Honest Hockey Review: Bauer Re-AKT Hockey Helmet

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

Synopsis

The Bauer Re-AKT was Bauer’s top of the line helmet for 2014-15, having since been superseded by the Bauer Re-AKT 100.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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

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

Fit

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Looks

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 9.5

Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Personal Biases

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

Final Thoughts

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

HH Overall Score: 9.0

Thanks for reading. Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook.

Jack

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison

Kindly refer to this photo:

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

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

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

First Impression – T90 2nd Gen

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

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

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

Second Impression – T90 2nd Gen

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

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

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

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

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First Impression – T100 2nd Gen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Impression – T100 2nd Gen

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

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

Balance

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

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

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Durability

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

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

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

HH Score – T90 2nd Gen: 9.0.

T100 2nd Gen: 10.0.

Performance

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

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

HH Score: T90 2nd Gen – 9.0

T100 2nd Gen – 10.0

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

HH Overall Scores

Sher-Wood T90 2nd Gen: 9.1

Sher-Wood T100 2nd Gen: 9.4

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

Jack

Now Available: the Reboot Hockey Off-Ice Training Manual

 

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Hey gang,

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

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

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

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

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


Buy Now Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Reebok AI9/20K Hockey Stick

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As of Fall 2015, the Reebok brand is being phased-out as a major equipment label, with most of Reebok’s equipment (notably the RibCor line) being re-branded as CCM equipment. Adidas, the parent company of both Reebok and CCM Hockey, is choosing to consolidate most of its hockey equipment lines under the CCM banner, while using the Reebok brand primarily as a fitness/active-wear label.

As a result, lots of Reebok Hockey gear is showing up on Closeout. Reebok’s remaining top sticks from 2012, the AI9 (mid/variable-kick) and 20K (low-kick) were heavily-discounted in time for the 2015 Holiday shopping season. I was able to pick up one of each, and wanted to get a quick review out in case you wanted to consider one as a 2015 Holiday purchase.

Below is my Honest Hockey review of both the Reebok AI9 and the Reebok 20K Hockey Sticks. Both sticks were unused Pro Return sticks, meaning I reviewed the best possible versions of both the AI9 and the 20K. Feel free to provide feedback or intelligent criticism.

Basis of Comparison

I’ve been using Sher-Wood sticks for most of the last four years, and I’ve been rotating a pack of Sher-Wood T100 Pro sticks for the last four or five months. I’ll write my valentine to the T100 Pro in the near future, but take my word that it’s a phenomenal stick. If I have the choice, I’ll ordinarily opt for a Sher-Wood stick, as I have developed quite a bit of brand loyalty to their stick lines since 2011.

Having said that, I try to make an effort to try different twigs when the opportunity arises. Prior to picking up my pack of T100s (say that five times fast), I used a few Warrior Covert Pro Return sticks, and prior to that I was using the Sher-Wood Rekker EK9 and the Easton Synergy 60 I reviewed for Reboot Hockey.

The Ai9/20K lines are over three years old, and I initially purchased the sticks because the price was too good to pass up. The last time I consistently used Reebok sticks was in Summer 2011, and I have a vivid memory of the blade of my last Reebok 11K flying away into the night as I followed through on a slap-shot. It was one of those deals where the broken blade went further than the puck. But I digress.

I recall being quite pleased with the Reebok line up to that point. Prior to the 11Ks, I was using packs of Reebok 5Ks, notable for something called “Snake Grip”. I was one of those weirdos who liked different brands of sticks for Ice Hockey versus Inline Hockey, as I preferred mid-kick Warrior sticks for Inline and Reebok sticks for Ice. But since that last 11K broke in 2011, I’ve almost exclusively used Sher-Wood sticks, excluding some test-runs/reviews here and there.

Because I purchased unused Pro Return sticks, I was using the best version of both the AI9 and the 20K released. I’m grading both the AI9 and the 20K against other Pro Return sticks I’ve used recently, noting that most of those have been Sher-Wood T90/T100 Pros.

Personal Biases

I am more than pleased with the Sher-Wood T90/T100 line, and would be happy to use those sticks until the end of time. Having said that, I try to keep an open mind while reviewing. I’ve had mostly-positive experiences using Reebok equipment, and would have no issue switching stick-brands if a product outperformed Sher-Wood.

First Impression

Here are a few more pics of the sticks I purchased:

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The blade pattern on both the AI9 and the 20K I purchased is called H-114, which is a slight mid-heel. It’s pretty comparable to a Bauer P88 (Kane). The closest Reebok Retail pattern to the H-114 is probably the P42 (Duchene) pattern.

I ordinarily use a PP77 (Coffey) or something highly-curved, but I’ve used mid-heel curves quite a bit over the years. The adjustment for the blade pattern was minimal.

Both Reebok sticks were marked as 100 Flex, and I cut my customary 4-5″ off of each. Both actually felt softer than my 95 Flex T100 Pros, even after trimming. They were right around Reebok/CCM 110 Flex after trimming, which is well within my effective range for Stick Flex.

I used the AI9 first, as I ordinarily prefer mid-kick sticks. I used it at a stick-and-puck in which I had plenty of ice to work with.

The AI9 took some getting used-to, as I’ve grown very accustomed to the T100. The blade on both the T100 and the T90 (as well as the Rekker line and all of their derivatives) is quite stiff, but it works for the Sher-Wood line. I think the blade stiffness on Sher-Wood sticks allows for optimal Shot Power, while the stick retains much of the Puck Feel that Sher-Wood sticks are known for.

The blade on the AI9 felt flimsy by comparison, and I soft-tossed quite a few weak Wrist Shots into the net with it. I could feel the stick flexing pretty significantly while I was shooting, but the flex was not transferring well. By the time the flex reached the blade, the puck released slowly and fluttered to the net. Net-tight and backhand shots were inconsistent, at best.

I found a kid who could barely skate, and decided to do some saucer-passing with him to test the touch on the AI9. I was very pleased with how consistently I was able to throw quality saucers to the kid, whose stick I had to hit perfectly lest the puck carom down to the far end of the rink. The sauce was equally-good on the backhand. Excellent feel on the AI9.

The entire time, I was very impressed with how the puck followed the blade of the AI9 around. Hockey Players talk about the puck following a particular player during certain games, and the pucks seemed to hit the blade of the AI9 and stick to it.

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Like a wooden stick, the blade of the AI9 settled the puck down quite well. A lot of composite stick-blades are so “lively” that pucks glance off of them even in routine passing, but the puck stuck to the AI9. Again, very reminiscent of those Sher-Wood 7000/9950s I’ve used so fondly.

The AI9 played very much like a wooden stick, even more so than the T100 Pro. Like a wooden stick, the AI9 has a “deadening” feel that greatly aids Puck Control and Touch, but makes shooting a relative chore compared to some other composite sticks. The only other composite stick I’ve used that played so traditionally was made by Fischer.

(Note: I went back to my T100s after testing the Reebok sticks, and a few very routine passes clanged off the blade of my stick during pick-up hockey. I had never considered the blade of the T100 to be particularly lively, but the contrast between the blades of the AI9/20K and the T100 was pretty stark. I’ll stop before I go on my rant about how composite sticks and their unnatural feel are ruining Hockey.)

Overall First Impression: Very good handler, great feel, so-so shooter.

Second Impression

I liked the AI9 much better the second time around, as my body apparently learned to compensate for the softer blade. I wouldn’t say I was gunning pucks, but I was shooting with much more accuracy and power. The mid-flex AI9 allowed me to really thump some slapshots, once I got the hang of it.

The AI9 continued to be a very sound puck-handler. With the slight mid-heel on my H-114, I was doing more of those Kovalev-style backhand moves I’m so fond of, and with precision.

As noted above, the extra “give” on the blade that allows for smoother stick-handling and touch also detracts somewhat from Shot Power. The AI9 continued to play very much like a wooden stick, which I mean as a compliment. But if you’re a pure shooter, you may find the AI9 a little unimpressive compared to a higher-end offering from Easton or even the current Tacks line.

After warming-up with the AI9, I switched over to the 20K. The 20K handled identically to the AI9, but I noticed and preferred the mid-kick on the AI9 for shooting. It seems strange to me to put a low kick point on a stick that plays so traditionally, but plenty of pros liked the 20K (and its derivatives) just fine.

To confirm my opinions, I went back to one of my T100 Pros, and it reinforced my initial thoughts: the T100 is a much-better shooter than either the Ai9 or the 20K, but both Reebok sticks shockingly surpassed the T100 Pro in Puck Feel.

Balance

I’m not going to blaspheme and say the AI9 has better balance than the T100 Pro, but after trimming the AI9 I was extremely pleased with how it felt. I was twirling the thing effortlessly in the Pro Shop, and found it equally-easy to handle the puck. Ditto for the 20K.

I’ve found a lot of Pro Return sticks feel much more like wooden sticks than their Retail counterparts, which makes sense. The equipment companies are going to pump their best engineering into their professional-team accounts, and like many others, the Pro Return Reebok sticks were made for higher-level players who grew up using wood.

I would very likely use a stick like the AI9 if I had an unlimited supply, but much like a wooden stick, I could feel the AI9 grow more whippy with relatively-short use. Like most readers, I pay for my own sticks, so Durability is a consideration. But fresh off the rack, the AI9 felt great.

A lot of the higher-end Sher-Wood sticks are stamped “Pro Balance”, which I use as my control in grading. As much as I like the Balance on the T90/T100, I have to grade the AI9/20K Pro as being a bit better.

HH Score: 9.5

Durability

As written above, I took about four inches off of the 100 Flex AI9/20K sticks, and both felt more whippy than my 95 Flex T100 Pros. I could feel the AI9 “break-in” more after a few sessions, as noted above.

Faceoffs are always a major test of Durability. Anyone who plays Center with regularity will tell you that Faceoffs just murder sticks. While I liked the precise feel I got from using the Reebok sticks on Faceoffs, I also got the impression that either stick wouldn’t hold up well after multiple games. My opinion is that both the 20K and the AI9 were constructed for Touch, not Durability.

Acknowledging that, my experience has been that Pro Return sticks are much-sturdier overall than Retail sticks. If you are choosing between something like a $260 Retail CCM Ultra Tacks stick and a Pro Return AI9, I would still opt for the latter if Durability is a prime concern.

HH Score: 7.5

Looks

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The AI9 is painted in a standard Red/White, and the 20K was marked up in Reebok/RibCore’s signature Black/Neon Green:

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Unless a stick is parking-cone orange, I absolutely do not care about the color. Having said that, I had been using the nightmare-inducing T100 Pro, which is marked up in a menacing Black/Red scheme. No other stick can hope to look that good.

Both the AI9 and the 20K look fine, but neither would have jumped off the rack in the distinctive way the Batman-esque CCM Ultra Tacks or aforementioned T100 would.

HH Score: 8.0

Performance

I am trying to be fair in evaluating Performance, as I am reviewing a pair of three-year old sticks. The CCM/Reebok line has obviously made technology leaps since 2012, and the Reebok RibCor received a very positive review from Reboot Hockey partner Randy. It goes without saying that a 2015 CCM RibCor outperforms a 2012 AI9 in most respects.

But as I write this, both the AI9 and the 20K remain market options. Value is likely to play a big role in your decision to purchase an AI9 versus something like a CCM Ultra Tacks or Easton Synergy HTX, but Performance is a consideration.

I was very pleased with how both sticks performed, and would have no qualms about buying either. But I’m someone who grew up using wooden sticks, and I put a premium on my ability to pass and feel the puck.

If I was someone who preferred a livelier stick line such as Easton, I would like find both the AI9 and the 20K to be disappointing. Neither stick auto-fires the same way that something like an Easton Synergy HTX does.

If you’re a puck-handler/passer, take a look at the AI9/20K. If you’re a shooter, you’ll probably want to keep looking.

HH Score: 8.0

Value

As I write this in December 2015, both the AI9 and 20K are being closed-out. If you can find either, you will likely be able to purchase them at great values.

Both the AI9 and the 20K originally retailed for $209.99. For Black Friday 2015, I saw both sticks advertised in the neighborhood of $50-$60. I would recommend picking up either at that price, if you can find one in a usable blade pattern/flex.

HH Score: 9.0

Final Thoughts

Here’s my final thought on the AI9/20K:

I had a four-game stretch before the holiday break in which I would be using the sticks, along with some pick-up games and practice sessions. I opted to go back to my T100s rather than continue using the Reebok sticks, because A) I did not have confidence in their durability, and B) I was not shooting with them especially well.

Had I purchased four Reebok sticks instead of two, I might have rolled the dice. But the Reebok sticks were wearing down quickly, and I don’t think two of them would have held up under a month of my use. The Reebok sticks were actually fun to use because of the great Puck Feel, but I did not trust them to maintain performance. If I had six fresh ones waiting on the bench like the Pros do, it might be a different story.

You may not play as dense of a schedule as I do, so sustained durability/performance might not be as big of a concern. But with the way I go through sticks, these are both considerations.

I don’t want to diminish how well the AI9 and the 20K play, or discourage you from making a purchase. You will get good performance from either of these sticks while they last. If I broke all of my T100s, I would have no issue going to one of these Reebok sticks. But for me, the AI9 and the 20K are more great backups than a top choice.

Again, to be fair: these sticks are both three years old, and I am grading them largely against a 2014 stick in the T100 Pro. A fair test would be to grade the T100 Pro against the first generation Tacks Pro stick or a Reebok RibCor Pro, and when I get the opportunity I will.

Overall, I think both the AI9 and the 20K were more-than-solid entries in their respective lines. Either stick, and in my opinion the AI9 in particular, would be a high-value purchase if weighed against the current asking price. You’re unlikely to find sticks of this quality this far under the $100 price-point. If you can still snag one, I recommend you do so.

HH Overall Score: 8.5

Thanks for reading. As always, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook. If you want to be a peach, tell your friends about this blog.

Jack

Honest Hockey Review: Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker Hockey Stick

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(UPDATE 4/26/2016: the Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker is 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

My first hockey stick (that didn’t have a plastic blade) was a Sher-Wood 9950 Iron Carbon with a Peter Bondra blade pattern. Unlike the rest of my teammates, who were vying to get their hands on the latest Easton aluminum two-piece stick, I immediately preferred the feel of an entirely wooden stick. As far as I am concerned, Sher-Wood perfected the art of the wooden stick long ago, the proof of which rests in the continued production of Sher-Wood’s wood stick lineup.

I fully acknowledge my bias toward Sher-Wood sticks, as my formative years continue to have a strong bearing on my hockey stick purchases. To this day, I will go through periods where I order a pack of Sher-Wood 7000s in order to refresh myself on proper shooting and stick-handling mechanics. While I was fond of most of the Hockey Company wooden sticks (Koho, Jofa, Titan, Canadien, etc.), I have consistently used Sher-Wood hockey sticks over my 21-year playing career.

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While I have taken a wan view of composite sticks in general, I have accepted that they are an almost necessary part of the modern game. I have tried dozens of modern composite sticks in search of a model that offers comparable performance to a wooden stick. While I have not found a composite stick that I flat-out adore, I have grown very fond of Sher-Wood’s recent composite offerings, in particular their now-discontinued Nexon line.

However, fans of the Nexon need not be disappointed, as Sher-Wood has retooled the Nexon to perfection with the release of the EK Rekker line, available at three price-points (EK5, EK9, EK15) that simplifies purchasing and should satisfy all customers.

Below is my review of the middle stick in the line, the Sher-Wood EK9 Rekker Hockey stick. In the interest of objectivity, I have graded the EK9 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 an average of 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.

I am a huge fan of the Sher-Wood Nexon N8 because I think it provides tremendous value at the $100 price-point. The Nexon line has been discontinued in favor of the Rekker line, but the Rekker is clearly a continuation of the Nexon in terms of play and technology. The Rekker/Nexon line differs from Sher-Wood’s True Touch line of sticks in that the Nexon/Rekker is a low kickpoint stick, while the True Touch sticks are mid-kick.

I have used both the Nexon and the True Touch line, and while I like the True Touch quite a bit, at gunpoint I slightly prefer the Nexon/Rekker. Despite my preference for a mid-kick rather than a low-kick, I think Sher-Wood just nails all aspects with the Nexon/Rekker. Pardon the term, but I think the Nexon N8/Rekker EK9 has the best “Synergy” of any stick that I’ve used at the $100 price-point.

Price-comparable sticks I have used in the recent past include the Bauer Supreme One.6, Bauer Nexus 600, Warrior Covert DT4, Sher-Wood T80, Sher-Wood Nexon 8 (lots of them), CCM Tacks 3052, Easton Synergy 60, Sher-Wood T80, Sher-Wood T85 Red. I continually review $100 sticks, and while I haven’t tried one of the Fall 2014 Bauer or Warrior sticks, I have a pretty good feel for what to expect from a $100-$110 hockey stick.

I also 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, including a pile of Sher-Wood Nexon N8 sticks:

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

First Impressions

Noting how familiar I am with the Nexon N8, the EK9 plays like a beefed-up version of the N8. I have not yet gotten a chance to use a Nexon N10, but I suspect the EK9 and the N10 are extremely comparable.

One thing I immediately liked prior to purchase is that Sher-Wood stripped their Rekker line down to three sticks rather than the standard five-stick line that most companies use. This makes a purchasing decision ultra-simple: your choices are the professional-grade stick, the entry-level stick, or the high-value stick. At $109 retail, the EK9 Rekker plays well above it’s price-point, reminding me of the $150-$180 sticks I so seldom get a chance to use.

It could get extremely wordy to dissect every way in which Sher-Wood sticks, and the EK9 in particular, differ from Bauer, Easton, et al. sticks. Here is a quick overview on what I like about Sher-Wood sticks, and the Nexon/Rekker family in particular:

1) I cut my sticks fairly short, and I really like the Flex Free Zone that comes on the Nexon/Rekker models. This means I can buy a 95 Flex stick and expect it to play like a 95 Flex, rather than buying a 85 or 100 Flex stick and getting inconsistent play after trimming it.

2) My opinion is that Sher-Wood nails the congruence between Stick Flex and Blade Stiffness, especially on the Nexon/Rekker line. Not to pick on Warrior, but something I strongly dislike about low or mid-range Warrior sticks is that there is marked disparity between the stiffness of the shaft and the stiffness of the blade. While the ultra low kick-point of the Covert/Widow line of Warrior sticks partly accounts for this disparity, the fact remains that I routinely break Warrior blades if I try to put any oomph into shots.

By contrast, Sher-Wood Nexon sticks – and so far, the EK9 Rekker – can really take a pounding. I liberally take One-Timers and Slap Shots with both the Nexon N8/N12 and the EK9 because I am confidant in both the blade and the shaft. That’s significant praise when you’re talking about a value-priced stick such as the EK9.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: Almost six months after purchase, I am attempting to “retire” the sole EK9 I purchased. Astoundingly, the EK9 is intact and playable after nearly six months of use, which under my heavy hand is borderline miraculous.

I cannot say enough about the Durability of the EK9, and I was disconsolate when I went to purchase a few additional EK9s after they were closed-out only to find that every PP77/Left/95/Grip in North America has seemingly been sold. I strongly encourage you to get your hands on one of the remaining EK9s while they are still available.)

3) Again noting my comfort with the Nexon/Rekker line, I just think the player gets the best Puck Feel from Sher-Wood sticks versus Bauer, CCM, Easton, etc. The best Puck Feel I noticed at the $100 marker other than Sher-Wood was the Bauer Nexus 600, and to be fair I haven’t tried this year’s Nexus 6000. But I buy Sher-Wood sticks with confidence because they play most naturally. If you are an experienced or long-time player, this might be a prime consideration for you.

Second Impressions

The term that springs to mind is “Plug-and-Play“. The EK9 reminds of a comfortable pair of headphones, in that I can just pop them in and focus on my workout, rather than fidgeting with them or accounting for them the entire time I’m trying to train. The EK9, compared to the CCM Tacks 3052, doesn’t make me account for how bottom-heavy it is the entire time I’m using it. This of course leads to improved play on my part.

I buy most of my Sher-Woods with the obnoxious PP77 Coffey pattern, which I wrote about at-length in the Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick article. Like any pattern, the PP77 has Pros and Cons, but what it does for me is encourages me to shoot. I like to pass, often to the detriment of the team, and the PP77 is such a grip-and-rip pattern that it encourages the user to throw pucks at the net.

This ties into the Rekker EK9 in this way: while the Easton Synergy 60 might be slightly – repeat, slightly – better for Wrist Shots, and the Tacks 3052 might be better for Slap Shots, the Rekker Ek9 is the most-balanced blend of the three. The EK9 also has the best Puck Feel by far, which is basically mandatory when trying to use the PP77 as a Playmaking Center.

Personal Biases

I’m a fan of Sher-Wood sticks, just like I’m a fan of CCM/RBK Skates, Easton gloves, and Bauer helmets. 20+ years of playing experience has led me to develop some personal preferences, although reviewing so many different products for Reboot Hockey has helped me take a more objective look at some of my preferences.

I think I started buying Nexon N8s because they were a natural transition from Sher-Wood 7000s, which as I noted above I use off-and-on. Having said that, I am willing to give most any stick a try, and my Personal Bias toward Sher-Wood is moderate, at best.

Balance

My favorite thing about the EK9 is probably the Balance. Unlike the Balance on the Tacks 3052 (very poor) and the Synergy 60 (good but not great), I am comfortable handling the puck in any position with the EK9. I do a lot of one-handed moves with the puck, so a well-balanced stick is critical for my style of play.

When you go up from a performance/value ($100-$110) stick to a professional-grade ($180+) stick, you are obviously going to notice a bump in performance across the board. I am reluctant to grade a mid-level stick as a 9 or a 10 in Balance or Performance because you can frequently see better play from a more-expensive model, but the EK9 is a champ at it’s modest price-point.

In short, the EK9 feels much more like a $200 stick than a $60 stick, basically making it the opposite of the Tacks 3052.

HH Score: 8.5

Durability

At the $100 price-point, an ideal stick should hit a sweet-spot between Durability and Performance. The 95 Flex EK9, like it’s predecessor the Nexon N8, does a great job withstanding the unlimited Face-Offs/Slap Shots beating that I prefer to put sticks through. While I sometimes have to treat sticks with kid gloves, as I can sense that they will snap if I put all of my bodyweight into a shot, the EK9 has been very durable throughout a month of use.

After 30 days, no noticeable chipping or flaking, as seen with inferior products like the Tacks 3052 and the Warrior Covert DT4.

HH Score: 9.0

Looks:

ek92I almost want to file this under “Personal Biases”, but my favorite color is Black. In the past, I have spray-painted some of the more-obnoxious hockey equipment I’ve owned, as I despise being the guy out there with the parking-cone stick or the hot pink gloves.

In any event, Sher-Wood revamps the Nexon line by going with a very basic blacked-out look. Being a proud Pittsburgher, I liked the irritating shade of Pittsburgh Yellow that some of the Nexon models were trimmed with, but I really like the Undertaker look that Sher-Wood has applied to the Rekker line.

You either like the all-black look, or you’re one of those people who shops at The Gap that I want to punch in the face. Kudos to Sher-Wood for deescalating the atrocious paint-job war crimes that most of their competitors have been foisting upon us and sticking with something tasteful yet Awesome-looking.

HH Score: 10.0

Performance

The EK9 is a low-kick stick, but the kick-point is not driven unnaturally low into the blade as with the Warrior Covert/Diablo/Widow lines. My best shot with the EK9 is probably my Messier Snap/Wrist Shot, but the kick-point on the EK9 does not negatively affect my traditional Slap or Wrist Shots. While the EK9 may not quite have that “second kick” that some ultra-low kick sticks have, the EK9 plays traditionally while offering many of the advantages of the modern low-kick stick.

As noted above, my opinion is that the Puck Feel on the EK9 is the best in it’s class. At some point I need to pick up a price-comparable 2014 Warrior and a 2014 Bauer Vapor to verify, but my view is that the EK9 is next best thing to a wooden model.

HH Score: 8.5

Value

The EK9, as with the Nexon N8 before it, provides outstanding value at the retail price of $109.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: For whatever reason, the EK9 did not meet sales expectations, and was stunningly closed-out prior to the 2014 holiday break. Most of the big online hockey warehouses offer the EK9 at a Clearance Price of $89.99, which again astonishes me. If you are looking for a twig and there is an EK9 in your preferred blade pattern/flex, I really recommend you snag one.)

For 2014, Sher-Wood opted to trim their composite stick line down to three offerings, choosing to merge the N8/N10 technology rather than offer a $150-$170 sub-pro stick. The result is that player can get exceptional value and performance at the mid-level price.

My without having used an EK15 Rekker, my view is that the player will get 85-90% of the EK15’s performance from the EK9.

(UPDATE 3/23/15: My fancy-pants, high-falutin’ Reboot partner Randy has an EK15, which for some reason he keeps trying to put on the shelf in lieu of other top-end sticks. But like a fat kid with an ice cream craving, he always comes back to his EK15 like a tubby ten-year old galloping into Dairy Queen. Randy has now broken a 2014 RBK RibCor, a 2015 CCM RibCor, and Bauer’s new Vapor 1X while the EK15 waits, ever vigilant, for Randy to come to his senses and use it preferentially.

I’ve toyed around with Randy’s EK15, and while I have no doubt that it’s a better overall stick than the EK9, the difference isn’t as stark as you would suspect. As noted above, I think a player will get 85-90% of the play from an EK9 that he or she would from an EK15.)

HH Score: 9.5

Final Thoughts

Sher-Wood managed to improve the Nexon line in both appearance and performance with the 2014 release of their Rekker line of hockey sticks. The EK9 Rekker, as the name implies, is no-frills and all menace, improving upon the Nexon N8’s performance while toning down the gaudy gold/teal accents in lieu of an all-business blackout. Combined with the extremely-reasonable price tag, it’s an outstanding piece of work on all fronts.

I will go to bat for Sher-Wood and say this: strongly consider a Sher-Wood stick before you blindly give your money away to a larger manufacturer. While Sher-Wood is no longer the preeminent or sexiest name in retail hockey sales, my view is that they have worked tirelessly to make an outstanding, high-value product.  You will not be disappointed adding the EK9 Rekker to your personal pile of sticks, and you may find yourself a Sher-Wood convert after some routine use.

HH Overall Score: 9.25

Jack

 

Honest Hockey Review: Easton Synergy 60 Hockey Stick

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Below is my Honest Hockey review of the Easton Synergy 60 Hockey Stick. In the interest of objectivity, I have graded the S60 in Balance, Durability,  Looks, Performance, and Value. I have also included a Basis of Comparison section as well as Personal Biases and Final Thoughts. As Always, feel free to comment intelligently or provide your own insights in a respectful manner.

History

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The Easton Synergy, originally released in 2000, was the composite stick that redefined how the modern game was played. While manufacturers had innovated previously with various two-piece shafts (Aluminum, Graphite, Kevlar, etc), the Synergy was something altogether different. To my knowledge, it was the first composite one-piece stick of its kind, and at the least it was the most commercially-available. I covered the Synergy’s history at length in “Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick“.

At the time Easton two-piece shafts, in particular the Easton Ultra Lite, Easton T-Flex, and the Easton Z-Bubble, were extremely popular. Easton parlayed this success into the production of the first contemporary one-piece composite stick, and launched themselves to the forefront of retail Hockey Stick sales. They comfortably led the industry in Stick sales until fairly recently.

Over time, Easton got away from what it did successfully, which was simply producing the best Hockey Sticks on the retail market. Their sticks became somewhat gimmicky. To cite an early example, Easton began issuing their Synergy sticks in a number of neon colors, including Orange, Lime Green, and Banana Yellow. Pictures of these eyesores are available all over the internet.

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The Synergy was gradually phased out. The Synergy line eventually became the Stealth line, and in recent years Easton has chased novelty at the expense of tradition, releasing somewhat underwhelming lines such as the Stealth RS line, the EQ line, and most recently, the VE/Parking Cone line.

While these sticks have their respective Strengths and Weaknesses, the fact remains that what took Easton to the top of the industry was the original Synergy. In my view, Easton lost a bit of it’s identity as they got too creative with their Hockey Stick offerings. I believe they recognized this, and for 2014 Easton has returned to what originally brought them success as a Hockey manufacturer: making the absolute best of line of Hockey Sticks, no frills or gimmicks needed.

What’s old is new again as Easton has wisely returned to it’s roots in the interest of reclaiming their lead in retail Market Share from industry titan Bauer. The Synergy name has returned along with the classic Silver/Gunmetal Grey detailing.

At the $100 price-marker is the Easton Synergy 60. I picked one up in Easton’s unconventional E28 Blade Pattern. Here is my review on a rock-solid entry from Easton’s 2014 Hockey Stick line.

First Impression

Coming from the sluggish CCM Tacks 3052, the Easton Synergy 60 immediately felt better on-ice. Even trimmed to my standard length of 56″ versus the lacrosse-stick length I ultimately cut the 3052 down to, the S60 played much more like a $100 stick than the 3052.

The Lie 5 that comes on Easton’s E28 pattern is very nice for controlling the puck, but I was not able to immediately take advantage of it because the E28 blade pattern is so unique. While my puck-handling was immediately more-sound, I lost pucks trying some fancier moves. This was completely due to my inexperience with the E28, not any failing on the part of the S60.

Despite being such a dramatic pattern, I immediately liked the E28 better than the C46/P46 pattern that came on my 3052 Tacks. I was firing Wrist Shots with laser-like precision during warmups before a Pickup Hockey skate, and tagged some poor guy on the collarbone as he skated behind the net. Based on the pained grimace on his face and the black-purple bruise I left on him, I would say that the shooting potential of a Synergy 60/E28 is extremely-high.

I did not dare let any Slap Shots fly with the E28, but the Synergy 60 is, like the 3052 Tacks, a mid-flex stick. This means that Wrist Shot/Snap Shot mechanics must be sound, as the stick does not auto-fire the way a low-kick stick such as the CCM RBZ Stage 2 will. However, the advantage of a mid-kick is that with proper mechanics, a player can really ramp up her or his Shot Power. I look forward to additional reporting on the Synergy 60’s shooting ability after a bit more time with it.

I had gotten more comfortable with the 3052 Tacks, so the first time out my shooting was inconsistent with the S60. It definitely handled much better though, and I am confident the S60 will shoot well after I take it to a stick-and-puck or two.

Second Impression

I decided to skim another inch from the Synergy 60, taking it to 55″ overall. The Balance on the Synergy felt fine on the initial use, but I decided that I wanted a bit more Puck Control to counter-balance the wicked E28 Blade Pattern. This ended up being a good decision.

The S60 handled very well after I trimmed it a bit more. I was much more confident doing standard puck-handling, and I began to notice the advantage of the Dual-Lie seen on the E28 blade pattern. While I was handling the puck in a different way than usual, I was also handling it quite effectively. I play better at Lower (4 or 5) Lie sticks, and I like that Easton now offers a few sticks at Lie 5.

The S60 is a mid-flex stick, allowing a player to really load up on Slap Shots. While the S60 did not quite have the bazooka-like pop of the Tacks 3052, you can certainly crush a puck with the Synergy 60. Combined with the E28 pattern, my poor practice Goaltender was rightfully fearing for his well-being as I corralled the S60/E28. Even at 55″, the Synergy 60 remained within my Effective Range for Stick Flex.

My view is that while the 3052 maybe – repeat, maybe – allows for a bit more Slap Shot Power, the S60 is a more-sound overall shooter. My Wrist Shot, which was underwhelming with the 3052, seemed sharp with the S60. I do not believe the difference between the CCM C46 and the Easton E28 blade patterns accounted for this, but the E28 did add noticeable pepper to my close-to-the-net shots. The kick-point on the Synergy 60 may be slightly lower than that of the CCM 3052.

I was also surprised at how much better the S60/E28 played on the backhand than the Tacks 3052. There is obviously an adjustment using the E28, but my Backhands were markedly better than they were with the 3052.

The Synergy 60 features a Grip finish not unlike Bauer’s Grip-Tac or the Grip finish used on Sher-Wood sticks. I greatly prefer this over Clear/Matte finish seen on some Bauer sticks (such as the Supreme One.6 and Nexus 600) and the corrugated Nipple-Grip style finish seen on the 3052.

For the record, CCM calls the finish on the 3052 a “Light grip coating with strategic raised shaft texture,” while Easton calls the finish on the S60 “grippy”.

Balance

The Synergy 60 immediately feels better-balanced off the rack than the CCM Tacks 3052 I purchased several weeks earlier. The Hockey Shop at my rink did not have a 100 Flex Left Synergy 60 in-stock, or I may have completely forgone the 3052 Tacks in favor of the Synergy 60. At an identical price-point of $99.99, at first blush the E60 compares very favorably to the Tacks 3052 in terms of Balance.

Because I have to be difficult, I ordered Easton’s absurd Open-Toe E28 Pattern rather than something more conservative or comparable to a stick I already own (such as an Easton E36, which would have been much closer to something I typically use). Once I adjusted for the wicked curve of the E28, even at my standard stick length of 56″ the S60 handled significantly better than a 54″ Tacks 3052.

The E60 is slightly blade-heavy compared to higher-end models, but nothing like the Tacks 3052.

HH Score: 8.0

Durability

The Synergy is showing above-average Durability after routine use. As is the case with many mid/lower-end sticks, the insertion point at the stick’s hosel has chipped to show two-piece construction:

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The stick is not unbreakable by any means, but the paint is not flaking off the blade like confetti, either. After two weeks of usage at my standard rate (4-5 times per week), the Synergy 60 is holding up rather well.

The reason I buy $100 sticks is that they tend to offer the best compromise of Durability and Performance. The Synergy 60 is wearing like a standard $100 stick while providing a good level of play.

HH Score: 8.0

Looks

The Synergy 60 is Silver/Black with Red highlights. It is somewhat reminiscent of the original Synergy, but it’s not a carbon-copy of the original Synergy’s Sterling Silver look. Appearance-wise, it’s a nice update but retains ties to the original line. In my view, the decision to go with an homage is a better choice than the completely overhauled look of the 2014 Tacks line, which eschewed the classic, understated Black/White styling for the loud Yellow/Black look.

The S60 looks sharp on the rack next to competitor brands. At this point, all of the major hockey brands have taken signature colors for their skate and sticks lines. For example, CCM Tacks is Yellow/Black. Bauer Supreme is Gold/Black. Bauer Vapor is Red/Silver/Black, Bauer Nexus is Blue/Black, Reebok RibCor is Black/Green, etc. The look of the Synergy line is a massive upgrade on the parking-cone eyesore that was the Easton Mako/VE line:

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As with the 2014 CCM Tacks sticks, you can just about identify an Easton VE stick user from space. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but I think the Synergy line’s throwback Silver/Black is much classier and more distinct than the retina-burning Orange/Black seen on the original Mako skates and the VE sticks.

What Easton has traditionally done better than anyone else is Hockey Sticks, and harkening back to the original Synergy line, rather than releasing another gaudy monstrosity, was a smart choice. Letting the quality of their sticks shine through, without the fluorescent finishing, is just solid marketing on their part.

HH Score: 8.5

Performance

The Synergy 60 provides a good level of Performance at the $100 price-point. I have no doubt the Synergy HTX outperforms the Synergy 60 in all aspects, but the Synergy 60 certainly performs well for the cost.

Acknowledging that the E28 pattern plays a big role, I think the Synergy 60 is much more of a Snap/Wrist Shooter than a Slap Shooter. One thing I unconsciously do is make adjustments in my game based on the properties of the equipment I am using. In the case of the Synergy 60/E28, I am shooting much more than I was distributing, and I am choosing to shoot rather than deke when in-close to the goaltender.

My view is that the Synergy 60, like the Tacks 3052, is a sniper’s stick. The Synergy 60 is much better handler than the Tacks 3052, which would likely be better utilized with one of Easton’s more-conservative Blade Patterns. I would need to try a Synergy 60 with something like an Easton P4 or E36 to compare, but right now I would call the Synergy an 8.5 shooter and an 8.0 handler.

HH Score: 8.25

Value

Off the rack, the Synergy 60 is a much-better Value than the CCM Tacks 3052, and compares well to price-comparable sticks such as the Bauer Supreme One.6/170 and the Sher-Wood Nexon 8/Rekker 9.

My view has remained that an experienced player such as myself should be able to get good use from a $100 model. While some manufacturers save their best work for their higher-end models, it’s good to know that manufacturers such as Easton have sought to provide strong value across all price-points. The Synergy 60 provides fine value at the retail price of $99.99.

HH Score: 8.5

Basis of Comparison

As noted elsewhere, I recently reviewed the CCM Tacks 3052, which is priced identically and was released within weeks of the 2014 Synergy line’s debut. I think in this situation – two sticks being released within weeks of each other at identical prices – a stronger Basis of Comparison couldn’t be created.

I have a Sher-Wood EK Rekker 9 on the way, but I am incredibly-familiar with the Rekker’s predecessor, the Sher-Wood Nexon 8, which was also retail-priced at $99.99. I feel comfortable releasing this review of the Synergy 60 knowing the type of product Sher-Wood typically provides at the $100 price-point. I will amend this article after some time with the Rekker 9.

Last year, I picked up two of Bauer’s mid-level sticks, the Bauer Supreme One.6 and the Bauer Nexus 600. While I feel that those are both high-value products, I play most effectively in the 105-110 Flex range. Given how much I trim my sticks, what works best for me personally is purchasing a 95 Flex stick and trimming to my desired length of 54″-56″. Bauer sticks tend to run a bit stiffer than Easton sticks in my opinion, so after cutting the sticks down, both the One.6 and the Nexus 600 were a bit stiff for optimal play.

The Synergy 60 does seem to run a bit softer than a Bauer Supreme One/6/Nexus 600, and I was much more comfortable with it overall. Still, the quality Bauer offers on their mid-level price-point on sticks always makes me reconsider how a competitor’s stick plays.

I recently purchased and re-sold a pair of Warrior Covert DT4s. After breaking the blades on two of them in an identical way (both within two weeks of purchase), I decided to sell the Warranty replacements rather than deal with continued aggravation. I have used 15-20 Warrior sticks over the years, and the inconsistency from year-to-year or line-to-line is pronounced. I have zero confidence buying a Warrior stick before carefully examining it in-person.

While improvements in durability may have been made for Warrior’s 2014 stick line, I am very hesitant to purchase a $100 price-point Warrior stick due to what I see as mediocre performance and value on the lower end of their lines. As with CCM, I believe Warrior generally offers inferior quality at the $100 price-point, noting that I have always had positive experiences with Warrior’s Customer Service Department.

I have used a number of Reebok sticks, most recently a pair of 11Ks. In my experience, Reebok sticks always play pretty well, which surprises me given how poorly recent CCM offerings have played at the $100 marker. I suppose in the interest of fairness I can purchase a Ribcore 24K after I review the Sher-Wood Rekker 9, assuming CCM does not replace my now-broken 3052 Tacks with a Reebok model.

But as I have written before, I have used plenty of sticks, particularly at the $100 price-point. I believe I can evaluate hockey sticks well, given the sheer volume that I have used over the years.

Personal Biases

As written before, I may have a slight bias toward Sher-Wood sticks, but Sher-Wood earned this bias honestly through the quality of their sticks.

I actually was a regular Easton stick user for many years, but for some reason got away from using them. Other than a few underwhelming experiences with a couple of their Economy-line sticks, I have nothing bad to report about how their sticks play. Easton has traditionally been at the forefront of Hockey Stick Sales and Product Development, so it should come as no surprise that I have some affinity for their sticks.

I am open to using any and all brands of Hockey Sticks, acknowledging that I have been burned by CCM and Warrior several times in the recent past. I believe with the Synergy 60, I have now used a new-release stick from every major manufacturer within the last calendar year.

Final Thoughts

It has to be repeated that Easton’s E28 blade pattern is a unique animal. I do not believe the use of the E28 affected my review of the Synergy 60 itself, but it is certainly a pattern for advanced players. I have added my thoughts on both the E28 and Easton’s Dual-Lie concept to the “Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick Article”.

What I want from a hockey stick is consistent performance and high value. I want to find one model that I like and buy 1-2 every 1-2 months, as I did with the Sher-Wood Nexon 8 in 2012/13.

The Synergy 60 is a strong candidate to become my stick of choice moving forward. It plays with no noticeable flaws, although I do need to put it through a few games worth of face-offs before I make a final judgement on the stick’s durability. It seems to provide very good consistency and value for the price.

HH Overall Rating: 8.25

Thanks for Reading. If you liked this article, Like Reboot Hockey on Facebook and Follow Reboot Hockey on Twitter.

Jack

 

Honest Hockey Review: CCM Tacks 3052 Hockey Stick

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

By Jack, Reboot Hockey

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

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

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

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

Basis of Comparison:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

Second Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Biases

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

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

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

Balance

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

HH Score: 4.0

Durability

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 6.0

Looks:

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:

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

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

HH Score: 8.0

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH Score: 7.0

Value

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

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

HH Score: 4.5

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

HH Overall Score: 5.5

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

Jack