Friday, March 22, 2013
Easton Hockey: Invention vs. Improvement, Part I

By Kyle Stevenson

Easton’s new mantra? Invention vs. Improvement. It's that simple. On March 21, we were lucky enough to get to talk to some of Easton Hockey’s top designers, learn about their new product and then demo it out on the ice. Easton sees a hockey equipment industry that is continually taking the best selling skate or stick and saying, “what can we do to improve it or put our spin on it?” Bucking this trend, the people at Easton went back to the drawing board and built products from the ground up. Invent, don’t just improve.

This strategy is staggeringly simple, but in a way brilliant. They brought in two guys, Dave Cruikshank and Scott Bjugstad, who really know their stuff. Cruickshank is a four-time Olympic speed skater and NHL skating coach. Bjugstad is an eight-year NHL veteran (1984-1992) who played on the 1984 US Olypic hockey team and then with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota North Stars. Easton brought them on board and let them do their thing. Good move.

While most of the industry tried to continue building stiffer and stiffer skates, Cruikshank considered the mechanics of skating and built a skate around that. The goal: build a boot to do what a player needs it to do, as opposed to building a boot and trying to make it do what the company thinks it should. If you look at a particular skate model and see it tending to breakdown a certain way, or in particular spots, it shows that players are trying to naturally do something in it that the skate can’t do. Cruickshank and the design team took the three major aspects of skating - Downforce, Push Direction and Tempo. Then he built a skate around them.

The Mako Skate is designed for more feedback on the ice and better control of your skates. The CNT (Connect) Holder and runner are named for their purpose -  to connect you to the ice. At first blush, even skating on them for a short period, it is clear they do just that. My first question was this - did they widen the steel? The runner itself felt so much more stable than Easton’s previous holder, the RBII. I was assured they hadn’t and it was simply the design that helped to give a hockey player that much more stable feeling.

I’m not going to go into much depth for review – check back soon for that – as I was only on them for a quick skate, but I was amazed at how quick you could get from one edge to the other. The other thing that caught me was how low you can get on these skates when turning. You truly need to get your mind over it and keep pushing it, because you won’t believe it until it happens. You just have to trust the edges and go for it.  I kept trying to turn harder and lower, thinking I was going to slide out, but the skates kept holding up. Its honestly something you don’t believe until you try it.

Easton Mako Skates are available now right here at Pure Hockey. Check back soon for Part II, where we will go through the technology and invention of the Mako 2 stick. In the meantime, here's a video we did with Neil Wensley, Easton's Product Manager for skates, that explores the skates a little more detail. Easton is really onto something here.

0 Comments Posted at 12:00PM on 03/22/2013

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Monday, July 09, 2012
Game Time Review: Easton RS Hockey Skate


By Kyle Stevenson, Pure Hockey Marketing

Having fallen in love with my S-17 skates over the past few years, I get excited whenever Easton is releasing a new skate model. I got to demo the EQ50’s just prior to their release a couple seasons back and I was pretty let down. They were real bulky and not particularly comfortable. This doesn't mean EQ50 skates are bad for you, they just didn't work for me.  So when the RS hockey skates were coming out, I tried to keep my expectations in check a little bit. Having said that, I can tell you that after a couple of game in them, they are my next pair of skates. I knew it after wearing them for about an hour. 

The RS skate impressed me right out of the box. It is a real sleek, sharp looking skate. They were really comfortable as soon as I put them on – and yes, I caught some crap for wearing them around the office the rest of the day, but hey, I was excited and they were that comfortable. 
When I first laced them up for a game, I didn’t tie the top eyelet, mostly out of habit. I do this to allow myself some more forward flex, as I don't like when a skate is so stiff that it restricts my stride going forward. Within minutes of hitting the ice, I could tell there was too much play in the ankle for this. The RS has a lower profile and once I tied it to the top, it was perfect – a great amount of forward flex, combined with excellent lateral stiffness and response. I love a stiff skate and the RS is stiff and responds great on strides.
I’ve been getting high ankle cuts on my last couple pairs of skates from abrasion on tight/hard turns, so Easton’s new comfort edge feature really interests me. I like the idea of that type of protection and it has been a great addition to skates like the TotalOne and TotalOne NXG, even though I haven’t truly been able to test how effective the feature is. 
On the back end of the skate, Easton put in a new injected tendon guard that is very strong and helps your foot to recoil on strides. You can really feel the extra support. On the inside of the skate, Easton added extra foam padding inside the tendon guard for a little extra comfort. Although I am used to a much thicker felt tongue, the RS’s felt tongue is really comfortable and has no signs of lace bite. There is also a little extra padding in the front, in case you take a slapshot  off the laces.
New to the RS skate is Easton’s Giro SuperNatural Fit footbed system. This comes with three sizes of adjustable arch inserts. This is a good idea, but in practice is a little gimmicky, there doesn’t feel like there is a big difference between the smallest and largest inserts.
My main issue with the skates is the Razor Bladz elite runner. The holder itself is great, it is very stiff, responsive and extremely light. The Elite steel runner is the issue, it's just too weak for me. I can feel it give and bow as I make tight turns or hard stops. Remember, though, issues with blades are very personal and subjective - the Elite runners may be just fine for you, this is really a personal thing with me.

Overall the RS skate really really impressed me - I really love it. Barring some ridiculous new unannounced skate being released, the RS will be my next skate.

Have a look and order yourself some right here.

.....and here's my video review:

1 Comments Posted at 08:00AM on 07/09/2012

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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Game Time Review - Easton S17 Skates (Long Term)

By Kyle Stevenson, Pure Hockey Marketing

S-17 Long Term Review

Models I use:-
1)  S-17 Black Custom, size 9.5, regular stiffness boot, Tuuk LS2 Holder (LS2 then LS3 Steel, 9 Ft Forward Radius), extra-long felt tongue, Vibram Rubber Toe Cap

2)    S-17 Black Custom, size 9.25, extra stiff, double composite wrap boot, Tuuk LS2 Holder (LS3 Steel, 9 Ft Forward Radius), extra-long felt tongue, uncovered composite toe-cap

I first got the opportunity to skate in the Easton S-17 Skates in June of 2009 during a demo skate put on by Easton. As you guys have probably caught on from reading these reviews, I’m a bit of an equipment nut and June 2009 was a pretty good month for me as I happened to be looking for new skates and I got to demo Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton within a few weeks of each other.

In that month I got to skate in the then-new Bauer Vapor X:60, CCM U+ Reloaded, and Easton S-17.  At the time I was playing in Bauer Vapor XXXX’s and was so pumped up to try out the X:60.  While the X:60 was comfortable and performed well, a couple  of weeks later I was blown away after skating in the S-17. Before skating in them, I would have never even considered buying a pair of Easton Skates, as they had a reputation for breaking down quickly and the few pairs I had had on my feet  (including a pair put on my opposite feet by a friend during a training session, that’s a story for another day though) didn’t feel very comfortable. The Easton rep at the time told me that improving the durability was a huge goal for them in designing the S-17, and after a few minutes on the ice, my mind was totally changed.

I immediately couldn’t believe how comfortable the skate was. I could feel the padding around my ankle a lot more than with the Vapor XXXX’s and my heel felt very locked in to the back of the skate. Out on the ice, I couldn’t believe the performance, the stiffness that I always look for in a skate and the great responsiveness. The thing that struck me as impressive wasn’t the performance – my XXXX’s performed well too, as did the X:60 – it was that performance paired with great comfort. It is rare to find that combination - my Graf's were comfortable, but not very responsive. The Vapor XXXX’s were stiff and responsive, but not comfortable. The S-17 was both.

I ended up ordering a custom pair a couple weeks later, and got them just before the season in the fall. I had a few of my own little customizations, longer tongue for comfort and a nice flop. I had TUUK LS2 holders put on because I am most comfortable with them. The steel on Easton’s Razor Bladz holder is slightly narrower and, to me, it is noticeable and feels a less stable, so I went with the LS2. I eventually got the opportunity to use the LS3 steel, which I have been using ever since. It’s a taller steel – more sharpening life and room for custom profiling and it also has a more aggressive pitch to it, something I really look for.

When the skates came in, they were shipped to our Danvers, MA store and on the drive up I was giddy as a kid going to sleep on Christmas Eve. I knew when I got to the store there was something special waiting for me. I was skating that night, and I didn’t even heat mold the skates, that’s how comfortable they were. I sharpened them up and went to practice and these things were game-ready from the get go. I did eventually heat them after a few skates.

The thing I noticed in the first few weeks of skating in them was the comfort closely followed by the energy transfer. No lace bite, no cuts on the outsides of my ankles and my ankle genuinely felt padded and surrounded. What I mean by energy transfer is the noticeable difference in how quickly and powerfully I could change direction and I could really feel the skate reload as I stopped and started.

Since then, both pairs of S-17’s that I have had have been extremely dependable. I was a bit nervous before getting them with the horror stories I had heard about Easton skates that they breakdown quickly and fail often. I had seen my friends S-15 that literally had a hole that you could touch his foot through. So I was a bit nervous about how they would hold up. And I can say that I have had no complaints, they have actually held up slightly better than my Vapor XXXX’s. They have some minor cuts and scrapes but nothing out of the realm of normal wear and tear.

I really have had no complaints about the S-17’s – probably the reason I bought a second pair even after trying out several other newer models. The great part of the S-17 is that I always know what I’m going to get from them. Excellent response, great stiffness and very comfortable, there’s not much more to ask for in a pair of skates. My personal pairs have a few modifications that add some weight versus the retail model, but they are still extremely light.

Overall the S-17’s are the best skate I have owned in a long time and they are what I’ll be skating in for the foreseeable future.

1 Comments Posted at 01:30PM on 02/23/2012

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