Last week the kind folks at Cascade sent me the spec sheet and some photos of the brand new Cascade "M11 Pro" hockey helmet, which is due out this spring and will be the successor to the M11. As you probably know, the M11 was born from The Messier Project, which is a collaboration between NHL Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier and a collection of other NHL players - and also players of all ages from the AHL down to regional youth hockey players. The aim is simple - to make a helmet that provides the best possible technology and protection possible.
While NO helmet will prevent concussions, the original M11's core mission was to minimize the risk of concussions as much as humanly possible through technology. I won't go through the technology here because that's not the point of the post today - and you can find plenty of information out there on the technology behind it, especially at The Messier Project's page. Suffice it to say, about a year-and-a-half ago when I was in need of a new helmet, I did relatively extensive research into the technology behind helmets. I say "relatively" because I'm a men's league player who usually plays twice a week, sometimes three, so the hitting is minimal. I am at far less risk than the high school or college player who plays the hitting game, but nonetheless, one still has to be mindful of such things, even in men's league play. If you're in the hitting game, this is potentially one of the most important purchases you'll make. Your parents probably feel even more strongly about that one.
OK, so what's my point then? Well, I want to give you a little detail about how my 1.5 year old M11 has held up and if it is standing the test of time well enough. We call this our "long-term reviews" here on the blog. In doing some quick math, I've had the helmet for about 72 weeks now and since I'm playing twice a week, let's just say that I've used it around 150 times (the total is probably more, but I'll stay conservative). I chose the black M11 with some red trim; it's a combo and I left the stock M11 cage on there. Some people are picky about cages, I am not, though after watching Daniel Paille of the Bruins on Pure Hockey's Gear Tips from the Pros series, I now love the idea of either getting a cage or painting the inside of one white for slightly better sight.
What really sold me on the helmet (moreso than the technology) was the comfort. For me, there was nothing even close. I tried the Bauer 9900 series, the 4500 series and I also tried the Easton S19's and threw on a Reebok 9K for good measure. Nothing even approached the comfort I had in the M11. So with the relative lack of contact in men's leagues, it wasn't much of a decision. As soon as I put on the M11, I knew I was buying it. Negatives? Well, it doesn't look too much like a traditional hockey helmet and Cascade has taken their lumps for this. For me personally, looks take a distant back seat to comfort and protection anyway, so I don't care. I know a lot of you do very much care about how it looks and that is certainly fine. I think if you look at the M11 Pro pics from the link above, you'll see that Cascade is going down the road towards a more trad-looking helmet anyway.
So, the helmet itself has held up incredibly well. There are absolutely NO cracks anywhere. The straps and snaps are all original and have held up perfect, the interior pad inserts have the expected minor wear-and-tear associated with 150+ uses and have not dislodged once. The chin-piece is original and as you can see, in pretty amazing shape. The cage-stops (J-clips) and its screws are also still original and have not moved one iota, unlike a lot of my past helmets, where the screws always seemed to loosen and needed frequent tightening and/or entire J-clip replacement. The cage itself, somehow, has virtually no rusting or discoloration on it, something I have never experienced in a helmet. Granted, everyone cares for their gear in different ways, I always air mine out on a rack after playing, so cage condition, much like most of your other gear, is entirely based on your care for it. The one thing I have had to replace is one of the top screws which holds the cage to the helmet.
I like to keep my helmet ever-so-slightly on the loose side. Too tight and I just get headaches, so I get as close to tight as I can without casuing that to happen. Even though I do play non-hit men's league, hits still occasionally happen - as do accidents and collisions - and I can tell you I've taken my fair share of whacks on the helmet from pucks, errant sticks, collisions, etc. The thing has held up like a champ. As far as comfort, it's still there. Insanely comfortable.
All of this obviously bodes well for the M11 Pro that's coming out soon. But if you're thinking about the orignal M11, from my perspective you cannot go wrong. This is a really solid, comfortable hockey helmet and well-worth the price. You have a vast amount of colors and styles to pick from right here. You can also build your own custom M11. Pics below, ask us if you have any questions!