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.

ai9blade

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

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Jack