(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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I 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
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
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
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