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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

Kindly refer to this photo:

003

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

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

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

First Impression – T90 2nd Gen

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

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

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

Second Impression – T90 2nd Gen

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

011 (5)

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

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

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

005

First Impression – T100 2nd Gen

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

003 004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Impression – T100 2nd Gen

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

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

Balance

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

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

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Durability

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

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

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

HH Score – T90 2nd Gen: 9.0.

T100 2nd Gen: 10.0.

Performance

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

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

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

HH Overall Scores

Sher-Wood T90 2nd Gen: 9.1

Sher-Wood T100 2nd Gen: 9.4

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

Jack

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

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

eastonpros

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Overview

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

Here is a color chart for the 2014 Easton Pro:

eastonProGlovesColorChart

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

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

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

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

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

gaborik3

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

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

HH Rating: 8.5

Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

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

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

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

HH Rating: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

The Easton Pro comes highly recommended. Thanks for reading.

HH Overall Rating: 8.5

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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:

tacks2

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

rs

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 7.0

Value

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

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

HH Score: 4.5

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

HH Overall Score: 5.5

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

Jack

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

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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:

rocketrunner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Overall Rating: 8.75

Jack

Reboot Hockey: What You Need to Know About Hockey Stick Flex

 

flex1

(UPDATE 4/26/2016: Stick Flex, and all other properties concerning Hockey Sticks, is covered thoroughly in the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. The Manual is available for purchase at this link. Thanks.)

This article is meant to help you select the appropriate Stick Flex for your Hockey Stick. With the bevy of choices available to players at the retail level, it can become overwhelming for both the novice and even the experienced hockey player to differentiate between Flex Ratings and to choose the proper Stick Flex for her or himself. This article will hopefully make it easier for you to choose the Stick Flex that best suits you and your game, ultimately making you a better and more-effective player.

After determining your Effective Range for Stick Flex, you can then fine-tune to find your Optimal Flex. Ideally, this article will save you time and effort in finding a stick that maximizes your game, rather than restricts it.

Stick Flex Overview

Hockey sticks are sold in a number of Flex Ratings ranging from about 50 Flex to 115 Flex. You will occasionally see sticks that reside outside of this range, but those would be quite rare.

To keep the article simpler, I will write this under the assumption that you are using a Senior Flex stick. Sticks are also available in Junior and intermediate Flex Ratings, but the article could get very confusing if I incorporate both of those. If you are selecting a stick for a younger or lighter player, the principles covered in this article can be applied in the same way, but the Flex Ratings obviously would be lower.

First, consider this Stick Flex Chart:

FlexChart

This chart is going to make sense to a limited number of people, while completely confusing most others. I will try to break it down so you understand the principles of modern Stick Flex:

A number of prominent hockey stick manufacturers are listed along the horizontal axis of the chart: Inno/Warrior, Bauer, CCM/RBK, Louisville/TPS, etc. The yellow column on the left indicates stick manufacturer Easton’s Flex Ratings. Easton is often used as the standard because until recently, they were by far the industry leader in composite sticks sales and innovation. For the purposes of education, Easton’s Flex Ratings will serve as our constant or Control group.

Easton Senior sticks are usually seen the Flex Ratings 75, 85, and 100. 85 Flex is often referred to as “Regular Flex”, while 75 Flex is commonly referred to as “Whip Flex”. 100 Flex is usually referred to as “Stiff Flex”, and anything over 100 Flex is typically called “Pro Stiff”. This delineation is now pretty standard among the major stick manufacturers.

Sticks under 75 Flex are generally labeled as Intermediate sticks, and marketed toward 10-14 year old kids or lighter and smaller players. Intermediate sticks are usually seen in 55 Flex and 65 Flex.

There are a number of formulas used to estimate which Stick Flex may be appropriate for you based upon your bodyweight (or even Lean Body Mass). A common formula is to choose a Stick Flex that is half of your Lean Body Mass in pounds. For example, a 200 lb. player with 15% Bodyfat would have 170 pounds of Lean Body Mass (200 x 0.85 = 170). Halving this number would suggest a Flex Rating of 85 Flex for this player (170 x 0.5 = 85 Flex).

This is extremely rough math, and serves only as a starting point for choosing a stick with an optimal Flex Rating. Many other considerations go into selecting an appropriate Stick Flex, such as style of play, position, frequency of play, relative strength, etc. Some very heavy players prefer sticks with lots of whip, while some very light players prefer very stiff sticks. The goal for the moment is to help you find a stick that works well for you while you continue to experiment and fine-tune.

Most Senior retail sticks measure 60″ from the butt of the stick to the insertion point of the blade, called the Hosel. Some sticks may come longer off the rack, such as the Sher-Wood 9950 Iron-Carbon wooden stick, which leaves the factory at 63″/105 Flex, but most retail sticks measure 60″ uncut. Again to avoid confusion, let’s keep this style of measurement (Butt to Hosel) as a constant.

Many recreational players use sticks that are much too long. To properly determine your optimal Stick Flex, you must first determine your optimal Stick Length.

The notion of players using sticks that are too long is well-explained here at Cut Hockey Sticks. The reason most retail sticks come at a length of 60″ is because this is the maximum length most players would need for a stick. If you are unusually-tall (and likely a defenseman), you may have a preference for a stick that exceeds 60″, but this is pretty uncommon.

As per Wiki, the maximum stick length used by most NHL Players is 60″. Six-foot-eight Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has a special exemption that allows him to use a 63″ stick, but he is obviously not typical. Frankly, if the gigantic Chara can use a 63″ stick, there is no logical reason why a 6’3 or 6’4 (or even 6’5) player would need a longer stick than that.

For visual reference, here is a picture of Zdeno Chara that illustrates the point:

chara

I realize that’s not a perfect picture, but notice where the heel of the stick blade rests in relation to Chara’s chest. At his height, a custom 63″ stick hits him right around the breastbone, as is the case with many other elite players. A lot of recreational players have a complete misconception about how long the average hockey stick should be, and insist on using too-long sticks despite evidence to the contrary.

Having stated my view on Stick Length, let’s assume that a 60″ retail stick is more-than-suitable for most players. For the sake of explanation, let’s say you are about to purchase a 60″/85 Flex Easton V9E. Here are some of the considerations you should make before purchasing:

1) Lie

The first thing I do with a stick is lop a good 4-6″ off of it so the blade sits flush against the ice or deck. Here is a good picture of Sid Crosby demonstrating his preferred Stick Length:

crosby3

Notice how the blade of the stick lies completely flat when Sid has his arm fully extended to his side. To achieve this, most players are going to have to trim a minimum of 2-3″ from a 60″ stick.

People are going to dispute this idea with me, citing the shooting benefits that theoretically come from a longer stick. My counter-argument is the above picture of the Best Player in Hockey, a superb passer and puck-handler if ever one existed, using a 53″-54″ stick. This article from the Denver Post discusses how Sid and off-season training partner Matt Duchesne use short sticks to success. You can also re-visit the Cut Hockey Sticks link above to see any number of Hall of Fame players who use similarly-short sticks.

Misguided recreational and youth players often use sticks that are far too long for their body proportions simply because no one has ever taught them differently. There are exceptions who benefit from using an unusually-long stick (such as Pavel Datsyuk or Marty St. Louis), but your unwillingness to saw-down your own stick may also be hindering your puck-control abilities. Something to consider before we proceed.

lieYour own body proportions and skating-style are going to determine which Lie is optimal for you. For example, I have a relatively-long torso and arms. I also tend to skate in an aggressively-forward stance. Lower Lies (such as Lie 4 or Lie 5) tend to to allow me to puck-handle better. You may have a proportionally-shorter torso, and use a more-upright skating stance, a higher Lie (6 or 7) would be more appropriate. I highly recommend using the Cut Hockey Sticks article to help you sort all of this out.

Assuming you have determined your appropriate Stick Length via Lie:

2) Adjust for Increase in Flex Rating

Cutting inches off of a stick, in most cases, increases the Flex Rating of a stick. Some sticks (notably Sher-Wood composites) come with a “Flex Free Zone” due to their variance in kick-points, but let’s not discuss that for the moment.

Generally, cutting 1 Inch from a stick will add 2-5 Flex Points, making the stick considerably more stiff. The shorter a stick is initially, the stiffer it will become, as each additional inch cut from a stick represents a larger overall percentage of the stick.

If you cut 5″ from a 50″ stick, you are cutting off 10% of the stick. Meanwhile, cutting 5″ from a 60″ stick means cutting off about 8.5% of the stick. Cutting 5″ from a 70″ stick would mean cutting off 7% of the stick. The standard unit of measurement – in this case, 1 Inch – has a greater impact on a shorter stick because it accounts for a larger percentage of the stick.

Let’s say that you determine that your 85 Flex Easton V9E lies best for you at a length of 55″. This will mean cutting 5″ from the 60″ shaft. Time to grab the saw.

(Not to confuse you, but Easton sticks generally run “soft”, meaning they have lower Flex Rating than indicated. We will revisit this later in the article.)

Most sticks now come with a Cut Line near the butt of the shaft. This will help you take some of the math out of calculating Flex Rating. Here is one such Cut Line from a Bauer shaft:

cutline

Easton sticks are convenient to gauge because their Flex Ratings move in increments of 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, etc. Let’s say that an Easton stick increases 2.5 Flex Points for every 1″ inch you trim from the end of the shaft. If you determine that you need a 55″ stick, cutting 5″ from the shaft will take your 85 Flex V9E from 85 Flex to 97.5 Flex (2.5 Flex Points x 5 inches = 12.5 Additional Flex Points). This is a fairly drastic increase in Flex Rating, and could greatly alter your puck-handling or shooting.

This is a consideration you need to make before you purchase a $240 V9E: will you be cutting a significant amount from the stick? If so, perhaps dropping in Flex Range from 85 Flex to 75 Flex may be appropriate.

There is no universal measurement tying Stick Length to Flex Rating. Making matters more complicated is that some sticks (such as the Sher-Wood Rekker and True Touch models) come with the aforementioned “Flex Free Zone”, meaning the stick’s Flex Rating does not alter unless it is significantly shortened. As mentioned before, the placement of a stick’s Kick-Point also can affect it’s Flex Rating. It can get fairly mind-boggling.

Take a breath and check your stick for a Cut Line, ideally before purchasing. That will take much of the doctorate-level calculus out of the equation.

The next best thing to a Cut Line is a Cut Chart, which geeks with calculators have put together so you don’t have to agonize over a stick purchase. I could not find an Easton Cut Chart, so this Chart from Bauer will have to do:

flexchartThere seems to be little rhyme-or-reason to this chart, but the takeaway is that in general, the more you cut from a stick, the higher the Flex Rating increases. With Bauer sticks, when you start cutting drastic amounts from the stick, you start changing the stick’s Kick-Point. That’s why cutting 2″ from an 87 Flex increases a stick’s Flex Rating by 9 Flex Points, but cutting 6″ from an 87 Flex increases the Flex Rating by 25 Flex Points. It moves like a Bell curve. Something similar occurs with
Bauer’s 102 Flex stick, but not with their Junior or Intermediate sticks.

For the moment, let’s assume that we have gotten you within your Effective Range for Stick Flex, meaning that you are using a stick that does not hinder your puck and shooting skills by being too stiff or too “whippy”.

3) Adjust for Kick-Point

A stick’s Kick-Point is the location at which the stick bends maximally while being flexed.

Traditional wooden sticks flex uniformly, like a bow being drawn. The Kick-Point is at the mid-line of the stick in most cases, but a player’s personal mechanics could alter the Kick-Point depending on her or his hand location and shooting style.

Wooden sticks have largely gone the way of the dinosaur, and a more-recent trend among the retail stick manufacturers has been to lower the placement of the Kick-Point in the interest of increasing Shot Release.

Here are two pictures representing Mid-Kick and Low-Kick sticks. First, a Mid-Kick

midkick

And here is a Low-Kick stick:

lowkick

By lowering the Kick-Point, stick manufacturers are attempting to increase Shot Release, or the time is takes for the puck to leave the blade of a flexed stick. The trade-off is that an unnaturally-low kick-point can diminish slower-release shots such as full wrist-shots and slap-shots.

Many if not most composite sticks now feature a Low Kick-Point, with several of them trying to drive the Kick-Point into the blade itself. Recent innovations include Warrior’s Dagger Taper release in 2011, and this year’s Easton VE technology, which focuses on Blade-Loading.

Here is a picture of the Warrior Covert, featuring an ultra-low Kick-Point:

covert

Without getting off-topic, know that altering a modern stick’s Flex Rating by shortening or extending it will frequently alter the Kick-Point. This will turn shooting into a chore, or force the player into uncomfortable Shot Mechanics.

For this reason, I strongly prefer Mid-Kick composite sticks. Mid-Kick sticks conform more-naturally to the player’s personal mechanics, and the Kick-Point is not altered drastically if the stick is lengthened or trimmed.

If you purchase a stick with a super-low Kick-Point, such as a Warrior Covert or a Reebok SicKick, know that altering the stick’s length will affect the Kick-Point to some degree. Also, be cognizant of the position you play and your shooting style: if you are a defenseman and a long-time player, a stick with an ultra-low Kick-Point may fight your natural mechanics. I find that Low-Kick sticks fight me quite a bit, especially on slap shots.

4) Differences Between Manufacturers

As I alluded to above, an Easton 85 Flex is not necessarily a Warrior 85 Flex, which is not quite a Bauer 87 Flex.

I have used dozens and dozens of composite sticks, and there is not really a concise way in which I can break down the differences between all of the manufacturers. Here are some insights I’ve taken from various sticks, but by no means use take these insights as Gospel:

Easton: Easton sticks tend to run “soft”, meaning that an 85 Flex Easton does not reach a Flex Rating of 85 until 2-4 Inches are trimmed from the stick. Using an uncut 85 Flex Easton may be more like using a 78 Flex Bauer. Easton’s Kick-Points are generally mid-low, finding a good compromise between modern shot release and traditional shot mechanics. Easton was the composite stick market-leader for a long time, and delivers a very respectable product across most of their price-points.

Bauer: Bauer Vapor sticks are Low-Kick, while Bauer Supreme and Nexus sticks are Mid-Kick. Their Flex Ratings are more “true” than Easton’s, and Bauer makes the process of finding the correct flex easy for buyers by constructing Flex Charts (such to the one posted above). Bauer now leads in market-share, largely due to the high quality of their sticks. Bauer also offers custom fine-tuning (95 Flex, 107 Flex, etc) on their high-end models.

Sher-Wood: Sher-Wood offers two lines of composites, the True Touch (Mid-Kick) line and the Rekker/Nexon (Low-Kick) line. I have used Sher-Wood composites extensively, and I believe they are a great value. They perform well at their respective price-points, and Sher-Wood has put a lot of time into their Research and Development. Sher-Woods do not shoot like Bauer or Easton sticks, and I believe they shoot a bit more “traditionally”. Sher-Wood uses a “Flex Free Zone” on their Rekker/True Touch models, meaning that a player can cut 4-6″ off of an 85 or 95 Flex stick without altering the Flex Rating. Sher-Wood releases Senior composite sticks in Flex Ratings of 85, 95, and 105. They also offer both 60″ and 64″ Senior sticks, if you prefer an extra-long stick.

CCM: I cannot comment on CCM because I have not used one of their sticks since the company collaborated with the TailorMade golf division to create the CCM RBZ stick. I have heard multiple reports that the sticks have greatly improved from the underwhelming U+/CL lines, but in all honesty CCM had nowhere to go but up. CCM has remained competitive in both Skate and Protective sales, but the CCM brand has never really been known for their sticks. RBK/CCM owns the Hockey Company, which includes former stick giants Koho, Jofa, and Titan, but these sticks were obviously from a prior era and did not really factor into the modern composite marketplace.

(Update 12/10/15: CCM has overhauled their stick line, and for 2015 offers three distinct lines: RBZ Speedburner, Ultra Tacks, and RibCor K line. The Ultra Tacks is the completely redesigned mid-kick line, while the RBZ lines continues to incorporate Tailor Made golf technology. The RibCor line is a continuation of the Reebok 20K/11K SicKick line.)

Reebook: My understanding is that after purchasing Reebok/CCM, Adidas (Reebok’s parent company) sent most of their long-time R&D people to work under their Reebok label, while the R&D staff working under the CCM label is relatively-new. I couldn’t find any articles online to substantiate this, but I did get the opportunity to speak to Reebok/CCM head Phillipe Dube, who was kind enough to take a phone call from me. I was given the impression that as of 2005, CCM’s veteran R&D people put most of their focus into establishing Reebok while the CCM people were newer hires. This seems to present itself in the quality of some of their recent products, with sticks being a prime example.

Reebok has been an innovator in the modern composite stick market. For example, they released the controversial O-Stick in 2008. They have used a variety of different grip and texture options, such as Snake Grip and Shark Grip, I have found their models to perform well at most price-points. The SicKick models are their signature Low-Kick sticks, while their AI line is a Mid-Kick.  Again, veteran players will notice that much of the former Koho/Jofa technology has been put into Reebok, so players with an affinity for those brands may prefer Reebok sticks.

(Update 12/10/15: the Reebok line has consolidated under the CCM label. The CCM RibCor stick would be the closest thing to a Reebok 20K, but the lines has undergone several major revisions.)

Warrior: Formerly Innovative Hockey, Warrior sticks seem to be favored by a lot of veteran and European players such as Alex Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Sergei Fedorov. Many Innovative sticks were extremely-stiff, and Warrior took a huge chunk of the marketplace when they first appeared in the mid-2000s.

My review of Warrior sticks is that they are boom-or-bust. The impression I get is that Warrior tries a lot of unconventional approaches to creating the ultimate stick, and they are not afraid to release a flawed or incomplete technology at the retail level. Due to the variance in their Kick-Points between models (such as Spyne vs. Widow vs. Covert), I would say Warrior sticks pose the highest risk for inconsistency after being extended or trimmed. An average uncut 85 Flex Warrior feels a bit firmer than an 85 Flex Easton, but a bit softer than an uncut 87 Flex Bauer.

Their line is currently divided into Covert (Low-Kick) and Dynasty (Mid-Kick) sticks, both offered at a variety of price-points. My opinion is that Warrior gets their high-end sticks right, but does not produce a high-value product on their low-end sticks. I am also not thrilled with the durability of the Warrior sticks I’ve used, and I’ve used 10-12 at this point.

(Note: full disclosure, I have been burned by Warrior so many times that I won’t purchase one of their retail sticks. I have used a few really great Warrior/Inno Pro Return sticks, but I won’t bet even $100 on a Warrior retail stick. I recommend you look into Warrior Pro Return sticks first, if you are interested in trying Warrior.)

Warrior is also a lacrosse company, and there is obviously a technology crossover as with Easton (Baseball bats) and CCM/TailorMade (golf clubs). I can’t write much more on the subject without making a lot of assumptions, but a Warrior stick may “shoot” more like a lacrosse stick while a CCM would be more prone to “shoot” like a golf club. Any company with successful in-house baseball or lacrosse R&D would undoubtedly share technology with the hockey department, and the carryover properties from other sports may be more prominent in a Warrior Covert versus an Easton Synergy versus a CCM RBZ.

There are obviously other stick manufactures, but it would go beyond the intent of this article to review them all. Just know that there are notable differences between the large stick manufacturers that will affect both your purchasing decisions, as well as the way a given stick performs.

Lastly, I found this ultimate Stick Flex chart from Total Hockey very instructive, but it may be too numbers-heavy for a lot of people.

Final Considerations for Effective Range

The goal of determining your Effective Range is to find a stick that allows you to perform at an acceptable level. After skates, a player’s stick will be the most important purchase made by a hockey player or parent.

The player will constantly be trading Finesse skills for Grit skills, and vice-versa, while fine-tuning Stick Flex. If hockey involved no puck battles, almost everyone would use a super-whip stick. However, while sticks with a lot of extra flex are great for fine puck-skills, they often prevent a player from competing as hard as she or he can.

By the same token, being able to win a face-off or take the puck from an opponent along the boards is useless if a stick is too stiff to pass or shoot effectively. Finding an Effective Range involves finding the lightest Stick Flex that allows you to compete, and finding the stiffest Stick Flex that allows you to puck-handle and shoot well.

I think the most cost-effective way to determine Effective Range is to invest a few Wooden Sticks with different Flex Ratings. You will be much more comfortable chopping 6″ from a $30 Sher-Wood 5030 than you would cutting the same amount from a $260 Reebok RibCore. Wooden sticks flex naturally, and will force the player to use proper puck-handling and shooting mechanics. It will also be much easier for a player to determine that a 105 Flex Iron-Carbon is too stiff, or that an 85 Flex 5030 has too much whip, than with rocket-launcher composite sticks.

It’s worth repeating that I have no financial stake in any of the aforementioned hockey companies. I am just passing along experience and information.

Optimal Stick Flex

Finding an Effective Range will be fine for many people. However, there will always be players who want the absolute most out of their equipment. For players such as this, finding an Optimal Stick Flex becomes a worthwhile pursuit.

You may do just fine with an off-the-rack, uncut 60″/100 Flex Easton. The problem starts when the stick model you have grown comfortable is altered or discontinued. Knowing your Effective Range will allow you find a comparable model, and ultimately find the Optimal Stick Flex for you and your style of play.

To start, this is the Stamp from a pro stock hockey stick:

flextag

I will decipher the Hieroglyphics for you: that stick is a Bauer Total One NXG (Special Edition), 82 Flex, in Bauer Pattern P92 (Backstrom), Right-Handed. The W03 designation is “Warrior 03”, which is Warrior’s comparable blade pattern to Bauer’s P92.

The player in question has obviously optimized his hockey stick. 82 Flex is a fine-tune between Bauer’s retail-issue 77 Flex and 87 Flex models. The player had an 82 Flex ordered to his preferred length, so there is no guesswork about altering Flex Rating or Kick-Point. The stick is a Supreme Total One NXG, meaning the player prefers a Mid-Kick to a Low-Kick. He even has an alternate company’s blade pattern stamped on his stick in-case the Bauer NXG is unavailable.

You are likely not a professional hockey player, but you can still customize and prepare your equipment like one. The Pros have had years of access to the finest Equipment Managers in the world, so they have been able to make advanced customization such as this a relatively-simple procedure.

Unless you have access to a quality Equipment Manager, you will have to do this customization yourself. There will likely come a point when you want to reach a higher level of play, and getting the most out of your equipment is an important part of the process.

Let’s say you and your 55″/97.5 Flex Easton V9E are getting along quite well. You are puck-handling much better because your stick is the appropriate length, and shooting better because your stick is no longer too stiff for you. However, let’s say you want to add even-more zip to your shot, or you want to be stronger on face-offs. This is where finding an Optimal Stick Flex comes into play.

Here is my general overview for the trade-offs between higher and lower Flex Ratings:

Lower (Whip) Flex: Increased Wrist Shot Power, Passing/Shooting Release, Saucer Passing, Touch, Fine Puck-Handling skills (Deking)

Higher (Stiff) Flex: Increased Wrist Shot Accuracy, Increased Slap Shot Power/Accuracy, Passing Accuracy, Puck Battles, Face-Offs, stronger or sturdier overall Puck Control

As you can see, there are benefits to both higher and lower Flex Ratings. Most players elect to fine-tune and find a stick that allows them to perform all skills well, maybe shifting a bit in one direction or the other to account for their position and style of play.

I’ll use myself as an example:

My Effective Range for Stick Flex is 95-115 Flex. If I go lower than 95 Flex, the stick becomes slack, like a stretched-out guitar string. Controlling the puck in-traffic and winning puck battles becomes a chore, and mid-flex/slower-release shots such as slap-shots become ineffective. If I go over 115 Flex, basic passing, puck-handling, and shooting becomes laborious because I have to consciously flex the stick, weakening all passes and shots. This problem increases with fatigue.

Using a stick closer to 95 Flex allows me to prioritize puck-skills while still being competitive. I shoot effortlessly with a 95 Flex, and can routinely snap clean shots past goaltenders. A 95 Flex stick allots me much better touch, so I can do fancier moves like heel-drags and backhand saucer-passes with more assurance. The lighter flex is definitely better when there is less room on the ice. The trade-off is that I lose a little bit of edge on face-offs and in picking pucks off the wall. My shots also tend to be a bit “softer”, making them less likely to get through traffic or trickle through a goaltender.

Using a stick closer to 115 Flex allows me to be incredibly-strong on the puck. This allows me to dominate in the face-off circle and win battles down low. It’s very helpful for holding onto and distributing the puck. Passes are extremely precise. At 110 Flex, I can still perform a full complement of shots (wrist, snap, slap, backhand) adequately, though not as crisply as with a 95 or 105 Flex. My game may not be as pretty with a 115 Flex, but it’s usually more-effective and definitely more-rugged.

The ideal scenario for me is to split the difference and use a 105 Flex. Toying with both ends of my Effective Range allowed me to find an Optimal Stick Flex, and it’s a template most any player can copy.

Here are additional considerations:

Position: If you investigate, you will find that many Centers prefer a slightly-higher Flex Rating for passing precision and the aid in wining face-offs, while many Wingers prefer slightly-lower Flex Ratings for the shot-release benefits. Many defensemen like a higher Flex Rating because they are not particularly artistic with the puck, and prefer Mid-Kick sticks because they take slap-shots the majority of the time. This is a rough generalization, but your position may dictate your Optimal Stick Flex to some degree.

Style of Play: a dangler who shies away from contact is going to prefer a lighter Stick Flex, while a stay-at-home defenseman is going to prefer a higher Flex Rating in the interest of winning more puck battles. Those may be the extreme outliers, as most players will want a combination of Finesse and Grit in their play.

Let’s assume for a moment you have Stick Length and Lie down to a hard science, and that a 55″ stick works best for you. Let’s also assume that you are Effective with a 55″/97.5 Flex stick, but that you play Center and want to be stronger on face-offs and crisper with your passing. Here is how I recommend you fine-tune your Stick Flex:

Maybe you play well with a cut-down 85 Flex, but you want a slightly-stiff stick. Jumping to a 100 Flex Easton stick and cutting 5″ from it increases the Flex Rating to about 112.5 Flex, which may be too stiff for you. It would again behoove you to consider your options before making a purchase. Is there a 95 Flex stick made by a different manufacturer available for purchase? Can you borrow a stiffer-stick from a friend for a practice session? Will you consider purchasing a wooden stick before you over-invest in a too-stiff composite stick? Can you buy Pro Stock?

If you have not determined your Effective Range by trial-and-error, I recommend you make your drops or jumps in Flex Rating gradually – no more than 10 total Flex Points. If you have the means, a drop or jump of 5-10 Flex Points would be even more ideal.

My Optimal Stick Flex is about 105-107.5, which I have learned from years of trial and error. I learned by using a Reebok 100 Flex than I cut down 4″ (making it about a 108 Flex), then noticed a performance bump. I saved the info for future use, and wouldn’t you know it, I replicated the results by keeping my Flex Rating right around 105-110.

Account for variances in Kick-Point. If you are using a Low-Kick Bauer Vapor to good results, switching to a Mid-Kick Bauer Supreme may negatively-effect your play. Do some investigating and find sticks that are comparable to the model you are currently using. Try not to change two factors at the same time (such as Blade Pattern and Flex Rating, or Length and Kick-Point). If you are using an 85 Flex Easton V9E and want a slightly-stiffer stick, try to get the stick in a similar Blade Pattern and cut it to the same length. Otherwise, you will not know which fine-tune was most effective.

Keep Records. There is nothing comparable to firsthand experience. Keeping a few personal notes about your equipment preferences is almost cost-free, and pays large dividends down the road. What did you like about a given stick? Were your slap-shots unusually-hard? Did you feel your puck-control skills were especially sharp? Were you dominant at face-offs?

Dedicated players may want to keep an eye on the Length (hosel to butt), Flex Rating, Kick-Point, Lie, Blade Pattern, and Grip of their sticks. As you continue to play hockey or as your children continue to play, I promise you will go through a lengthy number of them. Making a note of which sticks worked and which didn’t, and tracking a few fine details, could save you a lot of frustration and money in the long-term.

In Conclusion

This is a lot of information, especially to newer players. Hockey equipment has gotten so advanced and technical that modern players need to be more savvy than in generations prior in order to optimize their games. However, try not to let all of this become overwhelming and stressful. Ultimately, the information you have just read is only a guide, not a rulebook. Pick through this information as needed and as you gain experience, rather than trying to digest all of it in one sitting.

Also see the Reboot Hockey articles on Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick and How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates. As I wrote above, your skates and your stick are your two most-influential pieces of equipment. If you are using an ineffective sticks or pair of skates, your game will likely suffer. You can compensate for equipment issues in many cases, but sometimes bad equipment limits your potential to a great degree. Understanding the principles of Hockey Stick Flex will allow you to choose a stick that works best for You. Knowing about Stick Flex, and then cultivating personal preferences, will ultimately help you become the best player you can be.

Jack

Reboot Hockey