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

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

Reboot Hockey Training Manual Coming Very Soon

Hey Gang,

You may have noticed that there has not been a lot of new content added recently to the Reboot Hockey blog. That’s because I’ve been working on a Reboot Hockey E-Book, which should be done by March 1st (if not before).  I’m doing final editing on it as we speak.

The E-Book will be called The Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual, and will cover the following topics:

  • Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick v. 2.0
  • How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates v. 2.0
  • Nutrition/Supplement Recommendations
  • An exhaustive section on Training Recommendation, which is taking me forever to finish writing
  • 2016 Hockey Skate Buyers Guide
  • Considerations for Flat Feet and Skate Selection, complete with exercises
  • Technical Points on Hockey Skating
  • A short section on Hockey Theory

As a thank you for purchasing the book, I am also offering to construct a personal off-ice training program for you. While there is plenty of content and information in the Manual, if you would like a very specialized program for you and you alone, I am including e-mail consultation and program design with the purchase.

I am going to make the initial run of the E-Book available for $11 (naturally). I have jammed a ton of value into the book. The book will be available for immediate download, and I am working to make sure it is available on all portable devices.

On behalf of Reboot Hockey, I am grateful for you continued support. The Reboot Hockey readership continues to climb every week, despite the recent lack of new content. I hope that you will consider purchasing the E-Book, which I have tried to price fairly and at a strong value. Look for the book to be published by March 1st, or maybe a bit sooner if time allows.

Again, thank you for your support.

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

Pro Stock vs. Retail Equipment: Which to Buy?

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

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

Skates

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

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

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

upro11k

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

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

prostockupro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RBK_Phaneuf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sticks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

032

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloves

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

nashwinnwell

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

ccmgloves

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

mainegloves

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

hossagloves

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

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

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

gaby

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

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

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

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

Helmets/Protective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

genostaalsy

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

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils

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

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

teemu2

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

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

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

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

redrampage

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

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

shoulders1

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

Here’s another Pro Stock mashup:

shoulders2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

As for the Retail side:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Tacks 3052 Hockey Stick

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(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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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

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(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:

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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:

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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:

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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