Equipment progression vs performance
Been trolling for a while, but recently getting back in the game and want to get some insight on how much equipment has changed and the impact to performance.
Do note this is not to spark a debate on what's best, or who should/shouldn't be using what equipment. There are plenty of other threads on them already. I'm of the camp of buy what you can afford and what works best for you.
A bit more context, i'm in my late 30s. Started in my 20s. Career low tier beer leaguer with a few clinics and stick n puck tossed in between.
I've owned 2 pairs of skates - mega air 90, and now, nike/bauer flexlite 18. Loved both. Very comfortable, and I get around the ice just fine with them. The rest of my gear is a mixed lot of price point stuff, which i've used for years.
As some of them are wearing down, i'm looking at the newer equipment. The marketing is pretty fierce, which each manufacturers tossing buzzwords after buzzwords, which could mean different things or the same things...I don't know.
Sticks, I do understand some of the performance gain, and the "extra edge" you get if you're fundamentally sound with shooting mechanics.
Pads/Lids, top end stuff are all about achieving best protection with lowest weight.
Skates, i'm not so sure about.
With that said, what are the "eureka" moments (perceivable/measurable/practical performance differences, with performance = feel, control, comfort, and even reliability) you have when changing from one equipment to another?
Equipment from: x skate
Equipment to: y skate
Eureka moment(s): tighter turns due to 'fill in the blank on skate characteristic', took a slapshot to the skate and didn't feel a thing.
Sacrifice(s): boot wore down faster on y vs. x.
Equipment from: x shoulder pad
Equipment to: y shoulder pad
Eureka moment(s): it's more breathable and i stay cooler
Sacrifice(s): none. no perceivable protection/weight difference
Please refrain from bringing cost into the assessment, so we can focus on the equipment and performance.
I went from an old pair of CCM challengers to a Reebok 4k....fit like a running show, super comfort...but the blade wore down really fast (like 1.5 seasons). I had the blade replaced once but that caused the boot to warp and changed the feel altogether. But for 100$ it was well worth it.
I now have CCM Vectors XX. Heat moulded, fit great. I had pins and plates put into my leg, and when I came back, I had that one skate re-heated and it is now moulded to the new ankle and it fits great. I find the blade is more durable on this one as well.
I also wear a full cage now (mandated by my job or no insurance) instead of the full visor...no fogging
Are you talking about diminishing marginal returns? All goods experience that.
Here's a writeup I made about all the different gear and where I feel the best price-performance ratio is. I think it addresses what you're talking about.
Given the same player, swapping out different gears back to back, what pieces of equipment actually "wowed" you and how.
I supposed I should add level of play as information to provide, as higher level players may be more perceptive to more minute enhancements.
I think in the end, some of the insights can help noobs and experienced alike to determine what technology is actually useful vs. marketing gimmicks, and in turn help with purchasing decisions.
My personal view on value points in gear:
Most important thing for both performance and comfort is fit, this is more about finding a skate that works for you rather than the most expensive skate, even top of the line skates can fit horribly depending on the shape of the skate and shape of your foot. Other than that I want my skate to be stiff (I feel I get much better edge hold on tight turns), relatively light (weight is more noticeable on your feet than anywhere else IMO), have good steel, and have a quality tongue with a good lacebite protector (I like my skates tight). For me the midrange skates generally address all these needs, I'm currently in X40s. If I had more money I'd go top of the line, but I don't. I felt upgrading from my old Bauer 2000s to X40s was a very significant jump in performance, especially on tight turns, but . As for protection I've never been in a skate that does a good job protecting my feet from hard shots to the side of the foot, for that I think you need to go with those plastic shot blockers, or just only block shots head-on like I do :)
I will say that the best skate related purchase I've ever made was yellow superfeet, virtually eliminated arch pain because I finally got arch support, and I feel they've improved the fit of my skates too.
Most important is the right flex, and the right curve with the right lie, again not price issues. Top of the line sticks shoot great but are actually too fragile IMO (they are virtually pure graphite), but sticks that are too low end are as heavy as woodies and they just have a weird feel/flex to them (due to too much fiber glass, which helps durability but hurts performance). I prefer midrange sticks like the one80, Easton ST, etc. Got a BASE stick being made at the moment, loved it when demoing it and the price was right, hopefully it performs well and is reasonably durable too.
Shoulders and shins:
Anything cheap, light and mobile. IMO the higher end shins are way to bulky/heavy/overbuilt for my needs, and higher end shoulders are unnecessary. I'm using old/cheap Bauer 2000 shoulders, and new/cheap Bauer X30 shins, both plenty good enough for my needs. I really do not like the high end shins with the sling setup, where your leg is suspended away from the plastic shell, just too bulky and awkward IMO. I *DO* like a long shin guard though, worn over the tongue, good for blocking shots head on (I use a 16" shin and am 6' tall).
As long as it's CSA/HECC approved I figure the protection is fine, just go based on comfort/fit, not price. People assume more expensive = better protection, but I'm not convinced this is actually the case, virtually no studies to prove this whatsoever unless you go with a helmet like the Cascade M11. Low/mid range VN helmets seem virtually identical to high end VN helmets (if they fit you well, obviously), and I think the protection gains from EPP helmets over VN helmets are reasonably minimal. I've never seen anyone suffer a significant concussion in beer league, and I no longer play competitive contact hockey like I did in high school. One thing I HAVE seen though is people losing teeth, and I have a friend's dad who lost vision in an eye from a high stick despite wearing a visor, so full cage it is for me.
High end gloves are a nice luxury, but not really necessary IMO. I want something that offers good wrist mobility, a snug fit though the hand, a decent palm, and a lock thumb. Better protection is nice, but even with less protective gloves I only ever get a bit of pain from slashes, never broken hands/fingers, though possibly I've gotten lucky. Currently in reasonably low end Nike/Bauer XVIs, very comfortable and mobile, lockthumb, fairly poor protection/definitely feel slashes, but *knock on wood* so far no breaks.
Elbows and pants:
I will spend a bit more on these because I feel like cheap pants lack protection and often fit weird, while cheap elbows are restrictive and slide around. I'm in mid range Rbk 5k pants that are awesome for fit and mobility and provide solid protection too, while my X60 elbows gave me the best mobility/ability to stay in place that I found, but that will depend on the shape of your elbow/arms.
Helmet - never been wowed, although my current M11 has a cool fitting system
Shoulders - my Reebok 4k's were really impressive because the shoulders and abdomen are separated, so it moves really well and doesn't slide up like most others I've used
Gloves - using TPS R8's with plastic inserts, I don't get bruised fingers when blocking shots or taking slashes anymore
Pants - my Tackla 9000's let me block shots without getting bruised due to the additional padding
Skates - had two moments, first was moving from $75 skates to $250 Vapors...they pitched me on my toes a bit more and with the stainless steel I felt more glide. With my Grafs, my heel/ankle didn't slide around so I could use my edges a lot more and the lower cut let me maneuver easier.
Sticks - used a Battleaxe BX10 and the thing just launched snap shots harder than anything before or since
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