Honest Hockey Review: Bauer Re-AKT Hockey Helmet

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

Synopsis

The Bauer Re-AKT was Bauer’s top of the line helmet for 2014-15, having since been superseded by the Bauer Re-AKT 100.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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

Fit

IMG_3709 IMG_3710

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

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

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

IMG_3711

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

bauer-re-akt-hockey-helmet-42

 

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

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

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

IMG_3723 IMG_3724 IMG_3726 IMG_3727(MERICA)

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

HH Score: 9.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Personal Biases

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

Final Thoughts

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

HH Overall Score: 9.0

Thanks for reading. Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

 

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

rebootcover2

Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Jetspeed Hockey Skates

jetspeed

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

ccmskates

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

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

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

11k-black-skates

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

reebok30k

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

skjetspeed2

rbz

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

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

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

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

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

Fit

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

JetSpeed-top1

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

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

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

Bauer-Skate-Comparison

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

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


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

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

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

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

CCMfitchart

ccmframechart

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

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

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

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

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

crazylight

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

HH Score: 8.0

Durability

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

HH Score: N/A

Performance: First Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Performance: Second Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Biases

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Overall Grade: 9.25

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

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Easton Pro Series Shin Guards

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By Jack, Reboot Hockey

All of my Honest Hockey Reviews on Protective equipment are going to be short, sweet, and to the point. I think anyone interested enough to read a Review on Hockey Equipment knows what to look for in Elbow/Shin/Shoulder Pads.

While most players are beyond finicky when it comes to skates, sticks, and possibly gloves/helmets, many of these same players  don’t have major preferences when it comes to hockey pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and shin guards. Many times, comfort takes precedence over protection, as many veteran players will often squeeze years or even decades out of a particular piece of Protective gear.

As an older gentleman I play pickup hockey with pointed out, “When was the last time you saw 20+ (years) player buy new shoulder pads?”

To wit, here is the photo of the “Protective” gear I ordinarily wear for Adult League, now buffered by the Easton Pro Shins:

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Cooper (Google it) Shoulder Pads, $20 Nike/Bauer Elbows, a CCM shell sans girdle, and of course the Easton Pros.

That lot is pretty laughable. I actually wore those same Cooper shoulder pads when I played in college, as I was more of a “cherry-picker” than a “shot-blocker”. But I digress.

Anyway, like many long-time players, I have never put a premium on purchasing expensive Protective gear. Almost of my disposable income went into (and continues to go into) skates, sticks, and gloves. No matter how hard the manufacturers try, selling a hockey player on the sexiness of a new set of elbow pads mostly remains a major chore.

I picked up a pair of Easton Pro Series Shin Guards only because they cost me less than a pair of movie tickets. I was perfectly content playing in a pair of Sher-Wood 5030 Traditional Shins, as I thought they were perfectly-acceptable value at $30 retail. It never occurred to me that there would be any major benefit to investing more in Shins/Elbows/Shoulders as an Adult Leaguer.

I was wrong. The Easton Pro Series Shin Guards made me a believer in the benefits of buyer better Protective, even if you’re only an A-League bender like myself. Read on and I’ll explain.

Economy Line to Front Line

eastonshins2

I had worn a pair of Reebok 8K Shins from just after college until late 2012, at which point the liners had basically disintegrated. I had worn Jofa Shins in the years prior, so I had been, unknowingly, wearing professional-quality Shin Guards for most of my youth. I had taken the benefits of high-grade Shins for granted, as I had always blindly purchased Jofa Shins because that’s what I had seen Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, et al. wearing.

Figuring, “I’m just a decaying Garage Leaguer at this point, why bother investing heavily in new Shins?”, I picked up the Sher-Wood 5030 Traditionals. To their credit, it’s hard to knock the value the 5030 Traditionals provide, as I believe they are by far the best Shins you can buy at the $30 price-point.

However, the reality is that I am experienced enough that lower-end gear can and does hinder my play. This was something I long ago recognized with Skates and Sticks, but had not given much thought to regarding Protective gear. I will tear through a mid-range Stick or pair of Skates in short order simply because I am bigger and stronger than most of the people intermediate-level gear is made for. The same principle, it turns out, applies to Protective equipment.

Anyway, I was able to snag a pair of Easton Pro Series Shins for about the cost of dinner for two at Arby’s. Don’t ask me how I got them at that price. I had purchased them on a lark with the full intention of immediately reselling them.

The plan was to try them on once or twice in the interest of writing an Honest Hockey review. However, after wearing them once, I fell in love. My 5030 Traditionals ended up in my spare equipment bag, and my Easton Pro Series Shins are my favorite equipment purchase to-date in 2014.

Benefits of High-End Protective

  • Better Fit = Better Play

The reality is that Economy and even Intermediate level equipment is cut like department-store denim jeans: One Size Fits Most. While my 5030 Traditionals fit “fine”, I would be lying if I said they fit “great”. To use the Jeans analogy, wearing Economy/Intermediate protective is like wearing Slim Straight jeans when you have Hockey Ass and need custom tailoring.

The best thing I can say about my Easton Pro Series Shins is that the put my skating form back into proper alignment. I did not realize how uncomfortably-upright the 5030 Traditionals kept me until I wore the Easton Pros. The Pro Series Shins simply contoured to the anatomy of my lower leg better, which made my skating noticeably smoother.

The fit top-to-bottom on the Easton Pros is superb, as you would expect from a $99.99 retail Shin Guard. The removable liners are comfortable, snug, and non-abrasive. The calf wrap on the Easton Pros provides a taut fit during play. Unlike most Economy/Intermediate-level Shins, the Easton Pros articulate at the knee, which again allows the player to move more naturally.

Aside from the improvement in my skating stride, the fact that I never have to adjust, or even think about, my Shins while wearing them is the best thing I can say about them.

  • Better Protection/Injury Insurance (DUH)

It goes without saying that if I so inclined, the Easton Pro Shins would help a ton with shot-blocking. As noted previously, I am a Pond Hockey guy, so I block shots with the frequency of the Solar Equinox. However, in the interest of science, I did get in front of a few slappers recently. I can report that I felt absolutely fine after blocking three or four A-League bombs, although don’t expect me to turn into a modern-day Mike Ramsey.

I am always on people who play more than 1-2 times per week to upgrade to a higher-end pair of gloves, as I believe the jump in price from a $30 pair to a $70 pair is a huge upgrade in fit and quality. Considering how much time most hockey players spend on the ice, the extra $40 invested against an expected usage of about one year seems like a no-brainer investment to me.

My experience with the Easton Pro Shins has brought me to around to this line of thinking on Protective. I am on the ice a minimum of 4-5 times per week, and I generally wear Protective gear that looks like it belongs to a member of District 5. Without my jersey and socks on, I look like a Hockey-playing hobo.

Again, you’re going to probably get a calendar year, at minimum, out of a quality piece of Protective equipment. If you’re an A-League warrior and you’re on the ice with any regularity, going up a tier or two to a pair of shins like the Easton Pros is money well spent, in my view.

The other consideration is the injuries that you avoid incurring with the use of better Protective gear. Like I wrote above, I am no shot-blocking specialist, but I do crash-and-bang about as much as A-League will let me. If moving up from a $30 economy-level Shin to a $100 Pro-level Shin spares me even one injury, it’s a tremendous investment.

Basis of Comparison

To be fair, I have not invested much at all in Protective within the last several years. It’s very possible I would have written the exact same things about Shin Guards such as the CCM CL Shins or Reebok 18K Shins if I had gotten into them first.

But as I wrote above, the Easton Pro Shins are also my favorite equipment purchase of 2014. The fact that I am making a major jump from an Economy-line pair of Shins such as 5030 Traditionals should not diminish the value that Pro-level Shins such as the Easton Pros provide.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the Easton Pro Series Shin Guards, and their quality has me looking strongly at other Easton products that I had not previously considered. As far as Protective equipment goes, I don’t think that anyone can ask for much more than superb fit and protection, both of which the Easton Pro Shins provide. If a product is strong enough to encourage a buyer to try other products from the same line, it really has gone above and beyond.

I did not rate the Easton Pro Shins in the categories I generally include in Honest Hockey Reviews (Durability, Value, etc). After I Review more Protective gear and come up with a good, consistent system, I will edit this article to reflect those changes and include a more-thorough breakdown. In the mean time, take my word as a player that the Easton Pro Shins are a terrific product, even at their suggested retail of $99.99.

After my positive experience with the Easton Pro Shins, my next equipment purchase will likely be to pair them with the Easton Pro Elbow Pads. What I want more than anything out of Protective is a consistent fit and quality, and the Easton Pro Shins certainly provide that. They have made me enough of a believer to invest in their Elbows, and to consider products I had not previously (helmets, skates, etc) in the future.

If I can speak so strongly about the value that higher-end Protective provides, perhaps you should try an upper-level pair of Elbows or Shoulders for yourself. You may be stunned by how much you enjoy them.

HH Overall Rating: 9.5

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

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Crazy Light Skates

clsI had the opportunity to pick up a pair of CCM’s top-of-the-line skates from 2012, the CCM Crazy Light, at an absolute steal of a price. While I was thoroughly disappointed with a lower offering from the same line, the CCM U+10, the allure of a $700 skate at a fraction of that price was too strong to forgo. I gave the Crazy Lights a whirl, and here is what I have to report.

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

(UPDATE: 5/26/14 – I had a critic question my ability to review the CCM Crazy Light skates, so I have added two sections called, “Basis of Comparison” and “Personal Biases”. I think both of these will help add objectivity to the Honest Hockey Reviews going forward.)

Basis of Comparison

I have skated in CCMs since I began playing at age 7. I believe I used a pair of Bauer Supreme 1000s for a season or so when I was around 10 or 12, but for the most part I have always been a CCM guy. My feet are ridiculously-shaped, and traditionally CCM skates have almost always fit better than Bauer skates.

I currently have in my possession the following skates: 2008 CCM U+Pro, 2009 CCM U+Pro Reloaded (with a Bauer Lightspeed 2 Holder/9′ Radius), Reebok 11K Pumps, CCM 1052 Super Tacks, CCM Custom Pro Tacks (Pro Stock), and CCM 852 Tacks. I will put up a pic of all the skates to validate this shortly.

(UPDATE 7/25/14: Here’s a picture of my obnoxious stock of CCM equipment. Notice the multitude of CCM/RBK skates:

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The CLs are on the bottom right with the yellow laces. So yeah, I know a thing or two about CCM equipment, and CCM skates in particular.)

In recent memory, I have also tried the 2011 CCM U+10, Graf 535 Supras, Graf 709 Texalites, and Easton Mako skates, all of which I re-sold for one reason or another. I wore a pair of 2006 CCM Vector 10.0s until they fell apart. As a kid, I had a number of other Tacks-era CCM skates.

In short,  I am qualified to review the Crazy Light because I have used many skates that are directly comparable within the CCM/RBK family. Because I have purchased a CCM boot every 1-2 years on average for the past 20 years, I believe I am well-suited to note changes in the Crazy Light from prior models. As written above, I currently skate on two skates directly- comparable to the Crazy Light in the U+Pro Reloaded and the RBK 11K Pump.

Looks

The Crazy Light is a gorgeous skate. I picked up a pair of the original silver/black skates with the red accents, and I was wowed by how sharp they look. In fact, I may have somewhat-fallen into the “beautiful woman” trap of almost overlooking fundamental flaws in the skates because of how good-looking they are.

CCM has generally made a more meat-and-potatoes line of skates, based more on substance than style. However, the Crazy Light was a strong step toward revitalizing their brand from an aesthetic perspective. The Crazy Light compares very favorably looks-wise to other 2011/2012 offerings.

HH Rating: 8.5

Fit

The Crazy Light features CCM’s patented U+ Foam, which they included in their U+ models from 2008-2012. This technology is fantastic for people such as myself who have misshapen feet, as it provides instant customization in most cases. The skates are meant to be baked and re-baked until the proper fit is achieved.

One of the best things I can say about the CL is that the U+Foam used in the skates is a marked upgrade from that found in the U+10 boot. I have not seen a U+12 to compare the bridge between the two, but the foam in the CL boot is professional grade. You can take it as a positive that CCM includes such great materials in their top-end boot, or take it as a negative that there is such a marked drop-off to their mid-level boot, but Crazy Light buyers have nothing to be disappointed about.

Having said that, this is an extremely-stiff boot, at least compared to other 2012 models. That’s a positive or a negative depending on your personal preferences, but I found the Crazy Lights to be oppressively-stiff along the Eyelet Row. This prevented me from skating in my natural mechanics, which are pitched aggressively-forward.

Even after hours and hours on the ice, I was not achieving the uptick in performance that I had been hoping for. As with the U+10s I had purchased the previous year, the Crazy Light hindered my performance by greatly restricting my ankle mobility. While they felt fantastic as I laced them up in the locker room, I was not achieving the desired carry-over onto the ice. I tried 8 or 10 different lacing styles, and none of them really allowed me to skate to my potential.

To make the CLs usable, I had to resort to this absurd modification in which I dropped the top two eyelets and taped the ankle, basically mimicking Troy Brouwer’s 55 Flex concept:

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The reason I ultimately resold the Crazy Lights is that I simply did not want to have to put this much modification into my skates every time I hit the ice. The Eyelet Rows – and the top 2-3 eyelets in particular – simply would not wrap around the curvature of my ankle. I have permanent scars on my ankles from trying to make the CLs fit adequately, but this process was the definition of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

My view is that a $700 retail skate should take most of the guesswork out of advanced customization. Sure, I could have ordered a device like 55 Flex to make the skates fit adequately, but I feel at this price-point that I shouldn’t have to.

(Update: a reader named Eddie had a very similar experience to me, getting inadequate flex and wrap along the top of the boot. Here was how Eddie solved the problem:  


Eddie clearly has more patience than I. But this is a great example of modifying the equipment you have on hand rather than throwing money at the problem. Thanks again, Eddie.)

Along the outsole (the bottom of the boot), the fit could not be better. The U-Foam in the Crazy Light – called “U+Grip Rebranded” – could not have conformed to my foot better. The U-Foam in the Crazy Light may have conformed even better than the U-Foam in the 2008/2009 U+Pro models, which is really saying something.

Having said that, I prefer the customization of the Reebok Pump from my 11K models. The 11Ks give me tremendous support around the Achilles as well as superb Heel Lock. As a direct comparable, my view is that the fit of the 11K is better than that of the Crazy Light, though the Crazy Light certainly fits very well along the outsole.

My main criticism – and this is a criticism of modern skates themselves, rather than the Crazy Light in particular – was getting an appropriate fit along the top of the boot and the ankle. Due to the nature of the composite materials themselves, I could not achieve acceptable “Foot Wrap” or forward-flex in the Crazy Lights without drastic modification.

CCM completely rebuilt their skates for the 2013 RBZ line, and presumably will do the same for their 2014 Tacks re-release.

(Update: I demoed and reviewed the CCM Jetspeed, and had none of the same fitting problems that I did with the Crazy Light. I think the materials used to make up the Quarter on CCM’s 2012 “U+” line were ultra-stiff and exceptionally protective, but not advanced enough to conform in-step with the liner. CCM has obviously rectified this problem.)

HH Rating: 7.0

Durability

Again, I was most struck by the quality of the Crazy Light compared to it’s sister skate the U+10.

I looked, but I don’t have any pics remaining of the U+10s. You will have to take me at my word: I used a pair of CCM U+10s for no more than four or five months, and they looked like they had been used for four or five years under an NHL schedule. The U+10s were so misshapen and warped from routine use after half a year that I eagerly re-sold them for $50 on eBay.

But this article isn’t about the U+10. This is about the Crazy Light, which again compares favorably as the top-of-the-line offering from CCM for 2012.

The rigid materials that somewhat limit forward foot-flexion are, as you would suspect, extremely protective. I feel like the quarter package could withstand a bullet at close range. No one in my local league shoots at NHL caliber, but I think beer-leaguers could block shots in the Crazy Lights without much trepidation.

Ditto for the tongue, which I would not describe as especially soft or forgiving. “Rugged” – like the skin of a crocodile – would be a more apt description. If you are a flopper, i.e. you wear the tongue of your skates outside the shin-guards, note that the tongue of the Crazy Light skate is not particularly lengthy or plush. It’s not uncomfortably by any means, but it’s not cotton-soft, either.

Finally, the Crazy Light skate was considerably less “rickety” than the U+10. Out of the box, with the U+10, the steel felt loose in the holder. It rattled as I walked to the ice. Meanwhile, the CL feels like it could withstand a chainsaw attack. As you would expect from a $700 retail boot, it’s incredibly well-constructed.

HH Rating: 8.5

Performance

With skates, fit and personal preference become the issue. Here is what I will say on behalf of the Crazy Light skate:

1) As the name suggests, it’s hard to envision a lighter set of skates. CCM apparently lowered the weight by 25% for their 2013 RBZ line, but the Crazy Lights feel weightless. That’s going to appeal to a great number of buyers.

2) With the U+Foam, the skate will mold to your foot like few others. “Hot Spots” are easy to work out, and you can achieve tremendous fit around the bottom of the foot. This will undoubtedly improve performance in a great many skaters.

Here’s the deal-maker or deal-breaker:

The CCM Crazy Light is exceptionally-stiff. Depending on your skating style, this can be a boon or a major hindrance.

Like the U+10 and many contemporary skates, the stiffness of the boot along the Eyelet Row (and to a lesser degree the tongue) limits forward flex. Many players, pros especially, combat this by dropping or skipping one or more eyelets. I was never able to achieve desirable forward flex with either the U+10 or the Crazy Light, though again the CL fit 10 times better due to the superior U-Foam.

HH Rating: 7.5

Personal Biases

I apparently have to state that I am not a professional hockey player. Having said that, I played college and have been playing continuously for since I was seven. I can properly skate in high-end retail skates, assuming a proper fit, since I am frequently mistaken for being a young Bret Hedican.

I am quite biased in favor of CCM/RBK. Despite the bad experience with the U+10, I convinced myself that the Crazy Light was going to work fine for me and that the U+10 was just a defective, low-end boot. Frankly I wanted to Crazy Light to fit identically to my 2008 U+Pros and save me further aggravation, but that simply wasn’t the case.

I did not compare the Crazy Light to a price-similar Bauer skate because I cannot get my foot into one comfortably. I do feel the Reebok 11K is a strong comparable, noting that both are made by the same parent company. The Easton Mako is a one-of-a-kind fit, and does not serve as a great comparable to the Crazy Light because of its uniqueness. I dislike Graf, and the models I tested were not terribly comparable to the Crazy Light.

(UPDATE: having used the 11K, U+ Pro, and Jetspeed, my assessment of the Crazy Light is that it traded conformity for protection/reactivity, especially compared to the U+ Pro. I would grade the Crazy Light as the stiffest/most-reactive of those four models. If you do not have an irregular foot shape and put a premium on reactivity, you will probably love the Crazy Light. But it limited me in a way that the other three CCM/RBK models above did not.)

Again, the Crazy Light is a massive upgrade on the U+10, but the most glaring problem with the U+10 (the oppressive stiffness of the Eyelet Row, and the inability of the skate to properly flex and wrap my foot) persisted.

My feet are just hideous, and I have major problems finding skates that fit. However, I got 4-5 years each out of both the CCM Vector 10.0 and the original CCM U+Pro. It’s worth nothing that a number of veteran NHL skaters – Joe Thornton, Loui Eriksson, and Brendan Morrow, to name a few – have continued to use the U+Pro, which I believe is stronger overall boot than the Crazy Light.

While the Crazy Light’s U-Foam wrapped the bottom of my foot wonderfully, the top half of the boot would not conform properly around the top half of my foot. If you have more-normal or less-damaged feet, you may not experience the problems I do with most skates, but if you are a long-time or more-traditional skater, you may find the Crazy Light to be too much of a “ski boot”.

I skate in an aggressively-forward posture ala American Hero Bret Hedican or Sergei Fedorov. If you skate with a very upright torso and 90-degree angles at both your hip and your knee (like Jordan Staal), the Crazy Light will certainly aid you in maintaining this form. If you skate more like Sergei Fedorov – i.e. with extreme forward-flex – you may find that the Crazy Light is so stiff through the front and tongue that it prevents adequate flex. I had to drop the top two laces to make the Crazy Lights usable.

Final Considerations

If you’re considering a Crazy Light, than you are likely considering a close-out skate from 2012, which at this point would include the Easton Mako (2013) and the Easton EQ50. I’ve never tried an EQ50, but compared to the Mako, my assessment would be that the Crazy Light will provide inferior fit but superior durability and protection.

The Crazy Light is “meant” to be baked and re-baked. I personally think that one or two bakes should be more than sufficient, but again the Crazy Light is also crazy-stiff. If you decide to go with Crazy Lights, know that you’re in for a lengthy break-in period, and adjust your patience accordingly.

The Crazy Light uses CCM’s trademark holder prior to the SpeedBlade 4.0, the E-Pro. The steel comes factory-contoured at 10′. Most people, for whatever reason, prefer Bauer TUUK holders, which came factory-contoured at a 9′ prior to the release of the LS Edge/LS4.

As written above, CCM completely rebuilt their boot for the 2013 RBZ line. Additionally, the 2014 Tacks line is about to be released to the general public. If I were doing the purchase over, I would make sure to at least get my foot into both an RBZ and a 2014 Tacks boot before I made a purchasing decision.

(UPDATE: CCM overhauled their skate line following the discontinuation of the RBZ. The Jetspeed, Tacks, and RibCor skates now offer three distinct fits, answering almost all of my criticisms of the Crazy Light. In retrospect, the Crazy Light was a stop along the evolutionary train as skate companies have sought to perfect composite skates, and should be remembered as such.)

In keeping with this line of thought, the reason CCM has undergone a massive re-branding is that the company has gradually lost more and more market share to industry giant Bauer at the retail level. While the RBZ line was a major positive step for CCM and the Tacks line looks to make a similar leap in sales, the Crazy Light could in some ways be considered a low point in the CCM line.

The Crazy Light could potentially be a steal for you at closeout prices, but with updated offerings available, it’s also possible that the Crazy Light represents a failed concept. Read as many reviews as you can, and try to get into as many price-comparable boots as possible.

HH Overall Rating: 7.5

Jack