Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 09/13/07 at 01:29 PM ET
Easton Hockey recently gave us a lesson on how to buy a hockey stick. I figured since plenty of readers probably have their own plans to hit the ice this winter, I’d pass on their advice. These tips should help you choose what can be a pricey - and important - piece of equipment.
Choosing the right hockey stick can be a daunting task these days. There are more manufacturers offering more models, armed with all sorts of technologies aimed at supporting your game. The following are some key elements to consider when making your choice, regardless of brand or price tag.
* When standing, the height of your hockey stick should measure between your chin and nose. This will leave the stick sitting between your collarbone and chin with skates on. As a general rule, forwards will have shorter sticks to allow for stick handling and shooting in tight quarters, while defensemen will use longer sticks to enhance their wingspan and poke-checking ability. Most coaches prefer shorter sticks for young players because it forces the athlete to bend his/her knees when shooting, passing or stick-handling, thereby instilling the basic mechanics and fundamentals of the sport at the onset.
* There is a tendency to think that a stiffer stick translates to a harder shot. In fact a lower flex can generate a blast if the player can load the stick properly and let the stick do the rest. The key to choosing the right flex is to take into account the player’s height, weight, position and playing style. Remember, a shorter player will likely have to cut down the length of his/her stick, thereby rendering it stiffer. This player needs to choose a softer flex off the rack to offset the effects of shortening a stick/shaft. By the same token, the force generated by a 200 pound player’s shot demands a stiffer shaft for optimal transfer of loaded energy. Last, but not least…playing style. A lightning fast, shifty player like Marian Gaborik will have different stick demands than a player with a cannon for a shot like Brian Rolston or Sheldon Souray. Gaborik’s style necessitates a light, responsive stick that will allow for a quick release while the needs of Rolston or Souray translate to a heavier, more durable stick.
Blade Lie: * The lie of a stick refers to the angle at which the shaft relates to the blade (most sticks and blades will have a lie between 5 and 6). The lie factor is the one seemingly trivial element that can truly dial in the performance of a stick for an individual. You can best determine what lie suits your style by examining your game. Are you an upright skater? Do you stickhandle and shoot from near your feet? If so, you’re a likely candidate for a higher lie stick or blade (lie 6). Conversely, if you’re more tilted when skating and stick handling you’d probably be happier and more effective with a lower lie. A surefire way to make certain a lie is right for you is to check the wear lines on the bottom of your blade. What you want is level blade wear between the heel and toe. If most of the wear is concentrated in the toe region, chances are the blade you’ve chosen a lie that is too low for your style. Conversely, if the heel of your blade is taking the brunt of the wear, you need to consider a lower lie. Blade Curve/Pattern: * A player can further customize a stick to his/her playing style by choosing from a slew of pattern options. Generally speaking, a forward will have a smaller paddle to maximize stick handling and a slight loft or open face to the blade, making those top shelf shots a touch more spectacular. Most defensemen will opt for a bigger paddle to help block shots/passes, along with a straight or closed face paddle to keep those point shots low. Blade curves are available in varying degrees of hook (some exceeding the legal ½” limit), originating or focusing in the heel, middle or toe region of the paddle. Players can use personal preference as a guideline for choosing what type of curve or blade silhouette best fits their game. In today’s NHL, most patterns lean towards a slight variance of an open-faced, heel curve with a rounded toe.
Stick Model: * Hockey can be an expensive sport, so it’s important to know what a player’s expectations are of a stick when making a choice at retail. The one critical factor to consider is the performance vs. durability of a chosen product. You wouldn’t want to mistake a hefty sticker price for durability, much like you wouldn’t expect a Ferrari to survive a monster truck rally. Again, remember, different products target various styles of play. A finesse player will look for the lightest, most responsive stick he/she can find without much consideration for durability. An aggressive, physical player, however, will instead choose a stick that will hold up to his/her style of play. Hopefully these different elements will aid in your search for THE hockey stick, although finding perfection is usually a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride. ___________________________ KK thanks Mike Mountain at Easton Hockey for the lesson!
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