Honest Hockey Review: Bauer Re-AKT Hockey Helmet

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

Synopsis

The Bauer Re-AKT was Bauer’s top of the line helmet for 2014-15, having since been superseded by the Bauer Re-AKT 100.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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

Fit

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

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

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

IMG_3711

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Personal Biases

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

Final Thoughts

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

HH Overall Score: 9.0

Thanks for reading. Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

 

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

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Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Reboot Hockey Training Manual Coming Very Soon

Hey Gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, thank you for your support.

Jack

Reboot Hockey Interview: VH Hockey

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

Conducted by Jack, Reboot Hockey

In my continual efforts to find a skate that will fit my warped feet, I began to investigate custom hockey skates, as it seemed that none of the current retail offerings would work well for me moving forward. After some investigation, I came across VH Hockey, which stems from a very successful manufacturer of speed skates called VH Footwear.

What initially put VH on my radar was the number of NHL players, particularly Winnipeg Jets, who were sporting VH Skates during the 2014-15 season. I believe I first noticed VH Skates on Jets Captain Andrew Ladd, but quickly noticed gigantic Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien also opting for VH Skates, as well as fellow American Olympian Blake Wheeler (thanks to Getty Images/NHL):

ladd

byfuglien

 

wheeler

The Winnipeg Jets certainly don’t receive the same exposure in the U.S. as teams like Chicago or Pittsburgh, but for an NHL savant such as myself, it was hard to miss these unique, sharp-looking skates on many of the Jets’ top players.

Dustin Byfuglien, in particular, drew my attention. Not only because he’s just a mammoth player, but also because Dustin has seemingly had difficulty finding a pair of skates to fit his frame. I had previously seen Dustin sporting Easton Mako skates amid a number of other choices before settling on his impossible-to-miss VH Hockey skates.

I e-mailed VH Hockey, and VH was gracious enough to not only respond, but also to answer all of my questions in great detail. Below is my e-mail interview with Garth Smith, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for VH’s Hockey Division. Additional information about the VH line of skates can be found at http://www.vhhockey.com/. You can also Like VH Footwear on Facebook, or contact and follow VH via their Twitter handle @VHfootwear.

Reboot: Can you first tell Reboot Hockey readers a bit about how VH started and came to be involved in Ice Hockey?

VH: VH founder Scott Van Horne has been making skates for about 25 years (speed skates to start), and was incorporated in 1999. He designed a hockey skate about 8 years ago (MLX), which was well received in some circles. Scott left that company and it was ultimately sold to Easton. Van Horne went back to making custom speed skates – until he was approached by Jonas Hiller about getting back into hockey skates about 3 years ago. Scott refined his process, applied for new patents, and re-entered the hockey business.

(Note: Jonas Hiller is a goaltender for the Calgary Flames, and is well-known for continuing to sport Koho goaltending equipment.)

Reboot: There are obviously a ton of skate options available via the Retail Hockey Equipment market, and many modern skates are completely heat-moldable. Which fitting or construction issues do your customers cite mostly often when contacting VH about custom Hockey Skates?

VH: I will start by contending that there are very few skates that are “completely” heat-moldable. Of the modern skates, there are very few areas of the boot construction that are heat-moldable. We believe the VH boot to be the most moldable that there is – but even our boot is not entirely moldable. Because our product is very heat-moldable, our customers cite the great “wrap” that they are able to achieve with the boot – thereby providing most skaters with the best fit they have ever experienced.

(Notes: I’m not arguing, but almost every hockey shop employee I’ve spoken with over the past few years begins her or his pitch by talking about how “heat-reactive” or “thermo-moldable” a particular top-model skate is. Retail Hockey salespeople are getting their information directly from the manufacturers, and are clearly being told to push how heat-reactive respective skates are.

While I agree that the liners of skates conform like never before, I have not seen the overall reactivity I am looking for from a Retail skate excluding the Easton Mako. Most of the contemporary top-end skates I’ve used over the past few years require trial-and-error boot-punching, and very few of them provide the foot-wrap that I’m looking for.

In the past, I’ve used the exact same technique Scott uses in this video to personalize fit. However, as noted elsewhere, the Eyelet Cuff/Row of contemporary skates is often so stiff that this technique only damages a $600-$800 skate.

If you look at this video from VH on speed-skate molding, you get a better idea of the sort of reactivity I’m looking for from a hockey skate. In fact, I think most people would be well-served by watching the entire VH video series to get a better understanding of what a proper hockey skate-fitting entails.)

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Reboot: I began investigating custom Hockey Skates after failing to adjust to newer-style composite boots. I find most modern boots not only too restrictive, but also painful. Can you briefly explain to readers the advantages of the Monocoque boot used on VH Skates in comparison to the separate boot/outsole seen on most other modern Hockey Skates?

VH: Sure…first of all, when posing the question, you are assuming that all boots will mold and move for a skater. With many boots, they are made from very hard plastic molds that are seeking to be light and durable (not necessarily being focused on fit). Monocoque construction allows us to construct essentially an entire boot to the shape, length and width required by a skater.

Reboot: A major appeal of the Monocoque boot to me is that the single-piece construction would seem to help players have a much greater feel from the boot to the holder. It would also seem to me that a Monocoque boot would optimize the transfer of power from the skater to the skate blade. Does the Monocoque boot aid in both speed and the player’s ability to feel the ice?

VH: Correct on both counts. By creating a boot with very little “volume”, the boot becomes an extension of the player’s foot. This allows for maximum force transfer from the stride through the ice – in many cases creating more speed, and providing a feel of instant cuts and turns.

tendonguard

Reboot: Can you elaborate on how VH is able to identify foot abnormalities that can’t be seen with a foot tracing? For example, if a player has pronounced bone spurs on his foot (as I do), how can the player best relay this information to VH?

VH: For sure…if you have look on the website, there are some instructions on what we ask people to send in. The tracing allows us to set up an anatomically correct starting foot last on top of it to get the length, width, and shape of the foot. We also ask for customers to mark the location of ankle bones, abnormalities, navicular, etc. Then, we ask for the measurements to the middle of any trouble spots – and some pictures to support the measurements. Also, we ask for circumference measurement of both the forefoot, and the ankle area. Once we have received all of this information, we essentially have a “map” of the skater’s foot. This information is then used to make a custom foot last, and the boot is then built from the inside out in a very unique process.

(Note: this video from VH does a great job explaining how to size yourself for an order.)

Reboot: I will be writing a future article for Reboot Hockey on the differences in sizing between boots made by Bauer, CCM, Easton, etc. What I have noticed is that a Bauer Size 9 is not very close to a CCM Size 9, and to correctly size myself, I’ve resorted to using European units of measurement.

For example, a CCM/RBK Size 9 is Euro 44, while a Graf Size 9 is a Euro 43. I’ve found that a few millimeters is all it takes to separate a great-fitting boot from one that fits poorly.

Can you discuss the way in which VH standardizes length and width measurements? Or does VH mainly rely on the foot tracings and pictures submitted by customers?

VH:  Good question. As I mentioned in the previous answer, we use a very anatomically correct starting foot last. We ask for current skate make and size so we can get a sense of what a particular skater is used to (and sometimes to keep the holder size consistent). However, because our boots are custom made for each player, we don’t really have a problem with sizes.

Reboot: My biggest issue with modern composite skates is the inability to achieve necessary Forward Flex (Dorsiflexion) and Foot Wrap due to the stiffness of the eyelet rows. Many modern skates are so stiff that amateur players not only skate poorly, but expose themselves to orthopedic issues because they can’t properly flex their ankles.

Can you please discuss how VH has tackled this issue? Is this a problem customers commonly cite when contacting VH?

VH: Another very good question. Because of Scott Van Horne’s background as a Canadian National Speedskater, he is acutely aware of the mechanics of powerful skaters. He also completed a Masters Degree in Biomechanics – with his thesis focusing on the skating stride. Because of this, Scott has designed the VH skate to allow specifically for what you reference in your question – the set up of the boot allows for skaters to get their knee over their toes for maximal stride force.

Reboot: I grew up in Pittsburgh, and was of course aware of the MLX line of skates due to their affiliation with Mario Lemieux. The VH Hockey Skates of course bear a strong connection to the MLX. Can you talk about some ways in which the VH Hockey boot has improved and progressed since the original MLX was released?

VH: Far better materials. Far better fit because of the process to build the boots custom for a player. As Scott would say “The MLX boot was like a prototype version 1.0…the VH boot is like version 8 or 9 from all of the experience, feedback, and learnings over the years”.

Reboot: Time has shown that the MLX had some strong and weak points. Can you please talk about the lessons learned in constructing the MLX, and how lessons learned from the MLX were applied in the construction of the current VH Hockey Skates?

VH: Proprietary Information.

(Note: Instead of just Being Vague all of the time, I’m going to start responding “proprietary information” every time someone asks a question I don’t want to answer. Thanks, Garth.)

Reboot: Can you talk at all about the current relationship between VH and Easton Chief of Speed Dave Cruikshank?

(Note: Cruikshank was a former Olympic-level speed-skater who used VH skates while he competed. Cruikshank worked with VH President/Founder Scott Van Horne in the construction of the MLX boot before he was brought in to overhaul Easton’s line of skates.)

VH: There is no formal relationship. I personally don’t know Dave, other than that he was/is a tremendous skater. He and Scott were the founding members of the MLX company, and when Easton acquired MLX, Dave joined Easton (Scott had left MLX prior to that time).

Reboot: Can you or Scott discuss some of the biggest differences between the VH Hockey Skate and the Easton Mako Skate? Is there a type of player of type of foot that would be particularly better served using a VH skate rather than a Mako, or vice-versa?

VH:  To my knowledge the Mako is a fine product that is produced overseas in a standard sizing range. I do not believe that this skate is customized for individual skaters as the VH is which is produced in Winnipeg, Canada. We make custom boots, so I don’t think there is a particular foot that we can’t accommodate – I won’t speak to which type of feet are served well by the Mako.

Reboot: In my efforts to find a skate that fits properly, I have looked to professional players who may have had similar fitting problems. In my investigation, I noticed Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets wearing Easton Makos for a time before switching to VH Skates. Several of his Jets teammates, notably Jets Captain Andrew Ladd, also switched to VH. From what I have seen, Ladd had been using Bauer skates almost exclusively since he entered the NHL before switching to VH this past season (2014-15), while Byfuglien has seemed to have a difficult time finding skates that fit since entering the NHL.

First, can you talk about some of the ways in which the VH boots fit differently than the Easton Mako, and maybe talk about the process between VH and Dustin Byfuglien in particular?

Second, can you speak about how several of the Jets players ended up in VH boots, even after years and years of using Bauer, CCM, etc.?

VH: We don’t speak about how the VH skates fit differently than other brands, primarily because that is a very individual experience. It is not an apples to apples comparison – again – because we are making a boot to fit the player. In theory, if we do a good job, any player should find that the VH boot is the best fitting skating boot that they have ever used.

There are a number of Jets using the skates primarily because of proximity and opportunity. We generally find that if one or two players are using the skates, then there are a number of their teammates that are intrigued and willing to try.   The same thing has happened in San Jose and Columbus and some other cities…it just takes some time.

jets

Reboot: The Jets made the playoffs in 2014-15 for the first time since the NHL returned to Winnipeg. This was obviously for a number of reasons, but I can’t help but suspect that VH played a small part by getting a number of the Jets’ key contributors into their skates. Has the success of the Jets led to more interest from more professional teams and/or equipment managers?

VH: Haha, that is nice of you to say. I’m not sure we draw the same straight line to the Jets success – but we are happy to have someone else make that contention! I’m not sure that the interest is related to the Jets success – just a function of time and other players noticing what peers are wearing and talking about. Sometimes equipment managers will contact us because players have issues or problem feet. We don’t want to be known as the “problem skate”, however, sometimes it can be a nice entrée into a dressing room

Reboot: What do younger professional players most commonly cite as the best feature or biggest advantage of the VH Hockey Skates?

I’m specifically thinking of young NHL players such as Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheiefle, who grew up using full-composite skates. How did VH manage to win over young professional players like this who seemingly have their choice of the best equipment available?

trouba

VH: You may have answered your own question. Because players do have their choice of the best equipment available, many have chosen our product. In the case of young players it is often an older or respected teammate that is using our skates that has told someone that you really have to try these.

Reboot: Are there certain types of feet or players that VH commonly deals with? For example, do larger players gravitate toward VH? Or players with flat feet, large ankles/forefeet, etc.?

VH: Not really, we think any skater could benefit. However, as I mentioned before, sometimes we get a try from someone that is having issues with their current skates.

Again, I was thrilled with the depth of the responses I was given by Garth, and I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to answer all of my questions so thoroughly.

The intent of this interview from my perspective is to create awareness of VH Hockey for those who might be having fitting problems similar to my own. Most of the time, I leave the average hockey store more frustrated than when I arrived, because none of the $800+ skates seem to provide the fit I’m looking for. I wanted similarly-frustrated players to know that for the amount of money being asked for high-end hockey skates at the Retail level, there’s a price-comparable alternative in VH Skates.

Selfishly, I also wanted to know more about the VH product as a potential customer. I fully plan to invest in a pair of VH Hockey Skates, and will update this article after I receive and review them. I may be waiting a while, because it seems business is booming for VH as more and more players become aware of their product.

Thanks for reading. As always, you can support Reboot Hockey by re-posting this interview and Liking Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

 

 

Pro Stock vs. Retail Equipment: Which to Buy?

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

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

Skates

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

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

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

upro11k

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

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

prostockupro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RBK_Phaneuf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sticks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

032

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloves

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

nashwinnwell

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

ccmgloves

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

mainegloves

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

hossagloves

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

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

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

gaby

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

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

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

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

Helmets/Protective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

genostaalsy

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

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils

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

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

teemu2

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

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

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

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

redrampage

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

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

shoulders1

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

Here’s another Pro Stock mashup:

shoulders2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

As for the Retail side:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

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

eastonpros

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Overview

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

Here is a color chart for the 2014 Easton Pro:

eastonProGlovesColorChart

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

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

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

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

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

gaborik3

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

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

HH Rating: 8.5

Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

006007

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

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

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

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

HH Rating: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

The Easton Pro comes highly recommended. Thanks for reading.

HH Overall Rating: 8.5

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