of the boot, but the Jetspeed locked my heel in place wonderfully.

Below is CCM’s promotional video on the RocketFrame, which indicates that Heel Lock was one of the priority points in the Jetspeed’s construction:

The Reebok/RibCor line is somewhat-notorious for providing poor Heel Lock. One of my favorite things about the Jetspeed was not only the superb Heel Lock, but the fact that I did not have to do constant tinkering with the RibCor’s Pump feature. I liked being able to just tie my skates and go play with no additional fuss.

While the RibCor is marketed as an agility boot, I felt much more nimble in the Jetspeed skates. The RibCor is listed at 896 grams, while the Jetspeed is listed at 770 grams via the Total Hockey website. That’s fairly significant, and just about makes the Jetspeed the lightest skate available.

CCM grades their RibCor line as “Regular Stiff” while grading the Jetspeed line as “X-Stiff” and the Tacks line as “XX-Stiff”. I would attribute the uptick in agility I experienced with the Jetspeed to a more-reactive, stiffer boot, but one that wrapped my foot properly. The fit and performance bump I got from the Jetspeed was the best of both worlds.

Overall, the Jetspeed made a great first impression. The only issue was that the skates would need an additional boot-punch, but that’s no failing on the part of the Jetspeed.

Performance: Second Impression

A lot of skates feel great when you’re wearing them around a hockey store or your living room. Some even feel great the first time or two you skate in them. But a true test of a hockey skate’s fit is after a use or two, when a little bit of the initial enthusiasm has worn off.

Trying to keep my Jetspeed review as controlled as possible, I skated in them 24 hours after the first session at the same rink. The skates were still a bit damp from the day before, and the ice had not been resurfaced following a figure-skating session. This would be a good opportunity to use the skates in less-than-ideal conditions.

The fitting issues that I had on the first day with the Jetspeed skates increased dramatically during the second session. I could barely get through an hour-long session, as the fit on my right foot became such an issue that I basically limped off the ice at the end of the session.

This is an issue with my feet and not with the Jetspeed, but it did impact my evaluation. Just including that in the interest of full disclosure.

Still, I made a strong effort to work the skates during this session. The combination of the secure heel and the SpeedBlade 4.0 package continued allow for great cornering and quick turns. If you have a lot of stopping-and-starting in your skating style, you should definitely take a look at the Jetspeed.

I did notice some slippage in the heel toward the middle of the second session. The Jetspeed skates have a quality moisture-wicking system along the bottom of the boot, but they were getting wet during the second session. Again, the skates were still damp from the previous day’s use, but this is a consideration if you’re someone like me who plays on consecutive days.

I think the stiffness on the Jetspeed is just about perfect. I was achieving the Foot Wrap/Forward Flex that I was having a hard time finding, while still enjoying a highly-reactive composite boot.

Following the skate, I had some pretty solid blisters on the inside of both heels. I attribute this to going from a sloppy-fitting 11K to the perfectly-snug Jetspeed, but I think the narrow heel has the potential to cause blistering problems with a lot of skaters. Keep that in mind if you decide to look at the Jetspeed line.

It was actually good that my second attempt to use the skates was problematic, because it would be good opportunity to see if the skates could be adjusted. This would test the quarter-package of the Jetspeed for malleability, which is a prime consideration if you have irregular feet.

I took the skates to another Pittsburgh-area Total Hockey location, and had the staff do another adjustment to the boot prior to skating them a third time. There was no issue in making an adjustment, and the skates fit very comfortably the third time I wore them.

Personal Biases

I had dismissed the Jetspeed line as a viable option because I had become gun-shy about using CCM skates following my experience with the Crazy Light/U+ line. As detailed in my Honest Hockey Crazy Light review, I had trouble getting proper Foot Wrap and Forward Flex with the Crazy Light, and I thought the CCM U+10 was really mediocre in overall quality.

As noted above, I have a very hard time fitting into skates. If your feet are less-warped, you may find that the Jetspeed skates provide a tremendous fit right out of the box. They were extremely comfortable to me until I really started to work them through drills.

I usually skate on an 8′ radius, as a gentleman from the Raleigh, NC area generally does all of my skate work including profiling. The SpeedBlade 4.0/Hyper-Glyde lower comes with a factory 9′ profile, and while this was a mild adjustment for me, I do not believe the difference in profile factored into my review.

I have some sentimental attachment to CCM skates. As I’ve written before, I used CCM skates almost exclusively from the time I was eight until the time I was 26. While I passed on both the RBZ and the 2014 Tacks line, I did ultimately opt for Reebok and then RibCor skates, so there is clearly some brand bias on my part toward CCM.

I’m very glad I got to demo the Jetspeed, because I’m excited about CCM skates again. There, I said it.

Those minor biases aside, my only real interests are getting into a skate that provides great fit and performance, and educating other players on how to select equipment. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me who manufactures the skates or how expensive/inexpensive they happen to be.

Final Considerations

If you’re considering the CCM Jetspeed, you’re immediately in the market for new skates, willing to spend top dollar, and looking for pro-quality durability and performance. You’re likely looking at the Bauer Vapor 1X, the CCM Ultra Tacks, CCM Super Tacks, the Bauer Nexus 1N, and any other number of top-level skates for 2015 2016.

In 2016, if you go the retail route, there’s a really good chance you’re going to end up wearing a Bauer or CCM skate. CCM has done a great job in recent years in getting good product information to the general public, and with the release of the Jetspeed in 2015, CCM now offers three distinct fit options at 6-8 price-points per skew.

My recommendation would be to fit each of Bauer and CCM’s three lines (Vapor/Supreme/Nexus and Jetspeed/Tacks/RibCor) at a comfortable price-point. If you’re like me and grew a bit disenchanted with CCM following the Crazy Light/RBZ releases, I highly recommend you at least look at the Jetspeed. I was very pleasantly surprised, as the fit and performance for some reason reminded me of the “traditional” CCM style I grew up with.

A primary consideration in selecting skates should always be, “where can I go for adjustments?” While skates have become incredible in terms of molding, most of the time a player is going to benefit from having a trained professional available to make adjustments on their equipment.

I’ll again go to bat for Total Hockey, because I have gotten consistently-excellent service from both Pittsburgh-area locations. They have generally provided adjustments free-of-charge, and almost everyone I’ve dealt with from Total Hockey has shown tremendous patience in helping me attack my skate-fitting problems.

I strongly recommend you find a good hockey shop, build a rapport with the staff, and if at all possible purchase your skates from them. Most players are going to need, at a minimum, a reliable place to take their skates for profiling and sharpening. Consider all of this if you are weighing the minor savings of an online purchase versus the few additional dollars you will spend purchasing in-store.

After you locate a quality hockey shop, Fit and Re-Fit your skates. I had been wearing CCM/Reebok in 9D for years, but got all the way down to an 8D in the Jetspeed. I have a friend who also went down a full size from his Reebok 7Ks to the Jetspeed, and for the record, he’s thrilled with his purchasing decision.

If you are going to be stubborn and buy your skates from an online hockey equipment distributor, make sure you measure extra carefully, in millimeters, and study the various Fitting Guides available like the Torah, or risk purchasing a pair of skates that will hinder you more than help.

(Note: I go over contemporary skate fitting exhaustively in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. Buy a copy and buy two for your friends. Thanks.)

I have to point out that the Minimum Advertised Price on the CCM Jetspeed is $800. This figure is getting into custom-skate territory. The Jetspeed is certainly a nice skate, but you need to do an honest assessment based on your ability and experience level to determine if it’s worth that kind of investment.

I closely examined and fit the Jetspeed 300 (MAP: $599) to see if it was a viable option, in the event I wanted to purchase a less-expensive Jetspeed line skate. These were my thoughts at the time:

While the Fit between the Jetspeed and the 300 is pretty comparable, the 300 does not use the Hyper-Glyde steel coating, which I considered a major selling point for the Jetspeed. The 300 uses a different liner which doesn’t appear to conform in the same way at the “Anatomical Response” liner in the Jetspeed, and the 300 insole fit differently. As a barefoot skater, I really like the Clarino blend in the Jetspeed versus the Suede blend in the JS300.

Personally speaking, I decided that if I was willing to purchase a JS 300 at $600, I would shell out $800 for the Jetspeed. Upon review, the Jetspeed has enough fitting and performance features to make it a worthwhile upgrade on the JS 300, and the Jetspeed is not oppressively-stiff as far as pro-quality skates go.

HH Overall Grade: 9.25

Thanks for reading. As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and let us know if you appreciate this kind of content.

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker Hockey Stick

ek9

(UPDATE 4/26/2016: the Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker is covered along with many of the other sticks for 2015/2016 in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

My first hockey stick (that didn’t have a plastic blade) was a Sher-Wood 9950 Iron Carbon with a Peter Bondra blade pattern. Unlike the rest of my teammates, who were vying to get their hands on the latest Easton aluminum two-piece stick, I immediately preferred the feel of an entirely wooden stick. As far as I am concerned, Sher-Wood perfected the art of the wooden stick long ago, the proof of which rests in the continued production of Sher-Wood’s wood stick lineup.

I fully acknowledge my bias toward Sher-Wood sticks, as my formative years continue to have a strong bearing on my hockey stick purchases. To this day, I will go through periods where I order a pack of Sher-Wood 7000s in order to refresh myself on proper shooting and stick-handling mechanics. While I was fond of most of the Hockey Company wooden sticks (Koho, Jofa, Titan, Canadien, etc.), I have consistently used Sher-Wood hockey sticks over my 21-year playing career.

sherwood2

While I have taken a wan view of composite sticks in general, I have accepted that they are an almost necessary part of the modern game. I have tried dozens of modern composite sticks in search of a model that offers comparable performance to a wooden stick. While I have not found a composite stick that I flat-out adore, I have grown very fond of Sher-Wood’s recent composite offerings, in particular their now-discontinued Nexon line.

However, fans of the Nexon need not be disappointed, as Sher-Wood has retooled the Nexon to perfection with the release of the EK Rekker line, available at three price-points (EK5, EK9, EK15) that simplifies purchasing and should satisfy all customers.

Below is my review of the middle stick in the line, the Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker Hockey stick. In the interest of objectivity, I have graded the EK9 in Balance, Durability,  Looks, Performance, and Value. I have also included a Basis of Comparison section as well as Personal Biases and Final Thoughts. Feel free to comment intelligently or provide your own insights in a respectful manner.

Basis of Comparison:

I consistently purchase sticks at the $100 price-point, as I break sticks too frequently to justify spending more than that figure. I would say on average I buy 1-2 sticks per month over the course of the calendar year. Because I both play Center (face-offs murder sticks) and play an average of 4-5 times per week, I go through sticks like water through tissue. It’s critically important to me that I get high-value and performance from the $100 models, as I would bankrupt myself moving up any higher on the stick hierarchy.

I am a huge fan of the Sher-Wood Nexon N8 because I think it provides tremendous value at the $100 price-point. The Nexon line has been discontinued in favor of the Rekker line, but the Rekker is clearly a continuation of the Nexon in terms of play and technology. The Rekker/Nexon line differs from Sher-Wood’s True Touch line of sticks in that the Nexon/Rekker is a low kickpoint stick, while the True Touch sticks are mid-kick.

I have used both the Nexon and the True Touch line, and while I like the True Touch quite a bit, at gunpoint I slightly prefer the Nexon/Rekker. Despite my preference for a mid-kick rather than a low-kick, I think Sher-Wood just nails all aspects with the Nexon/Rekker. Pardon the term, but I think the Nexon N8/Rekker EK9 has the best “Synergy” of any stick that I’ve used at the $100 price-point.

Price-comparable sticks I have used in the recent past include the Bauer Supreme One.6, Bauer Nexus 600, Warrior Covert DT4, Sher-Wood T80, Sher-Wood Nexon 8 (lots of them), CCM Tacks 3052, Easton Synergy 60, Sher-Wood T80, Sher-Wood T85 Red. I continually review $100 sticks, and while I haven’t tried one of the Fall 2014 Bauer or Warrior sticks, I have a pretty good feel for what to expect from a $100-$110 hockey stick.

I also covered Hockey Sticks at extreme length in my article, “Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick“. You can take me at my word that I can evaluate a hockey stick properly, but in case you are more visually-inclined, here is a picture of some of the hockey sticks that I currently have on-hand, including a pile of Sher-Wood Nexon N8 sticks:

015

019

As you can see from the picture, I have 4-6 Sher-Wood Nexon 8 sticks in my garage. I have used the Nexon 8 as the Control Group in my Hockey Stick assessments, as I am most-familiar with the Nexon 8 and believe it provides incredibly-strong Value at the $100 price-point.

First Impressions

Noting how familiar I am with the Nexon N8, the EK9 plays like a beefed-up version of the N8. I have not yet gotten a chance to use a Nexon N10, but I suspect the EK9 and the N10 are extremely comparable.

One thing I immediately liked prior to purchase is that Sher-Wood stripped their Rekker line down to three sticks rather than the standard five-stick line that most companies use. This makes a purchasing decision ultra-simple: your choices are the professional-grade stick, the entry-level stick, or the high-value stick. At $109 retail, the EK9 Rekker plays well above it’s price-point, reminding me of the $150-$180 sticks I so seldom get a chance to use.

It could get extremely wordy to dissect every way in which Sher-Wood sticks, and the EK9 in particular, differ from Bauer, Easton, et al. sticks. Here is a quick overview on what I like about Sher-Wood sticks, and the Nexon/Rekker family in particular:

1) I cut my sticks fairly short, and I really like the Flex Free Zone that comes on the Nexon/Rekker models. This means I can buy a 95 Flex stick and expect it to play like a 95 Flex, rather than buying a 85 or 100 Flex stick and getting inconsistent play after trimming it.

2) My opinion is that Sher-Wood nails the congruence between Stick Flex and Blade Stiffness, especially on the Nexon/Rekker line. Not to pick on Warrior, but something I strongly dislike about low or mid-range Warrior sticks is that there is marked disparity between the stiffness of the shaft and the stiffness of the blade. While the ultra low kick-point of the Covert/Widow line of Warrior sticks partly accounts for this disparity, the fact remains that I routinely break Warrior blades if I try to put any oomph into shots.

By contrast, Sher-Wood Nexon sticks – and so far, the EK9 Rekker – can really take a pounding. I liberally take One-Timers and Slap Shots with both the Nexon N8/N12 and the EK9 because I am confidant in both the blade and the shaft. That’s significant praise when you’re talking about a value-priced stick such as the EK9.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: Almost six months after purchase, I am attempting to “retire” the sole EK9 I purchased. Astoundingly, the EK9 is intact and playable after nearly six months of use, which under my heavy hand is borderline miraculous.

I cannot say enough about the Durability of the EK9, and I was disconsolate when I went to purchase a few additional EK9s after they were closed-out only to find that every PP77/Left/95/Grip in North America has seemingly been sold. I strongly encourage you to get your hands on one of the remaining EK9s while they are still available.)

3) Again noting my comfort with the Nexon/Rekker line, I just think the player gets the best Puck Feel from Sher-Wood sticks versus Bauer, CCM, Easton, etc. The best Puck Feel I noticed at the $100 marker other than Sher-Wood was the Bauer Nexus 600, and to be fair I haven’t tried this year’s Nexus 6000. But I buy Sher-Wood sticks with confidence because they play most naturally. If you are an experienced or long-time player, this might be a prime consideration for you.

Second Impressions

The term that springs to mind is “Plug-and-Play“. The EK9 reminds of a comfortable pair of headphones, in that I can just pop them in and focus on my workout, rather than fidgeting with them or accounting for them the entire time I’m trying to train. The EK9, compared to the CCM Tacks 3052, doesn’t make me account for how bottom-heavy it is the entire time I’m using it. This of course leads to improved play on my part.

I buy most of my Sher-Woods with the obnoxious PP77 Coffey pattern, which I wrote about at-length in the Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick article. Like any pattern, the PP77 has Pros and Cons, but what it does for me is encourages me to shoot. I like to pass, often to the detriment of the team, and the PP77 is such a grip-and-rip pattern that it encourages the user to throw pucks at the net.

This ties into the Rekker EK9 in this way: while the Easton Synergy 60 might be slightly – repeat, slightly – better for Wrist Shots, and the Tacks 3052 might be better for Slap Shots, the Rekker Ek9 is the most-balanced blend of the three. The EK9 also has the best Puck Feel by far, which is basically mandatory when trying to use the PP77 as a Playmaking Center.

Personal Biases

I’m a fan of Sher-Wood sticks, just like I’m a fan of CCM/RBK Skates, Easton gloves, and Bauer helmets. 20+ years of playing experience has led me to develop some personal preferences, although reviewing so many different products for Reboot Hockey has helped me take a more objective look at some of my preferences.

I think I started buying Nexon N8s because they were a natural transition from Sher-Wood 7000s, which as I noted above I use off-and-on. Having said that, I am willing to give most any stick a try, and my Personal Bias toward Sher-Wood is moderate, at best.

Balance

My favorite thing about the EK9 is probably the Balance. Unlike the Balance on the Tacks 3052 (very poor) and the Synergy 60 (good but not great), I am comfortable handling the puck in any position with the EK9. I do a lot of one-handed moves with the puck, so a well-balanced stick is critical for my style of play.

When you go up from a performance/value ($100-$110) stick to a professional-grade ($180+) stick, you are obviously going to notice a bump in performance across the board. I am reluctant to grade a mid-level stick as a 9 or a 10 in Balance or Performance because you can frequently see better play from a more-expensive model, but the EK9 is a champ at it’s modest price-point.

In short, the EK9 feels much more like a $200 stick than a $60 stick, basically making it the opposite of the Tacks 3052.

HH Score: 8.5

Durability

At the $100 price-point, an ideal stick should hit a sweet-spot between Durability and Performance. The 95 Flex EK9, like it’s predecessor the Nexon N8, does a great job withstanding the unlimited Face-Offs/Slap Shots beating that I prefer to put sticks through. While I sometimes have to treat sticks with kid gloves, as I can sense that they will snap if I put all of my bodyweight into a shot, the EK9 has been very durable throughout a month of use.

After 30 days, no noticeable chipping or flaking, as seen with inferior products like the Tacks 3052 and the Warrior Covert DT4.

HH Score: 9.0

Looks:

ek92I almost want to file this under “Personal Biases”, but my favorite color is Black. In the past, I have spray-painted some of the more-obnoxious hockey equipment I’ve owned, as I despise being the guy out there with the parking-cone stick or the hot pink gloves.

In any event, Sher-Wood revamps the Nexon line by going with a very basic blacked-out look. Being a proud Pittsburgher, I liked the irritating shade of Pittsburgh Yellow that some of the Nexon models were trimmed with, but I really like the Undertaker look that Sher-Wood has applied to the Rekker line.

You either like the all-black look, or you’re one of those people who shops at The Gap that I want to punch in the face. Kudos to Sher-Wood for deescalating the atrocious paint-job war crimes that most of their competitors have been foisting upon us and sticking with something tasteful yet Awesome-looking.

HH Score: 10.0

Performance

The EK9 is a low-kick stick, but the kick-point is not driven unnaturally low into the blade as with the Warrior Covert/Diablo/Widow lines. My best shot with the EK9 is probably my Messier Snap/Wrist Shot, but the kick-point on the EK9 does not negatively affect my traditional Slap or Wrist Shots. While the EK9 may not quite have that “second kick” that some ultra-low kick sticks have, the EK9 plays traditionally while offering many of the advantages of the modern low-kick stick.

As noted above, my opinion is that the Puck Feel on the EK9 is the best in it’s class. At some point I need to pick up a price-comparable 2014 Warrior and a 2014 Bauer Vapor to verify, but my view is that the EK9 is next best thing to a wooden model.

HH Score: 8.5

Value

The EK9, as with the Nexon N8 before it, provides outstanding value at the retail price of $109.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: For whatever reason, the EK9 did not meet sales expectations, and was stunningly closed-out prior to the 2014 holiday break. Most of the big online hockey warehouses offer the EK9 at a Clearance Price of $89.99, which again astonishes me. If you are looking for a twig and there is an EK9 in your preferred blade pattern/flex, I really recommend you snag one.)

For 2014, Sher-Wood opted to trim their composite stick line down to three offerings, choosing to merge the N8/N10 technology rather than offer a $150-$170 sub-pro stick. The result is that player can get exceptional value and performance at the mid-level price.

My without having used an EK15 Rekker, my view is that the player will get 85-90% of the EK15’s performance from the EK9.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: My fancy-pants, high-falutin’ Reboot partner Randy has an EK15, which for some reason he keeps trying to put on the shelf in lieu of other top-end sticks. But like a fat kid with an ice cream craving, he always comes back to his EK15 like a tubby ten-year old galloping into Dairy Queen. Randy has now broken a 2014 RBK RibCor, a 2015 CCM RibCor, and Bauer’s new Vapor 1X while the EK15 waits, ever vigilant, for Randy to come to his senses and use it preferentially.

I’ve toyed around with Randy’s EK15, and while I have no doubt that it’s a better overall stick than the EK9, the difference isn’t as stark as you would suspect. As noted above, I think a player will get 85-90% of the play from an EK9 that he or she would from an EK15.)

HH Score: 9.5

Final Thoughts

Sher-Wood managed to improve the Nexon line in both appearance and performance with the 2014 release of their Rekker line of hockey sticks. The EK9 Rekker, as the name implies, is no-frills and all menace, improving upon the Nexon N8’s performance while toning down the gaudy gold/teal accents in lieu of an all-business blackout. Combined with the extremely-reasonable price tag, it’s an outstanding piece of work on all fronts.

I will go to bat for Sher-Wood and say this: strongly consider a Sher-Wood stick before you blindly give your money away to a larger manufacturer. While Sher-Wood is no longer the preeminent or sexiest name in retail hockey sales, my view is that they have worked tirelessly to make an outstanding, high-value product.  You will not be disappointed adding the EK9 Rekker to your personal pile of sticks, and you may find yourself a Sher-Wood convert after some routine use.

HH Overall Score: 9.25

Jack

 

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Tacks 3052 Hockey Stick

3052

(UPDATE 4/26/2016: the CCM Tacks stick line is further covered, along with many of the other sticks for 2015/2016 in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

The 2014 CCM Tacks equipment line was among the most, if not the most anticipated release of the year. For years, CCM users have been clamoring for the re-release of Hockey’s most celebrated line of skates, and 10 years after the release of the CCM Pro Tacks comes the release of the 2014 Tacks line.

In tandem with the skate line is a full line of sticks, using CCM’s traditional “52” numbering. At the mid-range price of $99.99 is the CCM Tacks 3052 stick. The 3052 is marketed as a major step up from the entry-level 1052, offering some of the properties seen in the $260 pro-level Tacks stick.

I purchased a 3052 the day it was available for release and immediately took it out for a stick-and-puck session. Sadly, I was pretty disappointed, as the stick did not blow my socks off.

Below is my review of the CCM Tacks 3052 stick. In the interest of objectivity, I have graded the 3052 in Balance, Durability,  Looks, Performance, and Value. I have also included a Basis of Comparison section as well as Personal Biases and Final Thoughts. Feel free to comment intelligently or provide your own insights in a respectful manner.

Basis of Comparison:

I consistently purchase sticks at the $100 price-point, as I break sticks too frequently to justify spending more than that figure. I would say on average I buy 1-2 sticks per month over the course of the calendar year. Because I both play Center (face-offs murder sticks) and play 4-5 times per week, I go through sticks like water through tissue. It’s critically important to me that I get high-value and performance from the $100 models, as I would bankrupt myself moving up any higher on the stick hierarchy.

The price-comparable sticks I have recently used include the Bauer Supreme One.6, Bauer Nexus 600, Warrior Covert DT4, Sher-Wood Nexon 8 (lots of them), and Sher-Wood T80. I recently sold a pair of Reebok 11K SicKick IIIs. I had a CCM U+10 that I despised so much that I purposely left it at an out-of-town rink. In short, I have recently used plenty of price-comparable sticks to the Tacks 3052, and I am experienced enough that I can evaluate a stick’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

Easton is the only big-label stick I have not purchased recently, as I was pretty dissatisfied with their Stealth/RS lines. Having said that, I am awaiting the arrival of an Easton Synergy 60, which I will evaluate and review in the coming days.

(UPDATE: Here is the Honest Hockey Review of the Easton Synergy 60 Hockey Stick.)

I covered Hockey Sticks at extreme length in my article, “Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick“. You can take me at my word that I can evaluate a hockey stick properly, but in case you are more visually-inclined, here is a picture of some of the hockey sticks that I currently have on-hand:

015

019

Notice the Tacks 3052 draped across the front of the stack. Again, these are just some of the sticks I have on-hand. This collection does not account for the sticks I’ve broken or re-sold in recent memory, such as the Warrior DT4 Covert or the Reebok SicKick III 11K.

As you can see from the picture, I have 4-6 Sher-Wood Nexon 8 sticks in my garage. I use the Nexon 8 as the Control Group in my analysis, as I am most-familiar with the Nexon 8 and believe it provides incredibly-strong Value at the $100 price-point.

Somewhat unfairly, I am publishing the first draft of this review before evaluating two other 2014 stick models, the Easton Synergy 60 and the Sher-Wood Rekker EK9, both of which retail around $99.99 – $109.00. I was able to purchase my Tacks 3052 in-store, and thus got to use it while I waited for the Synergy 60 and the Rekker EK9 to arrive via mail. In the interest of a fair review, I will update this article after I have a chance to use both of those price-comparable sticks.

(UPDATE: Synergy 60 Review completed, EK Rekker 9 Review on the way.)

First Impressions

Giddy, I hopped onto the ice the day of the Tacks launch (7/18/14) with my brand-new Tacks 3052, and the absolute first thing I noticed about the 3052 was how bottom-heavy it felt. Even compared to my archaic Easton Ultra Lite/Focus Flex two-piece, the 3052 felt like it had an anchor tied to the hosel. Frankly, at first blush the 3052 handled like an $80 price-point stick such as a Sher-Wood Nexon 6 or an Easton SE6. It felt cumbersome.

My view is that a launch stick, especially from a line as anticipated as the 2014 Tacks line, should exceed all expectations, regardless of price-point. I had hoped that the 3052 would be my new stick of choice moving forward. However, my First Impression was that the 3052 plays like a lower-level stick. I was expecting much better bang for my buck.

The Tacks line is constructed with traditionalist appeal, and I noticed that the 3052 plays quite a bit like a wooden stick. The blade on the 3052 is rather thick, no doubt contributing to the disproportionate balance I noticed. While I do not like how the stick handles, I was thrilled with how the 3052 shoots.

Second Impressions

I was disappointed by how the 3052 played during the first block of sessions in which I used it, so I set it aside for five or six days in the interest of re-evaluating it with more objectivity. I took it out again for a stick-and-puck, immediately followed by a pickup hockey session, and here are my Second Impressions:

1) In an attempt to correct the stick’s poor Balance (see below), I lopped another two inches from it, taking it down to a lilliputian 54″ total. The six inches total I trimmed from the stick took the Flex Rating from 95 Flex (uncut) to about 110 Flex, factoring that 1 inch is worth around 2.5 Flex Points. I covered this topic at-length in my article “What You Need to Know About Stick Flex“. 110 Flex is still within my Effective Range, and Stick Flex in this case did not affect my evaluation of the 3052.

Strangely, the only other stick I have had to trim so drastically was a CCM U+10, which along with the Warrior Spyne I rate as the worst stick I have ever purchased. This is a sad departure from CCM’s mid-2000s Vector line of sticks, which I really enjoyed using. If you look closely in the picture of sticks above, you will see a 2007 CCM Vector 10.0 Catapault that I still occasionally use. For the record, CCM really put out nice sticks earlier under their Vector imprint, but my view is that the quality has not been nearly as high in recent years.

2) I purchased the 3052 in the Landeskog (Open Mid-Toe Curve) pattern. This is a different-style pattern for me, but again was not a factor in my evaluation of the 3052. I have amended my article “Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick” to include my thoughts on the CCM/RBK P46 and comparable patterns.

I had hoped continued use of the 3052 would allow me to adjust for the balance of the stick. After both the second stick-and-puck and pickup hockey sessions, I have to report the same thing I did initially: the 3052 shoots like a bazooka, but handles like a rake.

In a non-game situation, such as a stick-and-puck, you can really appreciate how well the 3052 shoots because of how much extra space is available. In game situations, the disproportionate balance of the 3052 greatly hindered me in making routine plays. As noted before, I am more of a passer/puckhandler, and the 3052 crippled my ability to deke through traffic or receive off-target passes.

I think I gave the 3052 enough time – about seven dedicated hours on-ice – to evaluate it properly. If cutting the stick down to field hockey-length did not correct it’s tendency to lag, nothing else would.

Personal Biases

As I have written elsewhere, CCM is my go-to brand for most equipment. Having said that, in recent years, a CCM stick would have been among the last that I considered. While I was a fan of both the 2005-2009 CCM Vector skates and sticks, I am decidedly less enthusiastic about most of CCM’s post-Vector product lines leading up to the Tacks line.

When it comes to sticks, I have very limited Brand Loyalty, with perhaps a slight bias toward Sher-Wood sticks. Prior to the Tacks line release, I would have considered Sher-Wood, Bauer, Easton, Warrior, and even Reebok sticks before I considered a CCM stick. Given that I primarily use CCM/Reebok skates, gloves, and helmets, this is a pretty strong indictment of CCM’s recent stick offerings.

Acknowledging this, I purchased the 3052 Tacks stick with pure optimism. My hope is that the Tacks line will revitalize CCM as a major player in the hockey sticks marketplace, but I would need to try at least the 5052 before I make any further comments on the sticks line as a whole.

Balance

The stick is very blade-heavy, no other way to say it. The 3052 makes simple puck-handling a major chore, let alone fancier moves like toe-drags.

HH Score: 4.0

Durability

At the $100 price-point, an ideal stick should hit a sweet-spot between Durability and Performance. The 95 Flex 3052 compares decently in this regard to price-comparable sticks.

After 4-6 sessions with the stick, the toe of the blade chipped noticeably, and the shaft already began to show moderate amounts of wear. As Randy noted in his Honest Hockey Review of the CCM RBZ Stage 2, the blade of the Stage 2 began to chip and flake noticeably after routine use. Here are a few pics of my 3052 after 6-7 hours total ice-time:

021

022

023

I’m no Daisy when it comes to my treatment of hockey sticks, but at the $100 price-point, I was expecting better durability. Notice that the toe of my 3052 has chipped very similarly to Randy’s RBZ Stage 2.

As I write this, the stick is teetering precariously, like a punch-drunk boxer. It seems it would easily snap in-half if I really drove my bottom hand through on a Slap Shot. In theory, a $100 stick should provide enhanced durability at the expense of performance, but that has not been my experience with the 3052.

(UPDATE 8/18/14 – My Tacks 3052 broke over the weekend, about 26 days after purchase. I knew the first time I used it that it would break within the 30-Day Warranty window, just based upon how rubbery it felt. In fairness to CCM/RBK, I should have purchased the 5052, but in fairness to me, I shouldn’t have to pay $170 + Tax to get adequate use from a Hockey Stick, especially when Bauer, Easton, and Sher-Wood all offer high-value products at the $100 marker.)

Frankly, I expect a hockey stick at this price-point to provide better durability. I am rough on sticks, but I need a stick at the $100 price-point that is going to hold up to repeated puck-battles, slappers, and play through contact.

HH Score: 6.0

Looks:

tacks2

The entire 2014 Tacks line, black trimmed with bright yellow, is undeniably sharp. The 3052 looks good, even if it is immediately reminiscent of the Easton Stealth RS line:

rs

There are only so many color combinations to use on a line of sticks, so this is forgivable.

Much like the Easton VE line, you can immediately spot someone using a 2014 Tacks stick. In terms of marketability and recognition, CCM hits a Triple by releasing a product line that is very distinct in appearance.

HH Score: 8.0

Performance

The 3052 is a true mid-flex, which experienced, stronger players such as myself tend to prefer. It felt nice to actually be able to drive my weight into a Slap Shot without the fear that I would snap the blade due to an unnaturally-low kick-point. As my Reboot Hockey partner Randy noted, my Slap Shot with a trimmed 95 Flex 3052 is “ridiculous”.

(UPDATE: I broke my 3052 right at the midpoint, driving my bottom hand through on a Slap Shot.)

As much as I would love to take all the credit, the truth is that in the 3052, CCM has engineered a stick that’s meant to shoot. I realize how odd that sentence reads, but the reality is that most sticks manufactured try to find a balance between shaving grams off their total weight and finding the most physically-advantageous kick-point while retaining Puck Feel similar to wooden sticks. While the 3052 is a sluggish handler, it also shoots like a cannon.

Credit to the engineers at CCM for nailing the mid-kick and allowing veteran players such as myself the opportunity to take full advantage of a stick’s properties. The Tacks 3052, even as a mid-level stick, allows a player to use traditional, wooden stick shooting mechanics while incorporating the advantages of modern composite materials.

But again, my opinion is that the 3052 handles like a school bus. While it was fun to take it out for a stick-and-puck session – like taking a rocket launcher to the rifle range – it was a chore to use in a game situation. The Tacks 3052 handled so sloppily in game play that between shifts one of my friends asked, “Are you drunk?”

The first time I used it in a game situation, I routinely missed making and receiving simple passes because the 3052 lagged behind me. While I could put all kinds of pepper on passes if I took a second to consciously do so, I could not get into any kind of natural rhythm of play because I was busy adjusting for the 3052. I almost went back to one of my tattered Nexon 8s midway through the game because my passing and puckhandling was so sluggish.

HH Score: 7.0

Value

My view is that the 3052 provides below-average Value at the $100 price-point. My take is that it’s a $100 stick that plays like an $80 stick, rather than a $100 stick that plays like a $150 stick.

I would not pay anything close to retail for another 3052. I think rival companies offer sticks at the $100 price-point that play much-more soundly overall.

HH Score: 4.5

Final Thoughts

The appeal of the Tacks 3052 sticks largely depends on your position and role on a given team. If you are a distributor or a fancy puckhandler, the 3052 will likely drive you nuts. If you spend a lot of time playing away from the puck, or are a defenseman looking for a bigger bomb from the point, the 3052 comes recommended at the $100 price-point.

In fairness to CCM, at my experience level and size, I should be using at least the 5052. However, when rival companies – or even CCM’s in-house sister company Reebok – offer superior products at the $100 price-point, it’s hard to justify spending $170 to try out the 5052. In short, I was expecting more from the 3052, and I came away disappointed.

But as always, don’t take my review as Gospel. If you have the means, go check out the 3052 for yourself, but consider saving up for a 5052 if you’re a more-experienced player.

HH Overall Score: 5.5

Thanks for Reading. Check out Reboot Hockey on Facebook and follow Reboot Hockey on Twitter (@RebootHockey).

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Vector U+Pro / U+Pro Reloaded Skates

upro

(UPDATE: the U+ Pro and many other skates are discussed at-length in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual.)

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Full disclosure before we begin: I have strong attachment to the U+Pro. I wore a pair of original U+Pros for almost five years until I was no longer able to repair them. I subsequently shelved my original pair and purchased not one but two additional pairs of U+Pros, one pair of the 2009 Pro Reloaded boots and one of the original 2008 models. For fear of never finding a skate that fits me again, I am now hoarding all U+Pros with the selfish fervor of Daffy Duck while I try to find a boot made after 2010 that my feet will tolerate. But I digress.

In 2008, CCM reached the pinnacle of its mid-2000s Vector skates line with the release of the CCM Vector U+Pro. While the U+Pro had many properties similar to the skates that directly proceeded it, such as the Vector Pro and the Vector 10.0, the U+Pro remains a highpoint in CCM’s skate line due to the introduction of CCM’s U-Foam technology.

Responding to a number of critiques on the original U+Pro, in 2009 CCM released a second version of the skate called the CCM U+Pro Reloaded. The Pro Reloaded fits and skates in the same fundamental way as the original U+Pro, but CCM corrected a few issues that some people apparently had with durability. With the Pro Reloaded, CCM also removed the Rocket Runner blade attachment, a unique concept that theoretically allows for a longer, more powerful stride but was not particularly popular with consumers at the retail level. The Pro Reloaded also features a different tongue than the original U+Pro.

These minor adjustments aside, the 2009 Pro Reloaded and the 2008 U+Pro are fundamentally the same skate. These skates directly preceded CCM’s 2011 Crazy Light line, and represented the final skates released under the Vector imprint that began in 2005. Since discontinuing the Vector line, CCM has released the Crazy Light, the RBZ, and as of this writing has just released the 2014 Tacks line.

While the 2014 Tacks line – which as of this writing has been available to the general public for less than two weeks – may re-establish CCM as a dominant player in retail skate sales, CCM has lost traction to competitors in recent years. Despite this, the U+Pro remains a sought-after skate, and a strong entry in CCM’s historic line.

All Honest Hockey scores on the 1-10 scale, with 10 being “Must Buy” and 1 being “Avoid at All Costs”:

Basis of Comparison

As I wrote in my Honest Hockey Review of the CCM Crazy Light skates, I am a lifelong CCM skate-user. Prior to the U+Pro, I had been using the 2007 CCM Vector 10.0 skates, and I subsequently purchased both the Pro Reloaded (2009) and the Crazy Light (2011) models. Having used the prior and following year’s direct comparable, I believe I have a very strong Basis of Comparison.

I am currently using a pair of Reebok 11K skates, which as you can see from the pictures below are almost clones of the U+Pro:

014

013

The Pump feature on the Reebok 11K skates can really enhance the fit, particularly around the back of the foot. Due to the odd shape of my feet, I get a slightly stronger fit from the 11Ks, but the U-Foam in the U+Pros also provides a tremendous fit. The boots themselves are nearly identical, if that is not apparent from the pictures above. I would grade the 11K as being slightly stiffer than the 2009 U+Pro Reloaded.

As I have stated before, I used CCM skates almost exclusively until I began having fitting issues with the Crazy Light. My foot simply does not fit most Bauer skates well, so I cannot speak to how CCM skates compare to price-similar Bauer models. I can, however, in many cases speak to how a CCM or Reebok skate has evolved or regressed from the prior year’s model.

I have briefly used a number of higher-end skates such as the Easton Mako (2013) and the Graf 709 Texalite. While I did not care for those boots for one reason or another, I have had the opportunity to test 8-10 different skates on-ice within the last few years. I believe I am a dedicated-enough skater to be able to evaluate a given skate properly, and at this point I have used enough skates that I can distinguish between their respective strengths and weaknesses.

I covered the topic of skates at-length in my article, “How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates,” which can be seen elsewhere on this site. (UPDATE: “How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates” was woven into the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual.)

Looks

I did not purchase the original U+Pro due to its looks (nor due to any marketing pitch). I purchased it because of my preference for and dedication to CCM skates at the time.

The skate had and continues to have a very distinct look, as was the case with most of the skates from CCM’s Vector era. I think the U+Pro/Pro Reloaded is the best-looking of the Vector-era skates, some of which toed the line of being gaudy. The U+Pro is predominantly silver with black and blue highlights, and contrasts very noticeably in the sea of mostly-black skates seen on most players.

Even as recently as the just-concluded 2013-14 NHL season, you can easily spot players such as Joe Thornton and Loui Eriksson continuing to use the U+Pro. When it was initially released, the U+Pro was seen on veteran players such as Jarome Iginla and Vinny Lecavalier, but was seen perhaps most-predominantly on Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin.

Washington Capitals v Florida Panthers

I will always associate the U+Pro with Ovi and the run-and-gun Capitals of 2008. The U+Pro has it’s place as a very memorable entry in the CCM line of skates, and in my opinion is a welcome departure from some of the current nondescript skates being released.

(UPDATE: as of 2015-16, I’ve seen the U+Pro on Joe Thornton, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Loui Eriksson, and the recently-retired Brenden Morrow. Comment if you know of any other NHL players still wearing the U+Pro.)

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the U+Pro for sentimental reasons, but I do not believe it is the most aesthetically-pleasing boot CCM has ever released. As I wrote in my Honest Hockey Review of the Crazy Light skate, I think the CL is a much-sharper looking boot. Still, the U+Pro is undeniably charismatic, as no one will ever confuse it with a Bauer or Easton entry from the same time period.

HH Rating: 8.0

Fit

Having had the opportunity to wear a Crazy Light on one foot and a Pro Reloaded on the other, I believe that the U-Grip Rebranded foam in the Crazy Light conforms like no other. My feet are extremely irregular, and the fit along the bottom of the foot/outsole that I get from the Crazy Light is just tremendous. The U-Foam used in both the U+Pro and the Pro Reloaded is very, very good, but CCM obviously perfected the art by the time the Crazy Light was released in 2011.

Having said that, as I wrote in the CL review, I got a stronger overall fit from both the U+Pro and the Pro Reloaded. I think the Crazy Light is composed of materials so stiff that they do not conform to the anatomy of every foot as well as the Pro/Pro Reloaded do, particularly in terms of Foot Wrap along the top of the foot.

Speaking personally, I did not have nearly the problems getting the U+Pro to fit my foot that I did with the CL. I think the Crazy Light’s rigidity along the eyelet cuff largely accounts for this. My view is that the original U+Pro hits a sweet spot between conformity and stiffness that the Crazy Light does not. Players with more-regular feet may greatly prefer the Crazy Light, but I prefer the U+Pro because I believe the boot itself is a bit more malleable.

After the break-in period, which is limited, the U+Pro fits your foot perfectly. If you have irregular or misshapen feet like I do, I cannot recommend the U+Pro strongly enough. The U-Foam takes the guesswork out of customized fitting, and the exterior of the boot is forgiving enough to allow the skater to achieve proper Foot Wrap. As I wrote in the CL review, I think the U+Pro is actually a stronger overall boot than the CL, even if the CL has better bells-and-whistles.

Just to cite a few examples of the amenities seen on the Crazy Light:

The U+Pro seems to have a slightly-thinner stock insole than the CL. I like the tongue on the Crazy Light better. The CL, in it’s standard black/red scheme, is simply better-looking than the silver/black U+Pro. The Crazy Light is a marketing department’s dream, because it looks like the hockey skate equivalent of a Ferrari:

cl2

But in terms of pure substance, I think the U+Pro just performs better, and some veteran NHL players who have refused to switch over to a Crazy Light or an RBZ (Joe Thornton, Brendan Morrow, Loui Eriksson) would seem to agree with me.

The Pro Reloaded has a few alterations from the original U+Pro that have a bearing on fit. For example, the plate has been removed from the tongue on the Pro Reloaded, and the tongue on the Pro Reloaded is a bit more plush. I actually preferred the thinner tongue, but this sort of thing is largely personal preference.

Both the U+Pro and the Pro Reloaded have a moderate-high depth, and appear to be slightly-narrow at the forefoot. Bizarrely, this cut fits my horrid feet well. My feet are as flat as a board, and the bones of my ankles greatly protrude. I had purchased a Graf 709 – just about the highest-volume boot available – to try to fix my fitting problems, but that boot provided a bit too much depth and left my foot swimming. The U+Pro provides depth without unnecessary width, and eventually conforms to the foot to a fantastic degree, largely solving a complex fitting issue such as mine.

The only boot that I have ever tried on that gives the skater better Foot Wrap is the Easton Mako, which is of course a one-of-a-kind boot. The trade-off, as you will read elsewhere, is that the suppleness of the Mako also leads to issues with durability. My view is that the U+Pro strikes the best balance of advanced custom fitting and durability that I have seen from a modern composite boot, again with the asterisk that my feet don’t cooperate with most Bauer skates.

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

Skates are no longer meant to last for years and years, as longtime skaters will tell you. When skates were largely composed of leather, they would be repaired and restitched as needed and often kept for extended periods of time. As they say, they don’t make things like they used to, and modern composite boots are relatively disposable by comparison.

I got nearly five full years from the original U+Pro, from just after the New Year in 2009 until I finally retired them in late 2013. I had simply softened the boot to the point that it had become unresponsive, but all things considered, they were remarkably durable for a modern composite boot.

One of the main concerns with the original U+Pro seemed to be durability, which led to the release of the Pro Reloaded. Due to the wear on my original U+Pros, it’s not fair to compare the quarter package of my original U+Pros to my Pro Reloaded skates, but my opinion is that the quarter package of the Pro Reloaded seems to be more rigid – stiff, but not quite a “ski-boot”, as some modern boots have become. I also wore out the footbeds of my original U+Pros, but that was due to extremely-high usage rather than any kind of factory defect.

It should be noted that I was no longer playing college hockey by 2009, so I cannot personally say how the retail U+Pro/Pro Reloaded would hold against to college or professional-level shots and wear. I have never been nor never will be a shot-blocking specialist, but I think the U+Pro is reasonably-protective compared to price and time-similar skate models.

As mentioned above, I did a number of repairs on my original U+Pros, but I am a barefoot skater, a decent-sized guy, and someone who plays anywhere from 3-7 times per week. All things considered, I think the fact that I was able to use the original U+Pros continuously from their release until late last year says quite a bit about how well-constructed they are.

The U+Pro is not the thickest or most-protective skate available, but it also conforms to the foot better than many of the most-protective skates.

HH Rating: 8.5

Performance

The original U+Pro came out of the box with a factory radius of 10′ and CCM’s patented Rocket Runner:

rocketrunner

Like a lot of people, I disliked the Rocket Runner, and had it taken off of my U+Pro in short order. I suppose if your goal is pure speed than you may prefer the Rocket Runner, but I found it hampered my agility and edge work to a degree. My understanding is that the Rocket Runner also makes skate sharpening a major chore.

The U+Pro and Pro Reloaded both came with CCM’s E-Pro holder, which compares favorably to contemporaries such as the Bauer Lightspeed 2 and the Graf Cobra. CCM/Reebok’s retail skates come out of the factory at a radius of 10′, which you should take into account before evaluating performance.

I found that the U+Pro conformed to my foot very well and helped maximize performance. I certainly experienced no drop-off going from a Vector 10.0 up to the original U+Pro, and in fact the Rocket Runner did noticeably help with straightaway speed.

As written above, I believe the U+Pro is more sound overall than the Crazy Light due to superior performance. We hockey enthusiasts sometimes all get so caught up in advancements in technology that we lose sight of the important thing, which is how equipment helps us play on-ice. I simply skated much better in the U+Pro than I did in the Crazy Light, even accounting for break-in time and external factors like ice quality, conditioning levels, etc.

It again occurs to me that CCM maybe hit the sweet spot between technological advancement and maintaining natural fit with the U+Pro. There’s a great excerpt from skating coach Laura Stamm’s article “How Tight, How Stiff?” that occurs to me:

If you skate for many hours a day, under the same grueling conditions as do pros, ultra stiff skates could be in order. Pros break in (and down) their skates quickly. They need very stiff skates so that they won’t have to break in several pairs during one hockey season. But most players, youth through adult, skate moderately, anywhere from one to three times a week, in sessions lasting from one – two hours. Their boots, if as stiff as pros’, may take forever to break in, and in many cases, never break down.

Recently I have been pleasantly surprised to see one or two brands of skates that are less stiff, more pliable and forgiving of the human anatomy.

I read an article in the NY Times on Sunday, January 21, dealing with stress fractures and back/hip/knee injuries in elite figure skaters. I quote from this article. “Skaters land on the ice on a thin steel blade, cushioned only by several layers of hard, compressed leather. The ankles are provided with little mobility, reducing their ability to act as shock absorbers and transferring the impact of landing along to the tibia, knee, femur, hip and lower back. It’s almost like putting the kids into casts…. You have to change the skates.” The same is true in hockey. The stresses, though differently induced, create the same problems. Casts do not allow for mobility. They are designed to hold the feet upright! Skates must be supportive, of course, but at the same time must be pliable enough to respond to the lean of a player’s feet and legs while edging and executing complex skating maneuvers.

My opinion is reinforced when I watch videos of the great Bobby Orr speeding and weaving, turning and cutting, out maneuvering his opponents on his old time, “floppy” leather skates. Skates surely weren’t ultra stiff in the 1960’s and 70’s.

A happy medium of supportiveness and pliability is in order for young and/or recreational level players.

My opinion is that the U+Pro maintains a pliability that the Crazy Light does not, which may account for the performance disparity I experienced between the two.

You may have a different opinion entirely, but again I used both extensively and have no financial interest swaying my opinion. Without burying the Crazy Light, I think the U+Pro just skates more naturally.

HH Rating: 9.0

Personal Biases

I love the U+Pro. This obviously is going to account for some bias on my part.

I have a unique skating style, and the slightly less-stiff U+Pro could simply – even likely – be more conducive to my particular skating mechanics. There are probably people who dislike the U+Pro and Pro Reloaded because they do not believe either to be responsive or stiff enough.

I always have to write that I am a CCM skates guy. I have adjusted my view in more-recent times, but traditionally I have purchased CCM skates like clockwork. I am currently investigating the differences between price-comparable CCM/Reebok skates because I had assumed that the products would basically be clones of each other. I am starting to believe that in some cases there may be a noticeable quality difference between price-comparable CCM and Reebok products, even though both are produced by the same parent company.

Final Considerations

If you are looking at picking up a U+Pro, you are obviously looking at an aftermarket skate. This could mean that price is a major consideration, or it could mean that like me, you are dissatisfied with many of the current skates being offered today.

The biggest feather in the cap of the U+Pro is that like its sister skates, CCM’s U-Foam can be molded and remolded, ensuring a terrific fit. Whether you are considering a used or unused pair of U+Pro or Pro Reloaded skates, you can be confident in knowing that either should fit your foot better than most aftermarket skates.

If you are purchasing the original U+Pro, account for the Rocket Runner while evaluating the skate. If you are uncomfortable on the skate with the Rocket Runner on, have the attachment removed before re-evaluating them. Including the Rocket Runner makes a noticeable difference compared to the standard E-Pro holder without it.

At this point, the U+Pro is a different generation than CCM’s current lines. As I write this, CCM is about to release has released its 2014 Tacks line, which will post-date CCM’s 2013 RBZ line and of course the 2011 Crazy Light line. Your age may account for how much you like or dislike the U+Pro, as younger players accustomed to ultra-stiff boots may find the U+Pro somewhat soft.

If you are currently in the market for skate and set on the CCM family, I highly recommend you get your foot into an affordable pair of skates from the Tacks line before you make a purchasing decision, and a pair from the RBZ and Reebok CCM RibCor lines as well. I recommend you consider Reebok skates strongly, even if like me you have affection for the CCM brand. I have found some of the Reebok skates to fit a bit more like traditional CCMs, and it would be worth trying on as many pairs as possible in the interest of getting an optimal fit.

(UPDATE 5/14/2016: in the 18 months since I originally published this article, the entire Reebok equipment line has been rebranded as CCM, I have demoed and reviewed the CCM Jetspeed, and in July 2016 the CCM Super Tacks one-piece skate will be released. Obviously a lot has changed. But my thoughts about the U+Pro really have not. As of this writing, I still rotate the U+Pro with my 11Ks, and I’m very happy with both.)

Having said that, if you can pick up a old pair of U+Pros at a good value, I think you will be quite pleased. They’re certainly an all-time favorite of mine.

HH Overall Rating: 8.75

Jack