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Hockey Sticks

Monday, 21 April 2008

No matter what level of player you are, a hockey stick is an essential piece of equipment for the game. We find out more about hockey sticks and what's a safe bet for a first-time player.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • In the early 1900s, hockey sticks were made out of a single piece of wood. Today you can buy sticks made of all kinds of materials, at a variety of price points:

    • Plywood Laminate sticks are made with multiple pieces of plywood glued together. Inexpensive, these sticks are good for beginners and recreational players, but they can break easier under pressure.

    • Aircraft Veneer sticks are the top NHL pick. They are top-of-the-line wooden sticks with a solid wood core laminated with aircraft veneer. These are usually specially imported from Finland.

    • Composites come in a variety of materials, with blades usually made of wood and attached to the composite shaft with glue. They are usually lighter – but more expensive – than a wooden stick, and are recommended for more serious, active players.

    • Fibreglass sticks have a wooden core wrapped in a fibreglass coating. The wooden core makes them quite heavy, but they're not as strong as the other composite sticks. This stick is the least expensive composite available.

    • Aluminum sticks are relatively inexpensive and considered strong, but not as strong as Kevlar and titanium. They’re also lighter than wood but still heavy compared to the other composites.

    • Graphite sticks have a wooden core reinforced with graphite or sometimes mixed with Kevlar. Graphite is more expensive than fibreglass and aluminum but less expensive than Kevlar and titanium. Graphite sticks are strong and lightweight and use replaceable blades.

    • Kevlar is used on its own or with graphite to form the shaft of the stick. One of the most expensive sticks on the market, it's also the strongest and most lightweight.

    • Titanium is usually used alone for all-titanium construction. This is also an expensive stick, but like the Kevlar it's also strong and lightweight.

  • The most important thing is the length of the stick. In bare feet, the stick should come to just under the player’s nose. With skates on, the stick should come to the bottom of your chin.

    • Junior size is 46-54 inches long and the senior is 56-62 inches.

    • All sticks can be cut to fit any individual.

    • Offensive players usually have a slightly shorter stick for better puck control and defensive players prefer longer sticks.

  • The lie is the angle between the blade and the shaft and ranges between 4 and 8. The higher the number, the narrower that angle between the blade and the shaft. The lower lie (wider) angle sticks are for players who carry the puck out in front. The higher lies (narrower) are for players who skate upright and carry the puck close to their skates. Most manufacturers these days use a lie of 6, generally acceptable for most players.

  • The flex of a stick’s shaft is important in determining control and performance. Most are medium flex (85 stiffness) to extra stiff (up to 110). Beginner players should look for a medium flex. Bigger, stronger players and defensemen should choose a stiffer stick.Blades come in different curves, shapes and sizes called patterns.

    • You cannot have a curve greater than half an inch from a straight blade.

    • Make sure your blade is angled so that the puck is on the forehand during shooting.

    • A curved blade allows you to lift the puck and gives more spin and control.

    • A heel curve allows for a hard rising shot and soft saucer passes. An open face model increases the loft of the puck

    • A mid curve helps the player cup the puck for better control and hard wrist shots. With an open face, it allows for quicker release of the puck.

    • A toe curve improves puck control for an advance technical player.

  • Goalie Sticks are larger and heavier than regular sticks and are always made of wood. Their wider blades can extend 24 inches up the shaft. Be sure to always buy a stick too long – then it can be cut down. If it is too short then nothing can be done.

Other Considerations

  • Wrapping a blade from toe to heel with black tape can help it last longer.

  • Taping the "butt" (top) of the shaft may provide a firm gripping surface for the stick-supporting hand and can also prevent wear on gloves.

  • Store your stick in a cool, dry place to maximize life span. Do not store sticks near any direct heat sources or in damp areas for extended periods of time. Finally, wipe your stick clean of moisture and residue after use.

   TEST CRITERIA

We asked two Olympic hockey heroes, Nancy Goulet of Team Canada and Shelly Looney of Team USA, to help us find the right hockey stick. We took to the ice with:

  • Omega (wooden): $25
  • Rubber (two-piece composite): $129
  • Response (one-piece composite): $189

Stick-handling Test

  • As beginners, we couldn’t really tell a difference between sticks. For us, buying the Omega makes the most sense.

  • The pros, on the other hand, felt the Rubber and Response composite sticks were well worth the price.

   OUR TOP PICK

If you’re a beginner or occasional player, a less expensive wood stick like the Omega will likely do you well. For more experienced players, the higher-quality composite sticks from Rubber and Response are equally worthy candidates. The most important thing is to make sure the length and the lie are right for your needs.

 

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