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Jarick 12-09-2011 09:41 AM

STICKS - Buying Guide and Advice
 
I wrote these articles to answer a lot of common questions I saw and to bookmark my thoughts on the matter. Read through these and feel free to ask any questions!

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Choosing a Hockey Stick
I. Introduction and Handedness
II. Materials and Construction
III. Size and Length
IV. Flex and Kickpoint
V. Curve and Lie
VI. Taping and Customization
VII. Additional Thoughts

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High End Sticks

When we say "get a clearance high end stick", we're talking about these.

I've tried to give an approximate kickpoint location for each stick but some are tricky. Low and mid are pretty self-explanatory. Mid-low are usually sticks that don't have much of an engineered kick point (i.e. they are constant flex).

YearBAUERCCMEASTONREEBOKSHERWOODWARRIOR
2014Nexus 8000 (mid)     
2013Vapor AX2 (high+low)RBZ Stage 2 (mid-low)Mako II (mid-low), V9 (low)RIBCOR (low)EK15 (low)Dynasty AX1 LT (mid), Covert DT1 LT (low)
2012Total One NXG (mid), ONE.9 (mid), Nexus 1000 (high+low)RBZ (mid-low)Mako (mid-low), M5 (mid-low) Stealth RS II (low)20k (low)T100 (low)Covert DT1 (low), Dynasty AX1 (mid)
2011Vapor APX (low), Vapor 7.0 (low)U+ Crazy Light (low)Stealth RS (low)Ai9 (mid)Nexon N12 (low)Widow (low), Dynasty (mid-low)
2010Total One (mid)U+ Octo Light (low), U+ Pro (low)EQ50 (mid-low), ST (mid-low)11k (low) Dolomite DD (mid-low)
2009Vapor X:60 (low)U+ CL (low)Stealth S19 (low)8.0.8 (mid)T90 (mid-low)Kronik (mid-low), Dolomite Spyne (mid-low), Dolomite (mid-low)

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Pattern Equivalency Chart

These aren't 100% but for the most part should be pretty close.

CurveLieFaceDepthToeBAUERCCMEASTONREEBOKSHERWOODWARRIOR
Heel5.5Very Open1/2"RoundP91A ParisePhaneufDRKovalev
Heel6Open1/2"SquareP02 Getzlaf LILidstrom
Heel5Open1/2"RoundP106   Ryan 
Mid-Heel5Neutral3/8"RoundPM9CouturierCammalleriDucheneBouchardBurrows
Mid5.5Open1/2"RoundP92Nugent-HopkinsHallCrosbyStastnyKopitar
Mid5.5Open3/4"Square    Coffey 
Mid5.5Slight Open1/2"RoundP88Hossa, TavaresHeatleyDatsyukLSZetterberg
Mid5.5Slight Open3/8"RoundP12LecavalierIginla IG 
Mid5.5Neutral1/2"Round Landeskog Hedman Kovalchuk
Mid-Toe5.5Open1/2"SquareP14 E28Bergeron Chara
Toe5Very Open5/8"RoundP08    Kremlin

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:41 AM

Introduction

There's something alluring about the hockey stick that makes it more than just a tool. Maybe it's the amount of time spent preparing them for battle, maybe it's the wide variety of sticks on the market, and maybe it's just because it separates hockey from figure skating. Hockey players love their sticks and some of them could talk shop for hours.

I frequently see questions online such as, "What stick should I get?", "How important is flex?", "What type of curve can help my shots?", and "Are $200 sticks worth the money?" Being a tinkering kind of guy, I've tried probably dozens of sticks, shafts, blades, and accessories to help my shot. I haven't been thrilled with what I've seen out there in terms of explaining what to use and why, so I will give it my best.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no stick in the world will make you a dramatically better hockey player, but using the wrong stick can hurt your shooting, passing, and confidence. Experience is the best teacher, so if you can, borrow a teammate's stick, find a store that lets you take some shots, or buy and trade used sticks, blades, and shafts. That way you will find the stick that suits your needs. And when you find that stick, practice!

What you don't want to do is buy a $200 stick without knowing exactly what you want and need. When you cut it down and tape it up, it's worth about half that much, and you don't want to be stuck with a stick that hurts your game.

Handedness

The first thing you want to consider when buying a stick, which way should I shoot? Most of us already know, but for a beginner or a kid just starting out, it's a valid and important question.

In hockey terms, a right-handed shooter holds the butt end of the stick in his left hand and the shaft in his right. A left-handed shooter holds the butt end of the stick in his right hand and the shaft in his left. So a lefty's stick blade is on his left side, and a righty's stick blade is on his right.

Because about 9 of 10 people are right-handed, we should expect the same to carry over in the hockey world, right? Actually, most NHL players are left handed. Why is this? It's because the top hand controls most of the movement of the stick in shooting, stickhandling, and poke checking. If you are right-handed in writing, eating, whatever, and you place that dominant hand on the top of the stick, you'd be left-handed in hockey terms.

So why aren't 9 of 10 hockey players left-handed? Because most of us grew up and were taught to play a certain way, how to hold a stick, or just became comfortable shooting one way or another. And once we start down that path, it's almost impossible to change direction.

My advice to parents who are just starting to teach their kids to play, select a stick with as straight a blade as possible and let them try and figure out which way to shoot. If they don't have a preference, encourage them to try it both ways. Great hockey players throughout history have shot both ways, so it's not going to make or break them.

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:41 AM

Materials and Construction

The first time I went to buy a hockey stick as an adult, I walked into a shop and saw thousands of them in racks. There were a handful of wood models, kind of like the ones I used as a mite, but far more colorful composite sticks just like the pros used, which were of course very expensive. I settled on a bright green composite with a separate blade, kind of like the aluminum one I used when I had last played. There were several different curves, so I just picked one that looks like a "normal" hockey curve. Of course, it turned out to be a cheap fiberglass shaft with a plastic blade that wasn't meant for ice hockey.

This is possibly the same thought conundrum that greets many new or returning players. Lots of confusing sticks that all look similar, aside from the colors, along with a wide disparity of prices. What I'd like to do is go through the basic stick types and explain the pros and cons of each.

Wood Sticks

The basic wood stick has been around forever, and it's likely the stick many of us used as a kid. The popularity is dwindling way down among professionals on down to recreational players, which is a shame because a good wood stick is a lot of fun to play with, and should be the stick of choice for any new or young hockey player.

Wood sticks vary in construction based on price. The cheapest wood sticks are simply a piece of wood with a blade glued onto the end. These are inexpensive and usually very heavy, not recommended unless you only plan on playing a few times.

Better sticks will have a lightweight core wood with several thinner layers of a heavier wood on the outside for durability and blades wrapped in fiberglass for strength. These sticks are a great choice for recreational players and kids, as they are still inexpensive but will hold up much better and tend to be lighter in weight.

Expensive wood sticks may have fiberglass or carbon in the construction and laminated wood blades for increased stiffness and durability. These are only recommended for very strong adults as they are far too stiff for most of us to use.

Aside from the low cost, wood sticks typically have tremendous puck feedback. When you catch a pass, vibrations are dampened, and you feel the puck settled on your blade. Hard passes almost seem to stick to the blade due to the additional weight. This is a huge benefit to newer players, who are still developing the ability to catch passes and handle the puck.

Unfortunately, as great as a fresh wood stick feels, they have a tendency to lose their strength very quickly. With the constant force and abuse of the puck and ice, they weaken and eventually shots will stray off target and lose velocity. The blades themselves absorb the moisture of the snow and go soft as well as develop cracks. While a newer player may use the same wood stick for several months, an elite player could potentially go through several sticks in a single game. The stronger the player, the quicker the stick wears out.

In short, I like a wood stick for young players and new players. When the player has built up enough strength and has a good understanding of shooting technique, it's possible to gain benefits from a composite stick.

Composite Sticks

Making up the bulk of stick sales the last several years, one-piece composite sticks are the way of the future. They are so named because they are usually made of a composite of materials such as graphite, fiberglass, Kevlar, and occasionally other materials as well. The ratio of these materials determines the performance, weight, and durability of the stick, as well as the price.

The cheapest composite sticks have a high fiberglass to graphite ratio, which gives high durability to slashes but poor performance. They bend and return to shape slowly, which takes speed off the shot, and often will have poor feel for the puck. They also tend to be very heavy, sometimes as heavy as a wood stick. The only advantage they have over wood is increased durability, but the higher price, poor puck feel, and lack of performance means I would not recommend them for any player.

High-end composite sticks are made exclusively of graphite, which is lighter and snaps back to shape quicker than fiberglass. These are the sticks of choice for most elite players due to their light weight and quick release. While these sticks have excellent performance, they are very susceptible to breakage, and often manufacturers will add layers of Kevlar to the shaft to prolong their life.

In addition to these ends of the spectrum, there are a number of sticks to hit various price points between them. Generally, the more expensive the stick, the more graphite and less fiberglass, resulting in lighter weight and higher performance. But even the best of these price point sticks can vary quite a bit from the highest end sticks due to construction differences.

Since the introduction of the composite stick, players have complained about the lack of puck feel. A lightweight, hollow shaft combined with a very stiff blade means a lot of vibration is transferred into the player's hands, which can muddle puck feedback for newer players. And that same stiff blade that transfers energy so well into shots will make hard passes bounce right off, unlike the dampening effect of wood. Some manufacturers will have a blade core of foam, silicone, or other materials on high-end sticks to recreate the wood feel. Again, this is another advantage to the expensive composite sticks.

Overall, composite sticks have the potential to allow a player to shoot quicker and harder as well as last much longer. I'd advise against a cheap stick for any player, as the poor puck feel, heavier weight, and lack of performance benefits compared to a wood stick aren't worth it in my opinion. But it's very easy to find high end sticks at lower prices as manufacturers are always pushing new products to market and closing out older models. That's the best value for your average player.

Shafts and Blades

Although very popular in the later 1990's, the shaft and blade two-piece stick is becoming less prevalent. This is unfortunate, because the majority of the benefits of one-piece sticks can be recreated with a proper combo, typically with a cost savings in the long-run. Players that tend to wear out and crack blades can replace them at 1/3 the cost of a new stick, and player that tend to snap shafts can replace them at 1/2 the cost of a new stick.

There are two basic kinds of shafts: standard and tapered. A standard shaft has the same size opening at both ends (for senior models, anyway), while the tapered shaft narrows at one end to accept a blade (more on this in a later article). It's important to match the correct shaft and blade as one will not fit with the other. Because manufacturers don't sell as many two-piece sticks as they do one-piece, most of the models carry over from year to year and lag the performance and innovation of one-piece sticks by several years. There are fewer price point models as well.

A two-piece stick allows players to fine-tune their rig by mixing and matching manufacturers. If you prefer the feel of an Easton blade and the kick of a Warrior shaft, you can use them together. You can combine a wood blade with a high-end tapered shaft and get tremendous puck feel with the quick release of a composite stick. And if you don't like a particular curve, you can swap it in just a few minutes.

The downside of the two-piece is the weight and balance. The blades have a long tenon that fits inside the shaft, which adds mass and weight near the end of the stick. While this might not be a lot of additional weight, adding it to the very end of a long shaft will move the center of mass far down away from the hands, which dramatically affects the balance of weight, and might impact puck handling. Additionally, manufacturers tend to innovate their one-piece models and simply carry over their older shafts and blades, so you will likely not be able to use the latest and greatest technology.

As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of the shaft and blade two-piece stick. I usually buy high-end tapered shafts that are slightly used for about 1/3 the price of retail, put in my favorite blade, and end up with a stick that has nearly all the performance at less than half the cost of a one-piece. For intermediate and recreational players, they have the best performance and value.

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:42 AM

Stick Size

Sticks come in four main sizes:

- Youth - for very young players, typically under 8 years old and 4' tall
- Junior - for younger players from about 8 to 12 years old or until they're about 4'9 tall
- Intermediate - for teenagers or adults under about 5'6"
- Senior - for adults or teenagers over about 5'6"


How do you determine which stick size is right for you? Typically you can grab a stick off the shelf, measure it's height with the tip of the blade resting on the floor, and if it's between your mouth and eyebrows, it's likely in the right area. You may have to cut the stick a few inches or add an end plug of a few inches length (for composite sticks) to get your preferred height, but it should start out around that area.

Length

How long of a stick should you use? The short answer is whatever you find the most comfortable, but there is a thought process behind this. The traditional recommendation for hockey players is to cut the stick off at the chin in skates or at the bottom of the nose in bare feet. This is a good starting place for most players.

There are benefits to shorter and longer sticks. Short sticks mean the puck is carried closer to the body, which helps players who like to carry the puck. It's also easier to control the stick as there is less distance between the blade and hands. Skilled forwards typically have a shorter stick for these reasons. A longer stick obviously helps players grab loose pucks and poke check further from the body. It can also help put more power on shots as a hockey stick acts like a lever when shooting. This is why you often see defensemen and checking forwards using longer sticks.

Here's a wonderful video about stick length:



Of course this doesn't take into account blade lie, a player's skating style, and how a player shoots. Most hockey players use a stick cut higher than their collarbone. But it's still fun to see how an old time hockey coach like Howie Meeker does it.

Finally, keep in mind that it's always easier to cut a hockey stick down that it is to make it longer. With composites, you can put an end plug in the stick which does change how it feels (more on that later), but with wood sticks you are stuck with that length!

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:42 AM

Flex

To me, flex is one of the most important factors of stick selection. It's roughly defined as the stiffness of the shaft, or how difficult it is to bend. When you are shooting a puck, you generate strength from your forward momentum and body weight, rotation of the legs and trunk, push-pull mechanism of the upper body, and wrist snapping. With a very stiff shaft, a lot of this energy is lost, and the puck loses quite a bit of velocity. A flexible shaft allows you to store that energy in the shaft, which coils up like a spring, and then release the energy for a harder shot.

Wood sticks tend to be very stiff, one of the big drawbacks for shorter players like myself. Composite sticks are offered in a variety of flexes, typically 50 flex for juniors, 60-70 flex for intermediate, and 75-100 flex and above for senior sticks.

When selecting a stick, you should test the flex in the store. First, here's how you DO NOT test the flex: DO NOT grab a stick off the shelf and push down on it as hard as you can to see just how much you can get it to flex. This can snap the stick in half, and unless you want a $200 wall decoration, I'd recommend against it. Even if it doesn't snap the stick, it can create tiny stress fractures and weaken the stick for a future buyer. Just don't do it. How you SHOULD test the flex is to hold the stick as you would when taking a wrist shot, and push down slightly with your bottom hand while pulling up slightly with your top. If the stick flexes about an inch or so under light stress, it's a proper flex. If you really need to push and pull, it's too stiff. If it feels very soft and flimsy, it's too whippy.

There's a rule of thumb that says you should select a stick flex that is half your weight. This is likely incorrect, because it fails to take into account height and body composition. A hockey stick acts as a lever, with the bottom hand the fulcrum. The longer the stick, the more torque you can apply, and the easier it is to flex. Let's take two players who weigh 170 pounds, one 5'6" and the other is 6'4". Using the half-the-weight rule, they get 85 flex sticks. The stick comes up to the chin of the 6'4" player in skates, whereas the other player needs to cut 8" off to have it come up to his chin in skates. The short player now has a stick with an effective flex of about 120 flex!

Instead, I like to base the flex of a stick from the player's height, assuming average build and strength:

~ 5'0: 50 flex
~ 5'6: 65 flex
~ 5'9: 75 flex
~ 6'0: 85 flex
~ 6'3: 100 flex

When you cut down a hockey stick, you will make the stick feel stiffer, and it changes by roughly 3-6% for each inch you cut it down. A low kickpoint stick will feel like it changes less, and senior sticks will change less than a junior stick. Again, if you use a longer or shorter stick than average, you may need a higher or lower flex. If you're very muscular or very thin, you might need a higher or lower flex. Alex Ovechkin and Brian Rolston are about about 6'2 and 215-220, yet Ovechkin uses an 80 flex stick and Rolston a 120 flex because they prefer a different feel and play a different style game.

Kickpoint

A lot of talk about hockey sticks nowadays is about the kickpoint, and many players are looking for a stick that has the lowest kickpoint possible. Every manufacturer claims to have ultra low kickpoint sticks to attract customers. So what is a kickpoint and is it really that important?

The kickpoint of a stick is roughly defined as the area where the stick tends to flex most. A standard non-tapered shaft has a uniform thickness along its length, which means it will bend right in the middle of the shaft. That is referred to as a mid-kickpoint. Alternately, a tapered shaft or stick narrows at the blade end, which makes the material easier to flex or bend. This is a low-kickpoint shaft.

When you flex a hockey stick, you apply force to the walls of the shaft, which compress and store energy like a spring. With a low-kickpoint stick, the bottom portion of the shaft near the blade is the first part to bend and compress, which means it loads up for a shot quickly and releases that shot quickly. A low-kickpoint stick can benefit players who shoot quickly mid-stride, especially those who take wrist and snap shots. Mid-kickpoint sticks tend to flex higher on the shaft near the bottom hand. More of the shaft can bend and store energy, which gives the potential for a higher velocity shot, although at the expense of release time as the blade has more distance to travel to return to shape. A mid-kickpoint stick can benefit players who take slap shots and one-timers.

More importantly than velocity and release is the feel of the stick when loading and shooting. Sheldon Souray and Zdeno Chara have devastating slap shots, but one prefers low- and the other prefers mid-kickpoint sticks. Alex Ovechkin and Marian Hossa both have lightning quick release, but one prefers mid- and the other prefers low-kickpoint sticks. This is one of those matters that is personal preference and best if you can borrow a teammate's stick for a few shots.

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:42 AM

Curve

By now, hopefully you've got a good idea of what you're after in terms of selecting the right type and size of stick, along with the flex that will maximize your shot potential. The last component of selecting a stick is the curve of the blade. There are many components of the blade that need to be taken into account when selecting the perfect curve for your game.

Lie

The lie of the blade corresponds to the angle between the stick and the ice when the middle of the blade is flat on the ice. A higher lie makes the stick more vertical while a lower lie makes the stick closer to the ice. It's important to find the right lie for you in order to maximize the amount of blade on the ice, which will allow you to catch passes and shoot the puck easier.

Players who skate with their knees bent and keep low to the ice often like a low lie blade (5 lie or lower). It makes the stick effectively longer, which helps with poke checks and grabbing loose pucks. A high lie (6 lie or higher) is a better choice for players who skate more upright. It allows players to stickhandle close to the body and pull the puck in for shots for added power. Medium lies (5.5 or so) will be somewhere in the middle. Often the lie of the blade will correspond with the length of the stick. Because a short stick places the heel of the blade closer to the body, a higher lie will ensure the blade is flat on the ice. A longer stick places the blade further from the body, so a lower lie keeps the blade flat.

One rule of thumb in determining lie is to examine the tape wear at the bottom of the blade. If the tape is worn out at the heel, you might try a lower lie. If there's a lot of wear at the toe, you might try a higher lie. If the wear is in the middle or even across the bottom, it's probably the right lie for you.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-...4/s320/Lie.jpg

Rocker

The rocker of a blade is the round or sharp characteristics of the heel. A blade with little to no rocker has a sharp angled heel, which maximizes the amount of blade on the ice at all times. A rockered blade has a smooth curved heel, which plays like a lower lie when stickhandling but a higher lie when shooting. If you skate and stickhandle low to the ice but bring the stick more upright when shooting, a rockered blade might help your game.

Some blades have a rocker near the toe, which makes the lie even higher when shooting off the end of the blade. Players like Brett Hull and Jason Spezza use these rockers, which helps with quick shots from in close to the body. Most retail curves don't have a rockered toe, so it's not something that most players will encounter.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-...320/Rocker.jpg

Type

The type or location of the curve indicates where the curve of the blade starts.

Heel curves are a mostly flat blade that curves at the heel. The flatter blade makes passing and backhands easier but puts less spin and velocity on wrist shots. Heel curves are often preferred by players who take mostly slap shots. Retail examples are the Drury and Lidstrom. These are very popular among pro players who have the advanced technique required to control them.

Toe curves are a mostly flat blade that curves near the toe. This can help with toe drags and stickhandling as well as putting a lot of spin and zip on wrist and snap shots, which are often shot off the toe of the blade. Toe curves are often preferred by shooters and stickhandlers. There are no true retail toe curves anymore, although many European players still use them.

Mid curves are between heel and toe and are a good all-around curve. Retail examples are the Sakic, Iginla, and Lindros curves. These are the most popular curves among recreational players as they are easy to learn and control.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-.../s320/Type.jpg

Depth

The depth of a curve is the amount of curve on the blade. Until the 1960's, all blades were flat, which gave the player excellent passing and the ability to shoot equally well from the forehand and backhand. A flat blade allows the player to be incredibly accurate with passes and shots as the blade is very predictable. Centers who take a lot of draws as well as playmakers who need accurate passing can benefit from a flat blade.

The Chicago Blackhawks with Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were the first to use a curved hockey blade. They found that the curve made shots unpredictable for the goalies and added velocity. A deep curve can add a lot of spin to the puck, which makes the puck fly like a frisbee, increasing velocity and keeping the puck on target. Too much curve will make backhand shots and passes softer and less accurate.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-...s320/Depth.jpg

Face

The face, or loft, of a blade is the angle it is tilted relative to the ice. A blade that twists open and faces upward will raise shots in the air, while a blade that faces forward or is twisted slightly closed will keep pucks low to the ice. If you have trouble raising your shots or keeping them low, picking a curve with a different face can help your game.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-.../s320/Face.jpg

Length

A short blade is easy to maneuver and can improve stick handling, while a longer blade gives more surface area to catch passes and grab loose pucks. A longer blade also has a larger sweet spot when shooting and can put more spin on the puck if used with the proper technique. Keep in mind the length of the blade is the primary factor in the weight of the blade, which affects the overall weight and balance of the stick dramatically.

Toe Shape

Most blades have either a rounded or squared toe. A round toe is often preferred by players who handle the puck often and can make toe drags easier. Square toes can help players protect and grab the puck along the boards and are often preferred by defensemen.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_aA6xIuw2S-...8/s320/Toe.jpg

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:42 AM

So you've got your shiny new stick home...great! Now what?

NHL'ers can spend an hour every day cutting, customizing, and taping up new sticks before every game. Most of us recreational players spend a good amount of time getting our sticks to feel comfortable as well. I've spent way, way more time than I should have customizing my sticks, and here are some things I've learned along the way.

Tools and Equipment

For those of us who enjoy customizing our sticks, there are several tools that make life a lot easier:

- Hacksaw - Any hacksaw will do, just pick up a new blade for it (about $2-3) so it cuts easily.
- Mitre Box - This is a simple box with a line cut in it to make sure cuts are straight. I like the plastic ones you can get for about $5.
- Heat Gun - Hair dryers don't generate enough heat to do the trick. The $20 guns at most hardware stores work just fine.
- Glue Gun - Any cheap glue gun will do the trick, but most new ones that run about $5-7 will heat up a lot quicker.
- Rasp and File - Most hardware stores will sell an 8" rasp/file that is rounded on one side, flat on the other, and bigger and smaller teeth for about $10.

Installing Blades

Putting a new blade into a shaft is simple with the right tools, although there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure both are the right size, senior or junior, standard or tapered. Use the heat gun to heat up the shaft, holding it a few inches away, aimed a couple inches from the end, and rotating it slowly. It only needs to be heated for about 10-20 seconds; too much heat can cause the finish to bubble and damage the shaft, which may lead to premature breakage. Once the shaft is heated, insert the blade. New blades often have some glue that can be melted with a heat gun. With used blades, I slide them in 3/4 of the way, then apply a couple lines of hot glue on each side of the tenon, and slide it in the rest of the way. This prevents glue from rattling around inside the shaft (annoying!) and the blade from coming loose.

After the stick has cooled for about 10 minutes, test the fit to see if the blade is too loose. Grab the blade in one hand and the shaft in the other and wiggle. If there is any movement or cracking noise, you should heat the shaft again and remove the blade. Try adding a layer of hockey tape to one of the sides of the tenon (length-wise), which will take up some slack. If it's still loose, add another layer of tape. Anything more than two layers indicates a poor fit and you should use a different blade.

If everything fits properly, remove the excess glue by hand and you're all set.

Cutting Sticks

Once you know how long your stick should be (see the earlier article), it's easy to cut it down to length. Take a piece of hockey tape (contrasting color to the stick) and mark where it needs to be cut. Use a mitre box and hacksaw for a clean, straight edge. When the stick is cut, wipe it down with a damp cloth and gently file the edge to make it smooth.

End Plugs

Chances are you bought a stick that was too long for you and cut it down to length. Those of you who are taller might actually need an extension plug at the end of the stick in order to lengthen the stick to your needs. Any hockey shop will sell a wooden end plug that fits into a senior or junior stick for about $5. Simply install them as you would a hockey blade and cut them down to length.

End plugs can also be used to change the balance of a stick. Recall that a hockey stick is a lot like a lever, and the bottom hand is the fulcrum. Typically you have that bottom hand above the halfway point of the stick. Because of the weight of the blade, it might feel a lot heavier than it actually is. A wood end plug adds weight to the opposite end of the stick, which restores the balance. If you like the length of the stick but want to improve the balance, try cutting the tenon off and inserting it flush with the end of the stick.

A wooden end plug can also change the feel of a stick by dampening vibrations. If a stick feels too lively, try inserting a wood end plug (even if it's only the tenon) into the stick.

With a wood end plug, you can change the shape to suit your hand. If you've got smaller hands, try sanding the end plug with your rasp and file. Some players like an oval shape or even a round wheelbarrow shape. The rounded rasp end works great to cut down the corners, then smooth it out with the flat file end.

Taping the Butt End

Nearly every NHL player has his own unique tape job. Some players like a large knob at the end, some no knob at all. Some players will tape just the knob and others will tape down the entire length of the stick. The best thing to do is to experiment with different tape jobs and see which you prefer.

The classic tape job is simply cloth hockey tape wrapped around the end of the stick to make a knob big enough to fit in the palm comfortably. When the knob size feels right, tape down the stick to add a bit of grip to prevent the hand from sliding down.

To make a ribbed tape job, twist the tape around (sticky side out) to form a rope, wrap the rope down the stick, then tape over it going back up. You can space out the ribs to fit between your fingers, as well as using wider and narrower tape to change the size of the ribs.

The first few times you use a freshly taped stick, the adhesive of the tape might make the knob feel sticky. To fix this, sprinkle a bit of baby powder on a new tape job and rub it into the tape.

Besides regular cloth hockey tape, there is special flex tape that some players prefer. Flex grip tape is a thin mesh that is wrapped over an existing tape job or the stick itself. It doesn't contain sticky adhesive, but the mesh squares are quite a bit grippier than regular tape. Some players find flex grip tape causes too much wear on the palms of their gloves while others believe it causes palms to wear less than cloth tape.

Taping the Blade

Just as many players have a unique tape job on the butt end, blade taping styles vary from player to player. The basic tape job is simply cloth tape that overlaps from heel to toe. Some players will tape the entire blade and some will tape only the middle or only the toe. For beginners, I recommend taping the entire blade to give friction and cushion.

The main purpose of blade tape is to provide friction for the puck. Hockey sticks, especially composite, are quite slippery when wet with snow and ice. A layer of tape provides something for the puck to grab on to, which helps with catching passes and putting spin on the puck while shooting. Different brands of hockey tape have varying amounts of friction, some feeling very smooth and others rough like sandpaper.

Aside from friction of the tape itself, the ridges made by overlapping the tape grip the puck and create additional spin. Using narrower tape (or tape ripped in half) can add more ridges and friction, whereas wider tape will create fewer ridges.

The other purpose of tape is to improve feel for the puck. Composite blades are very hard and stiff, and a layer of tape can provide just a bit of dampening to help catch hard passes. Wrapping the tape closer together will help cushion the puck more, while keeping them spaced apart will give a livelier.

Players who stick handle and use toe drags often tape over the toe to grab the puck. The best way to do this is to wrap the tape around the toe of the blade just as if the blade were longer, then to cut the excess tape with scissors along the toe.

Hockey Wax and Friction Tape

Regular cloth hockey tape absorbs moisture from the snow and ice. In some situations, this can attract snow along the blade and affect feel for the puck. A bit of wax rubbed on to the tape will repel moisture as well as add a bit of grip. The best waxes are specially formulated for cold weather and are available in a solid puck shape. Simply rub the wax on to the tape in order for it to do its job. Some players will rub a very thick layer into the tape then melt it with a heat gun, a lighter, or rub it in with their fingers.

Another option is to use friction hockey tape. This also repels snow and ice and provides additional grip as it is sticky on both sides. It is typically more expensive though and can be difficult to apply.

Changing the Tape

Some players are fanatical about taping their blades, sometimes taping in between periods. Others will tape it once and use it until the stick breaks. There are no rules, but remember that worn hockey tape cannot provide friction for the puck. If you use a wood stick or blade, be sure to remove the tape after every usage to prevent them from rotting and going soft.

Tape Alternatives

Wayne Gretzky was one of the first players to use something other than tape on the end of his stick. He wanted something that could easily be applied and was consistent from stick to stick. There are several products available today that provide an alternative to traditional hockey tape.

Tacki Mac produces grips for the end of the stick made of a rubber material. They are lightly textured and become grippy rather than slippery when wet. I find these produce a much more secure grip than cloth tape as well as wearing glove palms less. The grips are sold with a double sided adhesive tape that is slippery at first and then dries in place. You can also use cheap hairspray such as Aqua Net to secure them (as well as remove pen ink from desks).

Bladetape is a very popular tape alternative for the blade, also made of rubber. It sticks to either side of the blade and provides a texture grip and cushioning for the puck. The manufacturer claims it lasts about 10-15 uses, although users may find it lasts a lot longer or shorter. It does change the feel for the puck as well, improving it for some players' taste and muddling it too much for others.

Painting

Although today's hockey sticks are colorful and eye-catching in the store, that same finish can be distracting on the ice. A few NHL'ers will spray paint the bottoms of their sticks white or black. Regular flat finish paint does the trick, just be sure to spray thin, light coats to avoid runs.

Adding Grip

Another common practice among NHL'ers is to add grip to hockey sticks using black tape. To do this, find a spare wood end plug or a section of hockey stick. Wrap black tape around it with the sticky side out and rub this along the sides of the shaft until you're satisfied with the amount of grip. If you want to clean it off, some Goo Gone on a rag does a great job.

Jarick 12-09-2011 09:42 AM

Musings about Stick Length, Flex, Lie

With the coming hockey season, people are gearing up, and obviously you want a new twig. For beginners, in my opinion, there are two crucial mistakes made way too often:

- their stick is too stiff
- their stick is too long

They kind of play in to each other. Lots of beginners grab the cheapest composite they can find off the wall and tape it up. They don't look at the flex or cut it to length. Most of these guys are under 6' and use 85-100 flex sticks. They couldn't break a pane of glass with their shot.

These guys for the most part can't carry a puck, can't protect it, can't make quick moves with it. It's because their top hand is knocking into their body, preventing them from moving the puck freely. And keeping that puck further and further away makes for clumsy stickhandling and poor passes (imagine using a 20' long stick, it would be difficult to control the puck).

Also the shots aren't very good. With great technique, a long stick can let you use a stiffer flex and add a lot more power to the shot. But for the most part these guys are swatting at the puck or making glorified passes. It's no wonder most of their goals come from backdoor plays and what not.

If they used a shorter stick with some flex, they'd be able to use the whip of the stick, speed up the release, get on top of the puck, and get some velocity on their shots. One of my teammates is 5'6 maybe 140 soaking wet. He was using an 87 flex chopped way down. I gave him one of my 67 flex sticks, same curve and slightly shorter length. His shots damn near doubled in speed. He picked up an intermediate the next day and has greatly improved all aspects of the game.

Now the caveat.

Not everyone needs to use a shorter stick. If you have good puck control and technique, you can use a longer stick. Look at Marian Hossa or Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk used to use short sticks when he came into the league but made them longer and longer. He's possibly the best puck handler in the world and breaks the above rule, because he's so damn good. He can use the longer reach without suffering.

Defensemen often use long sticks too. Jared Spurgeon, a 20 year old 5'8 defenseman who made the Wild last year as a rookie and did a damn good job, uses a stick taller than he is (I'm the same height and checked out some of his game used sticks). He's not all-world like Datsyuk but he's better than a lot of NHL defensemen with the puck.

On to stick flex, once you cut down the stick, you'll need a whippier flex. Yeah I can use an 85 flex stick at full length at 5'8, but chop it down and it needs to be 70 flex. It's my opinion that 90% of your stick flex needs are determined by your stick length, not weight. It's because the more you cut a stick, the stiffer it gets. Proportionally, a lot of players use similar flexes once you account for length and original flex. I did a survey over at Mod Squad Hockey of over 70 players and the overwhelming majority of guys used a predictable flex for their stick length.

That's why I usually recommend:

5'6 - 65 flex
5'9 - 75 flex
6'0 - 85 flex
6'3 - 100 flex

This assumes you chop the stick down to 1-2" below the chin, which should be the shortest you'd need to go to get full puck control. If you can use a longer stick and give up some of that puck control, you could use a little stiffer stick.

For lie, it depends on your playing style. If you shoot the puck a lot with good technique, you'll probably want 5.5-6 lie. That's because you want the puck closer to your body to get more power on your shots, and that means a higher lie. If you're a passer you'll probably want a 5 lie or less. You'll want to be able to make moves with the puck further away from you. The closer to your body you play with the puck (shooting, playing on the boards, etc), the higher lie you need. Don't pick lie based on stick length, pick it based on your playing style.

ArrogantOwl 12-09-2011 11:10 AM

The video doesn't work and I think Warrior offers some Int. Sticks in a 55 flex. Also, It'd be nice to see a section on puck control.

PlayoffBeard 12-14-2011 04:36 PM

Great Read. Thanks.

Kritter471 12-14-2011 05:43 PM

I love this guide, but I will also offer this caveat for women, particularly beginners. Given that we have less proportional upper body strength than men, you need an even lower flex than men of your height. I saw a huge difference when i went from a 70 flex intermediate that was, admittedly, too long to a 50 flex (the tallest junior stick I could find - I'm 5'4 and this comes up to my lips in bare feet).

IDuck 12-14-2011 05:55 PM

pretty good....arnt your pics of the blade "faces" backwards though?

VerySuperFamous 03-12-2012 12:00 AM

What hockey stick should I buy?
 
Any advice for what hockey stick I should buy? And cost? More for casual games than serious leagues so I'm not really looking for NHL calibre.

What I'm looking for
-good for snap/wrist shots
-light and mobile, great for dangling
-medium-long reach

kurt83 03-12-2012 12:45 AM

I picked up an Easton EQ30 about a month ago and I love it. It's not a "high end" stick by any means but if you are a casual player the performance is just fine. Plus, if something stupid happens and it breaks (someone stomps on the blade during a face-off, etc.) and it breaks, it won't be too painful on the wallet to replace.

I find the stick seems to be rather durable and the blade is of pretty high quality for the price point. Also, it doesn't vibrate like some people have said some mid range sticks do.

Just my 2 cents

hockeymass 03-12-2012 01:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VerySuperFamous (Post 45932227)
Any advice for what hockey stick I should buy? And cost? More for casual games than serious leagues so I'm not really looking for NHL calibre.

What I'm looking for
-good for snap/wrist shots
-light and mobile, great for dangling
-medium-long reach

What sticks have you used before? I would recommend either a Bauer Supreme One60 or Vapor X4.0. Personally, I like the P88 (Kane) curve, it's got a slight open face which helps get some nice loft on your shots.

Reach shouldn't be a concern, all sticks are more or less the same length off the rack.

bp spec 03-12-2012 08:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hockeymass (Post 45933571)
What sticks have you used before? I would recommend either a Bauer Supreme One60 or Vapor X4.0. Personally, I like the P88 (Kane) curve, it's got a slight open face which helps get some nice loft on your shots.

Reach shouldn't be a concern, all sticks are more or less the same length off the rack.

I use the P88 curve with the Supreme OnePro. Decent stick for the price, but is worth it when you use 15 sticks a season. It's good for snappers and wristers. Quite good for backhands too. I can't shoot the slappers that I used to. Or I can at least not rise the shots as well as I could with for an example P92 or 19.

CornKicker 03-12-2012 08:54 AM

depending on when you live you should look om Kijiji.ca or Craigslist. lots and i mean LOTS of semi-pro and junior/college players sell pro stock sticks for average around $100. If you were going to buy one from teh store for around or over that you should look for these instead. I got 3 RBK 11K's for $250, one of them is around $260 retail.

the description you gave is more about flex than the stick type. all high end sticks are light and easy to manuver. you want more whip go with a 65-85flex, if you want stiff or you are a heavy guy go with 95-110 flex.

also remember that every 1" you cut off a stick increase teh flex by 10

AIREAYE 03-12-2012 10:11 AM

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh....php?t=1050635

I really hope you've read this before posting, there are so many duplicate topics out there about the exact same thing that you could do a search and at least one thread will address your every need.

If you have any more specific questions about sticks, go ahead, but for general inquiries like that, best to use resources already available.

VerySuperFamous 03-12-2012 02:35 PM

Thanks to everyone who has helped. The semipro sticks are something I'll really have to look into. I'm too small for major junior(about St. Louis's size or maybe a little bigger:laugh:). So the heavier sticks aren't for me and slapshots aren't a focus.

ATLhockey437 03-12-2012 03:29 PM

Bauer Vapor X40 or 4.0 I can't remember. See if you could find a one80. They're a year old in the product line but feel just as light as One 100's.

thedonger 03-12-2012 03:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VerySuperFamous (Post 45949751)
Thanks to everyone who has helped. The semipro sticks are something I'll really have to look into. I'm too small for major junior(about St. Louis's size or maybe a little bigger:laugh:). So the heavier sticks aren't for me and slapshots aren't a focus.

it would help if you gave a price range(and specify CAN$ or US$, big difference).

i find Sherwood's current nexon line to be a great bang for the buck.

VerySuperFamous 03-12-2012 04:49 PM

Price really isn't an issue.

Of course since it's casual I'd prefer not to spend too much since it's probable it breaks eventually. Realistically I'd like to keep it as cheap as possible since I'd expect it to break but anything under $1000 would be fine.

Though I don't expect to spend nearly that much unless I'm playing in a professional league(which I probably won't be).

ponder 03-12-2012 04:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VerySuperFamous (Post 45955611)
Price really isn't an issue.

Of course since it's casual I'd prefer not to spend too much since it's probable it breaks eventually. Realistically I'd like to keep it as cheap as possible since I'd expect it to break but anything under $1000 would be fine.

Though I don't expect to spend nearly that much unless I'm playing in a professional league(which I probably won't be).

Was that a typo, and you actually meant under $100? There are no sticks that cost even remotely close to $1000 (unless you're talking about having a company make a custom curve for you and including the mold fees, but that's incredibly rare). Absolute top of the line sticks are generally around $250, mid range sticks are generally around $100, and low end sticks are generally around $50.

Jarick 03-12-2012 04:55 PM

How long have you been playing?

Stickmata 03-12-2012 04:59 PM

If you have the money, get the pretty one.


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