Reboot Hockey Redefined

It’s early February 2017, and I am at work on the Second Edition of the Reboot Hockey Training Manual. The First Edition remains a high-value gem, and is available for sale here.

In deciding how I’m going re-write the Second Edition and add more value for Reboot readers, I noticed that the articles I wrote for the blog gradually got away from being cost-effective ways to modify equipment and Hockey Theory, and became more about reviewing new equipment just for the sake of doing so.

While I think my Honest Hockey Reviews possess a certain amount of character that you won’t find elsewhere, I also believe I’ve gotten away from original Reboot concept – modifying existing Hockey Equipment for maximum on-ice effect – and fallen into the trap of writing just to increase readership.

To wit: one of my main goals in launching Reboot Hockey was just to find a pair of skates that fit. Over time, my orthopedic issues have gradually gotten worse while Hockey Skates have gotten stiffer and stiffer, and it’s been a battle to find a pair of skates that 1) I could wear without debilitating pain that 2) allowed me to skate to my ability.

In late 2015, I had the CCM Jetspeed skates on my feet, and you know what? They fit fine. Very well, in fact. They needed some minor skate-punching, but otherwise they were everything I had been seeking in a skate. So rather than do the smart thing and just drop the $800 on the pair I demoed, the little voice in the back of my head whispered, “the Makos might be better,” and “wait for the Super Tacks”.

So I did. I waited for a few months before I bought the Easton Mako II skates on closeout, and I couldn’t make them fit. So I went several more months without skates that fit/performed, then I bought the Super Tacks shortly after they came out. While the Super Tacks certainly perform, I’ve had to re-work my skating stride from scratch to accommodate them. And they still hurt while I wear them.

Acknowledging that I’ve learned a book’s worth about modern skate-fitting, the lessons learned were expensive in terms of actual cash, and more importantly Time. Time is invaluable, and as a Hockey Player that’s a lesson you’re not cognizant of until you’re closer to the end than the beginning. The amount of Time I lost fiddling around and waiting for the next, best thing is Time that would have been better spent just playing the game in skates that worked well.

In the course of the Super Tacks review, I also had to admit that I haven’t used a ton of Bauer skates in the recent past. I did a lot of research on the Bauer Supreme 1S and the Vapor 1X (as well as the now-released Nexus 1N), and started to wonder if I should start saving up for a high-end Bauer boot, as if that would finally solve my skate-fitting problems and make me a more-objective reviewer for Reboot.

Point being, I’ve thrown thousands of dollars at this particular problem over the past several years – and I was nearly prepared to throw more – while I’ve gotten further away from what I initially wanted. Yes, it would be cool if Reboot Hockey became an outrageous success, and it’s very gratifying to help fellow players with their Hockey-related problems, but what I really want – what gets me out of bed in the morning – is being the absolute best Hockey Player that I can be. Demoing, modifying, and reviewing equipment is just a means to that end.

And in the course of doing all of this, I’ve gotten away from what I really believe, which is that a commitment to conditioning, eating right, and improving athleticism will make up for deficient equipment in most cases.

So, I’m writing this piece to re-define what Reboot Hockey is all about moving forward.

First, I want you to reject the idea that the newest stick or pair of skates is going to dramatically improve your game. Do yourself a solid and check out this picture of San Jose Sharks Center and future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thornton:

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Jumbo led his squad to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in eight-year old skates – my cherished CCM U+ Pros -and a two-piece blade/shaft. It looks like Jumbo grabbed someone’s broken RibCor out of a trash can, shaved the end, and stuffed a 2007 blade into it. And at Age 37, Joe Thornton is still one of the dominant Centermen in the NHL.

Joe Thornton is Hockey. I would much rather that Reboot Hockey Readers take the same stance at Joe Thornton – who obviously puts a premium on familiarity at the expense of technological advancement – which is that the equipment is secondary. Jumbo literally has his choice of anything on the market, and he chooses to use a freaking two-piece stick. And using a two-piece stick and eight-year old skates, he finished fourth – 4th! – in the National Hockey League in scoring in 2015-16, en route to coming within two games of winning the Stanley Cup.

Image result for chris kunitz joel ward

Speaking of which, there’s also 37-year old Pittsburgh Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, he of three Stanley Cup Rings. In the above photo, he’s making the defensive play of the 2016 Cup Final, back-checking like a maniac and diving to rob Joel Ward (rocking the U+ Pros) of a clear-cut breakaway.

Chris Kunitz hasn’t had the behemoth statistical career that Joe Thornton has, but he’s been a rock and a warrior. I don’t think an NHL player wins one Stanley Cup by circumstance, let alone three, and I bet Jumbo would trade his 1400 regular-season points for a single Stanley Cup victory.

As he’s aged, Kunitz has had to make the adjustment from being Sid Crosby’s primary winger to being more of a depth winger. To start 2017, he found himself on the team’s 4th line, and you haven’t heard a whisper of a complaint from him. Chris Kunitz just goes out and plays, and finds ways to be effective in whatever role he’s placed in, whether it’s a depth-scoring role or winging the Best Player in Hockey.

A beat report in Pittsburgh asked Kunitz if he’s had to adjust his game as he gets older and the game quickens. This was his reply:

You’re not going to reinvent yourself,” he told me. “If you are, you might be getting away from the things that got you here.”

A problem that I’ve encountered as a Hockey Player is that I’ve tried fixing things that aren’t broken. I’ve got that Sid Crosby problem where I’m always picking at my own game and trying to do everything better, sometimes doing things differently just for the sake of doing so.

For example, at some point around 2011 I started getting chapped over the fact that my Slapshot has always been pretty mediocre. So I tuned down the flex on my sticks a little bit, went with a closed-face Blade Pattern, and took dozens upon dozens of Slapshots. Today, I have a really good Slapshot. And you know what? I almost never, ever use it in games. In the process, I got away from refining the things that I successfully did very well, such as my Alex Kovalev-style wrister.

The current trend in equipment has been for lower Stick Flexes in the interest of maximizing Shot Release and Energy Loading. But you know what you trade when you drop down to a whippier stick? Accuracy, for one thing. And if you subscribe to the same methodology as everyone else, or try to be too perfect at everything, you make yourself a more-common player. Sometimes, the trends and changes in equipment can get you away from what made you successful in the first place. This is a lesson most players won’t learn until they’ve invested significant time in the game. 

Chris Kunitz doesn’t have this problem. He’s known exactly who is as a Hockey Player for years and years. He initiates contact, as hard as he can. He’s probably scored the same way hundreds upon hundreds of times. He’s not fancy, but he’s extremely polished and professional.

Like Joe Thornton, Chris Kunitz is Hockey. If you look at a picture of Kunitz from 2007, you can see that his equipment – aside from those sick black Eagle gloves – has barely changed. One doesn’t get the sense that Chris Kunitz spends a lot of time or energy agonizing over which equipment to use in trying to refine his game. He gets the equipment right the first time, then he just goes out there and works on his game. The equipment is just window-dressing.

The game constantly evolves, and I’m proof that the temptation to acquiesce to the newest technology exists. But I’m urging you not to let equipment become a crutch for the perceived deficiencies in your game.

I could even argue that the latest equipment being pumped out at the Retail level is hindering players as much as helping them, but I’ll save that rant for the Second Edition of the Training Manual.

When Mark and I began Reboot Hockey, I think we both believed that eventually some of the equipment manufacturers would donate some gear to us for demo and review. Years and dozens of Honest Hockey Reviews later, that has not proven to be the case. I’ve paid out of pocket for pretty much everything I’ve tried, and again while this has been educational, it’s been expensive and not necessarily conducive to improving my game.

So for 2017, the focus from Reboot Hockey is going to be on helping players get the most out of they have on-hand, rather than reviewing new and different equipment just for the sake of doing so. Not to keep shilling for the Training Manual, but most of the information I’ve taken off the blog and reconstituted into the book has been on Lacing Methods, Profiling, Selecting a Stick Flex, Shooting and Scoring Techniques, Ways to Improve Body Composition, etc. I really believe that I put the most-effective, valuable stuff – the information that is going to make you a Better Hockey Player – into the Training Manual, and that new equipment purchases are like dessert for otherwise-dedicated players.

Equipment Purchases/Reviews are fun, and a nice way to celebrate the game. Walking out of a pro shop with a brand new twig or pair of gloves puts a smile on any Hockey Player’s face. But going to a Hockey Shop and throwing money at an on-ice problem is the laziest, and often least-effective, path to improvement. If you want to be a Better Hockey Player, you’ve got to put the work in, and that extends to taking care of your body and understanding the game from a mental perspective. Those are going to be primary focuses in the Second Edition of the Training Manual.

I understand that many readers check out Reboot Hockey for the equipment reviews. I have the stats from the blog right in front of me, and the majority of new visitors are looking for product information on the latest releases from Bauer and CCM. And when I pick up a new stick or a new pair of shin-guards (both of which I presently need), I’ll likely throw up an Honest Hockey Review. But I’m making a conscious effort to get away from buying new equipment just to review it for Reboot.

I do think that equipment can be a limiting factor in some circumstances. If you’re working on your stick-handling every night and the blade rattles, then the equipment is an issue. If you have 20+ years in the game, using a stick such as Bauer Supreme One.4 will probably hinder your game. But I also think too many people – and I’m guilty of this myself – focus too much on the brand of the gear or spend too-valuable Time micro-analyzing the differences between a 2015 RibCor and a 2016 Reckoner. That’s no longer going to be the focus of Reboot Hockey.

If you have a specific technical issue within your game – maybe you have a hard time getting your shot off the ice, or struggle with your backhand – I’m happy to take ultra-specific, hockey-related questions at RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com. If you’re having a problem with how a certain piece of your gear fits, I recommend you get in contact with Mark or me either via the e-mail posted above or via our Facebook page. One or both of us will come up with creative solutions that will help your gear fit so that you can focus on just playing the game.

If you have a number of general questions about how to gear-up so you can go out and just enjoy the game, I recommend you put $11 in my pocket and pick up a copy of the Training Manual. There is years worth of trial-and-error information that I wish I had on-hand as a high-school or even college player. As a bonus, people who purchase the 1st Edition get the free upgrade to the Second Edition, upon release.

I hope you as a reader appreciate this new direction, even if you’re a reader who came specifically for the equipment reviews. But in outlining the Second Edition of the Training Manual, it was important for me to re-examine what Reboot Hockey was all about, in the interest of producing the best content possible.

Thank you for reading, and for your continued support of Reboot Hockey,

Jack and Mark

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Super Tacks Hockey Skates

Image result for ccm super tacks skates

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

Based on reader feedback, a review many people have been waiting for is the Honest Hockey Review on CCM’s current top-of-the-line skate, the CCM Super Tacks.

This is the retail skate that I’ve been waiting for. With the release of the Super Tacks, CCM has produced a comparable to the VH Hockey Skate. While the VH Skates are full custom, the Super Tacks offers a more-than-viable alternative for players seeking elite fit and performance, but needing wheels on a quicker time-table.

I purchased the Super Tacks hoping to finally solve the skate-fitting issues that have plagued me for the last five years. Ironically enough, while the fit wasn’t quite perfect, the skate’s performance is so exceptional that I couldn’t bear to part with them. I’ll discuss all of this at length in the following sections.

Below is my Honest Hockey Review of the CCM Super Tacks, completing a “trilogy” of sorts along with the CCM Jetspeed and Easton Mako 2. This is one of my longer reviews, as I had plenty to write about the Super Tacks, so bring a sandwich and a Gatorade.

As usual, I appreciate constructive feedback and always accept compliments. But I really hate internet trolls. If you write something dumb or fit for a message board, you’ll be mocked and then blocked. Thanks in advance.

About (Briefly)

I’m Jack. I’m the co-owner and operator of Reboot Hockey. I’ve played hockey since 1990, and still play every chance that I get. I lift weights like it’s my job. I’m a former Strength Coach and author of the top-selling Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual. I grew up in western Pennsylvania watching Mario Lemieux, and my Pittsburgh Penguins are your Defending Stanley Cup Champs.

At gunpoint, I prefer light-eyed blondes who work out, especially if they also play hockey. I eat healthy unless there’s pizza and I’ll sleep a lion-like 10-12 hours if afforded the opportunity. I have a really good sense of humor and my teammates love me, but if you’re rude or a clown I’ll play very elaborate pranks on you.

This review is 30th I’ve done for this blog, and the Super Tacks are the 24th pair of skates I’ve used since early 2012. I write reviews with Reboot Hockey readers in mind, and the review format evolves based on what I think will be most helpful to fellow players and Hockey Parents. Questions can be directed to RebootHockeyHelp@gmx.com.

Executive Summary

The Super Tacks differentiates itself from most other pro-quality retail skates by being a Monocoque boot. This means that the boot is single-piece construction, and the holder is not attached to a boot by an outsole, providing unparalleled fit and foot-feel. A Monocoque boot is going to remove almost all of the negative space in a skate, conforming to the foot like gift-wrap, and combined with CCM’s reconfigured “Attackframe 2” is going to lead to the most-direct energy transfer possible.

In English, this means more power in every stride. While the Super Tacks might not position the player for lightning-fast takeoffs like the Jetspeed, the boot rewards stronger players who really bore into the ice with high-economy and output.

Monocoque technology – CCM labels the Super Tacks as “Monoframe” – is currently only seen at the retail level on the now-discontinued Easton Mako line and the custom-built VH Hockey Skates (interviewed here by Reboot). Monocoque boots are expensive to produce, but the player certainly gets what he or she pays for in terms of feel and responsiveness.

The Super Tacks is an almost-complete re-design of the Tacks skate released in 2014. As I understand it, the Ultra Tacks skate from the 2016 line was intended to be CCM’s top-level skate for the year, but CCM was able to complete the Super Tacks in time for the skate to join the 2016 lineup. Buyers for 2016 are in for a thrill, as in my view the Super Tacks is a remarkable upgrade on the Ultra Tacks, so much so that they almost entirely-different skates.

While the Monocoque boot/Monoframe is the main performance feature, the Super Tacks includes all of the bells-and-whistles one would expect on a pro-level skate: CCM’s SB Black steel (oxidized to retain edges longer), the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder, the skater’s choice among CCM’s Custom Support footbeds, anti-abrasion pads at the ankle, and an exceptional moisture-wicking system. CCM’s Tri-Tech pro-molded skate tongue conforms to the skater’s foot in tandem with the boot, further optimizing fit.

The Super Tacks is CCM’s top skate for 2016 and early 2017, and is the only skate of it’s kind on the retail market. This is a serious skate for dedicated, experienced players.

First Impression

I bought the skates on Black Friday 2016. Here’s my pair, upgraded with waxed yellow laces, right after the purchase:

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Shortly after their release, I tried on a pair of Ultra Tacks in my size, and they felt almost indistinguishable from a high-end Bauer Supreme skate. The reason I’ve never purchased or reviewed a Supreme model is that those skates just do not fit my feet well.

As you can see from the chart below, the Supreme line offers an Anatomical Fit with moderate/moderate-high volume:

Image result for bauer supreme skates fit

You might notice that the Supreme wraps around the ankle bones in a “cross-shaped” fashion. While many players love this fit, it’s always been painfully-uncomfortable for me. As soon as I had the Ultra Tacks on my foot, this was the fit I visualized.

However, I eventually got my feet into a pair of Super Tacks, and I was stunned by how differently the skates fit out of the box. Much like the Easton Mako skates, the Super Tacks sucks your foot into the boot like a vacuum. The Super Tacks made (and still makes) an audible noise when I pulled them onto my feet for the first time, even before they were baked.

As with most skates, the Super Tacks killed my feet out of the box. In all honestly, at the $900 retail price-tag, I was expecting better out-of-the box fit, but after a longish bake (just under 10 minutes) the skates predictably felt much better. As they cooled, the pain from my trouble spots began to return, and I took them off for an adjustment while they were still slightly-warm. As I did, I was struck by how quickly the skates took the very unique shape of my feet.

(Note: these notes might read in a contradictory way, so I’ll re-phrase. The Ultra Tacks/Supreme Anatomical Fit is for “most” players, but I’m not one of them. This fit really hurts my feet. But the Super Tacks, despite having these Fit Dimensions near the ankle, rapidly takes the shape of the forefoot and the top of the foot in a remarkable way. I was wowed by the Super Tacks’ fit in one sense, but had to account for the fact that my foot profile isn’t a great match for this skate. If you have a really High or Low Arch, you might have a similar experience.)

Notice the extra room I’ve made for myself along the instep of the skate, as well as the pronounced heel pocket and my very narrow ankle:

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My First Impression, and my advice, is this: if the Super Tacks are comfortable while you wear them unbaked in the store, they are going to fit tremendously after baking. While some of the performance features between the Super Tacks and the Ultra Tacks are similar, the fit/wrap difference between the Super Tacks’ Monoframe and the Ultra Tacks’ AttackFrame cannot be understated.

Having said that, if you do not have the foot for a Tacks/Supreme model – which I do not – the skates are not going to completely change to accommodate your Foot Profile. While the Super Tacks will take up the architecture of your foot, if you have a particularly high or low Foot Profile (and the corresponding bones), there is a good chance they will be painful to wear. Furthermore, the extremely-stiff quarter package of the Super Tacks is not meant to be punched out, as I’ll detail below.

If you ordinarily require punching on your skates, the Super Tacks are going to present a challenge. I decided that the juice was worth the squeeze and ultimately decided to keep my Super Tacks, but this is something you need to consider carefully before you blow $900 or more on a purchase.

On the ice, I noticed the same immediate benefit that I noticed with the Easton Mako 2s, which was that an appropriately-stiff skate threw my hockey-playing mechanics back into their correct alignment. As noted elsewhere, my fitting problems had forced me to continue using Reebok 11K/20K models, and at my size/experience level I was blowing through a pair of those fairly quickly. Having a properly-stiff skate to contract against allowed me to handle the puck and shoot with much-more precision.

Lace bite was no issue whatsoever, despite the fact that I typically lace my skates extremely-tight and use waxed laces. There’s a mark on the tongue of the skates that shows where I’m being particularly hard on the boot, but I didn’t feel at all while skating.

The skates, as advertised, were unbelievably stiff. To give myself a little bit more maneuverability, I dropped the 2nd eyelet, as I tend to do during a skate’s break-in process. As with the CCM Jetspeed, I immediately noticed and liked the added height from the SpeedBlade 4.0 package. I think experienced players can reap a lot of benefit from the holder/steel with added height.

The skates became too painful to wear after about 20 minutes of use, and unfortunately that’s my typical experience with hockey skates. I took the skates off, and marked the trouble areas for punching.

Second Impression

I took the skates back to Pure Hockey for additional punching work, and the store employee I’d been working with did his best to alleviate discomfort. However, the Super Tacks is an extra-stiff composite, and the boot is not meant to be punched. For the most part, cranking down with a skate-punch on the Super Tacks only serves to crack or weaken the composite quarter-package, not work out trouble spots for a skater.

My main skate-fitting issue is a series of calcium deposits on the inside of each foot. Science nerds can look at this picture of the human foot, and understand that I have a trio of small bone spurs that run across my navicular bone. Inside of an ultra-stiff composite boot, these bone spurs become extremely-painful when I put my body weight onto them, especially when executing movements such as the Mohawk or even a routine forward start. I’m a Hockey Player, and I can take a fair amount of pain, so when I say that these bone spurs are an issue, I mean it.

A player can attack this particular problem in one of two ways: the player can wear a less-stiff/more-comfortable boot (as I’ve done with my Reebok 11Ks and CCM U+ Pro Reloaded skates) and endure a drop in performance/responsiveness, or the player can purchase a narrower/stiffer boot and get aggressive with the skate-punch. After years of having softer skates limit my performance, I chose to focus on finding a skate that my feet can tolerate while maximizing my performance.

The more I used the Super Tacks, the more I found this to be the case. The level of discomfort gradually dropped to “tolerable”, and I was able to reap the unique performance benefits of the skate. I’ll explain which adjustments I had to make below.

My hope had been that the quarter on the Super Tacks would be both ultra-supportive and ultra-malleable. Maybe it sounds like I want too much from a skate, but if I’m investing a Grand into a pair of skates, I think it’s fair to have high expectations. The Super Tacks are certainly responsive, but not as malleable as I’d hoped to see in a one-piece boot.

This line of thought isn’t meant to sound like a burial of the Super Tacks. In fact, I loved most of what the Super Tacks brought to the table: as advertised, the Super Tacks provides a glove-like fit around most of the foot, and the player gets exceptional feel for the ice through the one-piece boot. The SB Black/SpeedBlade 4.0 remains a tremendous Lower Package (phrasing), and the performance benefits in going from a shorter holder such as an E-Pro to the SpeedBlade 4.0 were noticeable. The skates held my body weight with no problem through aggressive stops and turns, and really brought to light how little support I was getting from my 11K/U+Pro skates by comparison.

But all of the performance features were moot if I couldn’t find a way to make the Super Tacks fit my feet. After 4-5 trips to Pure Hockey for additional punching attempts, I took the skates to my specialist, Andy Scoggins of ProSharp in Raleigh, NC, for his opinion.

Intermission

Andy, who shakes his head every time he sees me walk in with a new pair of skates, sighed when I put the Super Tacks on his shop counter. He took one look at the work done to the quarter of the Super Tacks and noted that punching this type of boot only cracks the composite. If you can visualize trying to “punch-out” the windshield of your car, you get an idea of the effect this creates. An aggressive punch can easily ruin a pair of skates like the Super Tacks.

Here’s a comical picture of where I indicated “painful spots” on my Super Tacks. Notice the Jack-Crease already developing right under the 3rd eyelet:

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In this picture of the skate’s collar/neck, you can see what my feet were doing to the boot after only a few uses on-ice. The bone spurs on my feet were already warping the ultra-stiff eyelet rows of the Super Tacks:

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You’ll also notice that I swapped out waxed laces for unwaxed, which I haven’t done in forever. This might seem purely cosmetic, but it’s actually an important point:

Like a lot of veteran players, I usually wear my skates uncomfortably-tight and really crank down on the laces when tying them. But with the composites currently being put into skates, this method is not only unnecessary but counterproductive.

Modern composite skates, at least the pro-level ones, are like cars with an automatic transmission. Whereas older-style skates are more like manual transmissions – meaning that the player has to take a lot of responsibility over the fitting and lacing, in effect creating their own “skate-frame” to optimize power – modern pro-level composite skates completely take care of issues like lateral stability, and come with their own respective skate-frames.

In this case, CCM has taken care of as much of the engineering as possible so that that player doesn’t have to focus on the equipment, and can instead focus on improving and playing. The CCM Monoframe is unique on the retail market, and the Tacks frame is just about the stiffest retail frame available. It is meant to hold some very large, powerful players in place through cornering and turns.

The point in all of this is don’t over-tighten the laces. My recommendation is “comfortably snug”. It may help some players to do a second skate-bake to really capture the shape of the foot, but wrenching down on the laces is probably only going to damage the eyelet cuff and cause you unnecessary discomfort.

Anyway, Andy basically refused to work on my skates, as he correctly felt that heating and punching the composite would only serve to ruin the skates. Andy recently partnered with a gentleman who is on CCM’s advisory committee, and this gentlemen asked Andy to tell me the same thing that I’ve now heard a dozen times:

“With your feet, you are a perfect candidate for VH Skates.”

I don’t disagree, at all. While I think 95% of the hockey-playing population can find a suitable retail model, I think there is a small percentage of players who both need a full-custom skate and can justify the purchase cost. I happen to be in that group.

I was resigned to taking the Super Tacks back to Pure Hockey and returning them within the 30-day purchase window for a refund. But then something strange happened: I was standing around Andy’s shop in my Super Tacks, and suddenly they hurt less. The discomfort waned enough that I could stand in them without sharp pain.

I took the skates onto the ice at the Raleigh Iceplex for 20 minutes, and the discomfort was noticeable but tolerable. I have no idea what changed, as I’d only been able to skate on the Super Tacks in short bursts, but suddenly I could put them through a legitimate workout.  While making the Super Tacks fit was the equivalent of hitting a square peg through a round hole, their performance was so exceptional that I decided to keep hammering away.

Performance

As noted above, the Super Tacks are a one-of-a-kind skate, and possess a wealth of other performance features that most skates do not.

First, the Super Tacks available at the retail level is the same skate worn by NHL players. While most professional players use a product that bears only passing resemblance to its retail counterpart, the pros apparently use the same Super Tacks skate that’s available in retail stores.

Without blistering you with science and statistics, you simply cannot get this level of Foot Wrap from another retail skate. Removing the outsole from the bottom of the boot provides a complete, 360-degree wrap that a player cannot get from a boot with an outsole. The quarter and the Tri-Tech tongue work in concert with the appropriate CCM Arch Support to provide the most-seamless wrap available at the retail level.

The Super Tacks comes with a Lower package of the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder and the SB Black steel. SB Black undergoes an oxidation process allowing it to retain a skate-sharpening longer, and the black coating allows players to easily spot nicks-and-burrs. CCM now uses SB Black on many of their higher-end retail models, and it says a lot about the steel that CCM opted to package it with the flagship Super Tacks.

The now-standard SpeedBlade 4.0 holder is 3 millimeters higher than the previous generation E-Pro, allowing for sharper turning and greater angling without “bottoming out”:

attackangleThe front and rear posts of the SpeedBlade 4.0 holder are symmetrical, meaning that the posts are the same height. By contrast, Easton’s CXN Holder and various Graf Holders (including the Cobra NT 3000 Holders) have added height on the rear post, which pitches a player more-aggressively on her or his toes. All of the current Bauer and CCM retail models, including the Super Tacks, come from the factory with level posts and a Neutral Pitch. Interested players can read more about Pitch and Profiling in the Reboot Hockey Training Manual.

The Super Tacks comes factory-profiled with a 10′ radius. Bauer and CCM tend to send their skates from the factory at moderate profiles ranging between 9′ (greater agility/lesser speed) and 11′ (greater speed/lesser agility), and will often change factory-profiles from year-to-year. I think a 10′ radius is probably a good profile for many amateur players to use while they cultivate personal preferences, offering the best blend of acceleration and maneuverability.

I found myself occasionally catching an edge while I used the Super Tacks, but I attribute this to the fact that I generally use profiles of 9′ or less. But in all honesty, going up in profile length is probably a good thing for me and other players using shorter profiles. The game has become much more North-South than East-West, and for many players a longer profile is going to be beneficial.

The original Tacks was denoted as “XX-Stiff”, while the Jetspeed is “X-Stiff” and the 50K is “Regular Stiff”, as per CCM’s 2015 Frame/Stiffness Chart:

ccmframechart

I’ve used the Jetspeed, and I would agree that it’s quite a bit less stiff than the Super Tacks, which feels indestructible. This is a consideration, and not necessarily a negative against the Jetspeed. In fact, it was a lot easier for me to punch some extra room into the Jetspeed and allow myself to skate comfortably. Stiffer does not always equate better.

It’s worth writing that the difference in Frame and Stiffness between the Jetspeed and the Super Tacks noticeably altered my skating mechanics. As I wrote in the Jetspeed review, I was getting great forward flex and heel-lock with the Jetspeed. This allowed me to really lengthen my stride, and as promised by CCM maximized my acceleration.

On the other hand, the Super Tacks holds you remarkably-well in any position. While the 50K is currently marketed as the agility boot, I was wowed by how strongly the Super Tacks let me feel all four of my skate-edges at all times.

As an example, my weakest movement in skating is a backwards crossover to my backhand side. This is the position in which I am mostly likely to be exposed, execute poorly, or bottom-out. If you can picture a left-handed skater crossing-over backwards to come from the right boards to the left side of the ice, you can visualize the movement.

As an offensive-minded center, am I going to be executing this movement very often in a game situation? No. But I can’t stand sucking at anything hockey-related. I picture Scott Niedermeyer effortlessly back-peddling to halt an odd-man break, and immediately feel shame over how substandard my backwards crossover to my off-side is.

One thing I noticed and loved about the Super Tacks was how well it held me in this position, which for me is very unnatural. A lot of skates will feel great when you’re executing basic movements like your forward stride, but a better test of a skate’s usefulness is how well it holds you in the awkward positions you find yourself in during a game. The Super Tacks gets very high marks in this regard.

The combination of the boot’s stiffness and the lack of an outsole also led to maximum power with every stride. For a change, I felt if I pushed harder into the ice, I got a reciprocal uptick in power. If you have a more-powerful or higher-effort stride – if you’re like me and more of a “Crosby” than a “Niedermeyer” – the Super Tacks comes highly, highly recommended.  You simply cannot wear this boot out.

This performance upgrade, rather than ideal fit, was why I opted to keep my Super Tacks. If I can go onto the ice and perform to my capabilities, I’m OK with my feet hurting some while I play for a few hours afterward. But this is a very individualized decision, and lighter/newer players are probably not going to be able to reap the benefits of the skate.

My summary view is that the Super Tacks’ fit is very personalized but not perfect. But I don’t believe experienced players will find a skate that can outperform the Super Tacks, including top-end Bauer models.

Basis of Comparison

I may start removing this section from the Honest Hockey Reviews, because most Reboot Hockey readers can plainly see through the depth of the analysis that I’m qualified to review pro-quality skates such as the Super Tacks.

Unfortunately, there are always a few trolls who e-mail me or sass me in the comments section, and I usually try to preempt them with a deluge of insight and clever insults. But that’s usually not on-the-nose enough for your garden-variety internet troll.

Anyway, here’s some of the gear I’ve kept. Notice all the CCM:

ccm1

And here’s me in Beer League. I’m the one heel-dragging and spraying ice in the white 11Ks, not the one about to fall over:

No automatic alt text available.

My go-to skate for the past few years has been the Reebok 11K, and the 11K is a skate that professionals have used in the NHL. But Hockey is evolving at a breakneck pace. Every year, players are getting faster, largely due to the improvements in equipment and training.

As much as I’ve used and appreciate the Reebok 11K, I’ve gone through a pair every 6-9 months. The traditional frame in older Reebok skates feels great to me, but I cook them in a relatively-short period of time. And I hate to say it, but the game has become so competitive at all levels that players need to be aware of how equipment is helping or hindering them, if a player really wants to excel.

I also kid about how fat and lazy I’ve become, but I’ve demolished $400-$600 performance tier skates such as the Reebok 48K, Bauer Nexus 600, and Graf 535. I didn’t even review these skates because I ruined all of them within a month or less, either warping the boot badly or even torquing the holder. And I always have to give respect to the 11Ks, but even they aren’t really built for the pace at which the game is often played in 2016 2017.

At my experience level, it’s apparent that I probably should be using current pro-quality retail skates. An aging tiger is still a tiger, it seems.

Within the last year, I’ve also demoed and reviewed the Super Tacks along with the Mako 2s and the Jetspeed. I think those are the two most-comparable skates to the Super Tacks, maybe excluding the Bauer Supreme 1S or Supreme S190/MX3.

I’m sure it would be helpful to readers if I would cave and review some Bauer skates, but I’ve skated CCM/RBK since I was 8 or so. I think plenty of players continue to skate Bauer, and there are many people better-qualified to write a 1X or an MX3 skate review than me.

Having said that, I do keep up with what Bauer does from an R&D perspective, and I always check out the new Bauer skates when they come out. Bauer does not currently offer a Monocoque boot, but the closest Bauer comparison by construction and price-point would be the Bauer Supreme 1S. I write a bit more about the 1S and other comparable skates to the Super Tacks in the section “Which to Buy?”, seen below.

Durability

The Super Tacks is built like a tank, and as noted above, the retail version has identical specs to the professional version. This skate is built with withstand professional-level wear-and-tear. The removal of the outsole only makes the boot more durable in my view, as a detached outsole is probably the most-common break in a skate after broken blades and blown eyelets/rivets.

Personal Biases

I’ve purchased and reviewed yet another CCM skate, while I haven’t purchased a Bauer skate since I picked up a pair of Nexus 600s on closeout two years ago. Dedicated readers will notice that there is not a review of a Bauer skate in my archives. My bias in skates skews heavily in favor of CCM and away from Bauer, despite the fact the CCM served up several generations of lower-quality skates in recent memory.

I’ve written an entire piece on my “Anti-Bauer Bias”, which I may publish on the blog or save for the second edition of the Training Manual. But the two basic points I make in that article are:

  1. Plenty of players, both professional and otherwise, continue to use Bauer skates. Reboot Partner Mark, to cite one player, has used Bauer skates his entire life, and if he had time to write, he could give great insight on the generational changes in the Bauer line of skates. Bauer has a great following, and I think Bauer products get more than adequate coverage and exposure.
  2. Meanwhile, CCM basically lost an entire generation of players to Bauer, which they are finally starting to win back with the releases of the Jetspeed and Super Tacks lines. But I wasn’t one of those who jumped ship. I’ve almost always worn CCM skates, and only rarely worn Bauer skates. I think this knee-caps my Bauer expertise, even if I understand how skates are constructed and can grasp engineering and performance differences between various skates.

For example, I always have to triple-check myself when I’m looking at a Bauer Vapor X60 – a skate still worn in the NHL by players like Erik Karlsson – and the Bauer Vapor X:60, which is an entry-level skate. I can do a Bauer review if a product is a direct comparable – having reviewed the Jetspeed, I’d feel OK about reviewing the Vapor 1X or the APX2 – but I can’t bring the same insight and perspective to the line as a whole.

However, when I’m watching an adult-league game, I can eyeball from the bleachers if a player is wearing CCM Vector 8.0s or Vector 10.0s or even a Vector ZG 130, and I can talk intelligently about the differences between those skates. I can explain why I wasn’t wild about the 2012 CL/U+ line as well as why I disagreed with the choices made on the CCM RBZ. I can watch a Penguins game and notice that Sid Crosby continues to use the E-Pro holder on his 50Ks, and note that Carl Hagelin continues to rock white 20Ks with TUUK holders.

My niche in skates is CCM. As I’ve written before, the numbers scream that Bauer has a great product line. But some people like Coke better than Pepsi, and some people like Ford rather than Chevy. I happen to like CCM skates more than Bauer.

Which to Buy?

Having noted my bias toward CCM skates, my advice is that you check out skates from all product lines within your budget. Read about, and more importantly, try on skates like the Bauer Supreme 1S or the Bauer Nexus 1N if you’re willing to spend top-dollar on skates. There are a ton of great, insightful reviews on almost all of Bauer’s products available on the web.

These pictures are from Bauer skates, but I think all purchasers should take them into consideration:

img_0575

img_0576

img_0577

I wish this info-graphic had been available years ago. The skate companies – rightly or wrongly – have tended to market their skates based on a player’s skating-style or type, rather than her or his Foot Profile.

While the Frame of a skate certainly has a bearing on a player’s mechanics and performance, my view is that the profile of a player’s foot is more important.

My recommendation is that you start your search for skates with Foot Profile. You might not be after pure acceleration, but if you’re flat-footed and need optimal heel-lock, you can probably spare yourself a lot of aggravation by focusing on a Jetspeed or Vapor skate.

There will be other considerations – for example, a player with a mid-profile foot might find the higher-end Super Tacks or Ultra Tacks skates too stiff – but I think focusing on Foot Profile and being sized properly is a bigger consideration than Frame or Style of Play. Just my two cents.

Here are some things you consider if you’re looking at purchasing the Super Tacks versus direct competitors:

Super Tacks vs. VH Hockey Skates

If you have time to wait and discretionary income, I strongly suggest you investigate VH hockey skates. I am 100% sold on their process and their approach. Going with a full-custom skate ultimately saves a dedicated player a ton of time and likely a lot of money. If you’re considering the Super Tacks, you’re already willing to pay the cost of a custom skate, so it’s probably worth a phone call or e-mail to VH to help you decide if custom skates are right for you.

It’s worth repeating that, if you live in the United States, a VH full-custom skate is probably going to cost you less out-the-door than a top-end retail skate with MAP pricing. MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) on the Super Tacks is $899 USD, while my order from VH was set to come in at about $690 shipped due to the exchange rate. Something to consider.

Reboot Readers should be aware that True Temper purchased VH in November 2016, and I have no idea what that will do to VH from a production standpoint. I hope that VH continues to produce full-custom skates, and my suspicion is that True and VH will collaborate on a retail skate or line of skates. Time will tell.

But if you’re like me and can’t deal with the requisite 4-6 weeks for VH skates to be completed, I truly believe the Super Tacks is the best alternative to a true custom skate. The Super Tacks doesn’t provide full-custom fit, but it’s the next best thing.

Super Tacks vs. Jetspeed vs. RibCor 50K

This updated graphic from CCM should help you discern the fitting differences between Super Tacks, Jetspeed, and RibCore 50K skates:

Image result for ccm super tacks skates performance

If you’ve narrowed your purchasing decision down to a top-level CCM skate, here are my thoughts:

My experience was that the Jetspeed provided better forward flex and heel-lock while the Super Tacks, being an even-stiffer boot and lacking an outsole, allows for better edge control and holds even better through turns. If I had to assign grades, let’s say the Super Tacks gets an A+ for power/control and an A- for pure acceleration, and vice-versa with the Jetspeed.

Assuming you have a proper fit, you can’t go wrong either way. If I was a winger and needed to put an absolute premium on acceleration, I’d go Jetspeed. If I was more of an in-zone player or a center and did more lateral movement, I’d probably go Super Tacks. But my view is that they are both tremendous skates, and quantum leaps over what CCM did with the Crazy Light and RBZ lines.

I would recommend that you make your purchasing decision based on which skate better suits your foot profile, yet predictably I’m doing the opposite of what I’m suggesting. The Jetspeed is a better overall fit for me based on Foot Profile and skating mechanics, but the performance benefits of the Super Tacks – namely the amount of sheer power I can churn from every stride – are too strong for me to forgo.

I haven’t worn the 50K, but I’ve used the 48K, and my last three four pairs of skates have been Reebok/RibCor models. I think the Reebok/RibCor line provides the most-traditional feel and fit, but also the lowest grade performance among the current CCM offerings. I wore Reebok 11K/20Ks because I couldn’t find another skate that fit me, but I broke each of them down quickly and the fit – especially the heel-lock – was really sloppy.

Having said that, I did use Reebok 11K/20K/RibCor skates for four years, and NHL players like Sid Crosby – I’m told he’s pretty decent – use RibCOR models. Carl Hagelin, perhaps the fastest skater in hockey, uses white 20Ks. So a player can certainly skate fast/well in RibCor skates. A lot just depends on the shape of your foot and your skating-style.

Super Tacks vs. Ultra Tacks

Straight from CCM’s 2016 product catalog:

skatesultratacks

My view is that if you are debating Super Tacks versus Ultra Tacks, you’re weighing the benefits of the Monocoque boot, plain and simple. Holder/steel, moisture-wicking system, and fit dimensions are identical between the two. But the Monoframe molded around my entire foot in a way that’s difficult to describe. The Ultra Tacks fit, to me, like a high-end Bauer Supreme.

If you have a textbook Supreme/Tacks foot, the energy-transfer benefit you get upgrading to the Super Tacks might not be worth the $200 retail price difference. If you have unusual fitting issues, or if you understand and value what a Monocoque boot can potentially do for your skating, I assure you that the Super Tacks meets performance expectations and justifies the price difference.

One other note: the toe-box on the Super Tacks is different than the Ultra Tacks due to the one-piece construction on the former. Here’s a pic of the unique toe-box on the Super Tacks:

super-tacks

Notice how the toe-box attaches at the side rather than being glued/stitched into the outsole. I doubt this impacts performance in any way, but I thought it was cool.

Super Tacks vs. Bauer Supreme 1S

SUPREME 1S Skate

First, you’re splitting hairs talking about an $899 versus a $949 price-point. Both are outrageous. This is a mortgage and a car payment for a lot of buyers, and at these price-points, the skates are to be considered a multiyear investment for many players.

I haven’t skated the Supreme 1S, nor the MX3, nor the Total One, because I hated how those boots fit my feet. And out of the box, the Super Tacks has the same basic “anatomical” or “contoured” shape as a Bauer Supreme skate.

I worked to make the Super Tacks fit because of the way the skate performs. I have a “Jetspeed/Vapor” foot profile but I’m a “Tacks/Supreme” skater, and I decided to accept discomfort in exchange for increased performance. But I did this only for the Super Tacks because of the Monoframe, which Supreme skates obviously lack, and my comfort with CCM.

Compared directly to the 1S, personally I dislike the idea of the Lightspeed Edge holder because I’ve seen blades fly out of the skates of NHL players at inopportune times. I don’t like how TUUK holders/LS steel have felt since ever.

But there are things I prefer about Bauer and the 1S. I think the Bauer Speed Plate is a better footbed – ditto for the discontinued Graf Sidas 3D insoles – than the Custom Support footbeds that come with high-end CCM skates. I think the adjustable tendon guard and the tongue-stiffeners are cool features on the Supreme 1S that the Super Tacks lack. The Supreme 1S has Curv Composite Ankle Support, which improves wrap (and I love wrap). Hell, I think the classically-black Supreme 1S is flat-out better-looking than the Super Tacks.

But the Super Tacks is almost symbiotic in how rapidly it clings to and picks up the shape of your foot. This separates it from every other retail skate as far as I’m concerned.

You can read all about the Bauer Supreme 1S here. But putting all of this aside, we are really talking about an individual’s preference for Bauer vs. CCM, a topic which we could beat into the ground.

If you’re a Bauer skater, I’m going to have a hard time talking you into CCM skates, and vice-versa. So if you skate the Supreme 1S and love it, please comment below to help other readers, but don’t dump on CCM or the Super Tacks because you had a bad experience with the U+06 seven years ago.

Conclusions

I’ve been searching high-and-low for a retail skate that I could use while I waited for VH to complete my skates, knowing that correcting the anticipated fitting problems on the skates could take several back-and-forth mailings with VH. I suppose I could’ve purchased the Jetspeed skates in Fall 2015, ordered VH skates, and been done with it, but my commitment to Reboot Hockey and curiosity made me wait for the Super Tacks. I wanted to see if CCM’s Monocoque retail-release could compete with a full-custom boot.

The Super Tacks offers a fit that you won’t see elsewhere in the retail market. But it’s not a custom skate. Having stated the obvious, it’s also my view that no skate – custom or otherwise – is going to be able to outperform the Super Tacks. You may be able to find a better fit going full-custom, but you will be hard-pressed to find this level of performance.

For the moment, the Super Tacks is the engineering pinnacle of the mass market. I would recommend the Super Tacks to the following players:

  • I think the Super Tacks is a monster comparable to anything within the current Bauer Supreme line, including the 1S. It might be a tough sell to get a dedicated Bauer Supreme skater to switch to a CCM skate, but the Super Tacks is a true competitor to the Supreme 1S. If you have a classic “Supreme” foot – not too wide, not too narrow, not too shallow, not too deep – the Super Tacks will likely provide the best fit and performance you’ve experienced in a skate.
  • Elite or experienced players who can appreciate the advantages of a Monocoque boot. As advertised, the Super Tacks gives a player phenomenal control over her or his edges, and incredible feel for the ice. The removal of the outsole lets an experienced player really use the entirety of her or his blades, maximizing the power in each stride. If you have a Laura Stamm-inspired power-skating stride, this skate will dovetail nicely with your natural mechanics.
  • Players that CCM may have inadvertently chased away over the last 5-15 years. CCM may have a had a lull for a few years, but the company is now back in full lockstep with Bauer. I’m not going to open up a Jetspeed-versus-Vapor 1X argument, but I believe the Super Tacks is every bit the skate that the Supreme 1S is. If you switched from CCM to Bauer (or Easton or Graf) a number of years ago, the Super Tacks is a great reason to reconsider CCM.

I would not recommend the Super Tacks to the following people:

  • Inexperienced players. Giving this skate to a new player is like giving a Shelby Cobra to a new driver. It’s simply too much skate for a rookie.
  • Lighter and younger players. The Super Tacks is professional-grade stiff. I’m 210 pounds and a maniac in the weight room, and I still found this skate to be a beast. If the boot is too stiff to move in, a player won’t be able to appreciate the fit and performance features. I wouldn’t recommend the skate to any player who isn’t almost-fully grown, and even then I don’t think it’s the best skate for most 16-18 year olds. This is a skate for players who can or will play College or Junior.
  • Players looking for or needing a custom skate. This skate wraps the foot like no other on the retail market, but it’s not fair to compare it to a custom skate. The sturdiness of the quarter package – a primary performance feature – also prevents the skate from being punched or stretched traditionally. The boot will contour around most of your foot like a liquid, but if it kills your foot in the pro-shop, there’s only a limited number of adjustments an equipment manager or shop employee can make.

If you’re an experienced player looking for a new top-flight pair of skates with the very-latest tech, and money is no object, the Super Tacks comes highly recommended.

Thanks for reading, and for your continued support of Reboot Hockey.

Jack

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: 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:

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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:

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

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

HH Rating: 8.5

Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

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

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

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

HH Rating: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

The Easton Pro comes highly recommended. Thanks for reading.

HH Overall Rating: 8.5

As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook, and Follow Reboot Hockey on Twitter.

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Tacks 3052 Hockey Stick

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

Second Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Balance

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

HH Score: 4.0

Durability

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 6.0

Looks:

tacks2

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

rs

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 7.0

Value

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

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

HH Score: 4.5

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

HH Overall Score: 5.5

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

Jack

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

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

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

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

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

Washington Capitals v Florida Panthers

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

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

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

HH Rating: 8.0

Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

cl2

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Durability

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 8.5

Performance

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

rocketrunner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Rating: 9.0

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Final Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Overall Rating: 8.75

Jack