More than anything, we are hockey players too. If you've ever shopped in one of our stores or on our website, we know it can be pretty overwhelming to see the myriad options for hockey sticks. Even we will admit it's kind of ridiculous sometimes. Even the sticks at the elite level (let's call it $230 or above), there's 10-12 different options between brands. How the heck do you make sense of it all?
Oh, you could read all the marketing material that the vendors produce. Sometimes it all sounds the same, though, doesn't it? I mean, how many times have you heard that THIS is the stick that will increase your velocity? Or make your stickhandling somehow improve magically? Does Patrick Kane's fancy stickhandling give you ANY sense of how that stick feels in your own hands? Does Claude Giroux's ability to shoot pucks into a bucket give you a better sense of your own accuracy? Does Pavel Datsyuk's ridiculous puck control ability convince you that Reebok is just the stick for you? We'd argue no. No way.
Technical specs and product descriptions are certainly a piece of the puzzle, but really what matters is this: how does the stick feel in your hands? Does the puck go where you want it to go when you shoot it? Does it flex the way you'd like it to? Those are really and truly what should influence your buying decisions. Not pretty pictures or viral videos.
With that in mind, we got it into our heads a while back that we should ask the vendors (Bauer, Reebok, CCM, Easton, Warrior and Sher-Wood) to send us some of their elite sticks - with no markings whatsoever. We were a little nervous to ask because we knew the first question they would ask -- WHY. Sure enough, almost all of them asked it. The only two who didn't ask us why was Warrior and Sher-Wood - they sent us blacked-out sticks right away, no questions asked. Pat on the back for them!
Bauer and Easton asked why and we told them our plan. They immediately sent us the sticks. Much appreciated.
CCM/Reebok declined,. Now, to be fair, we can't really black out a Ribcor because of the ribs on the shaft - anyone is going to look at those and know its a Ribcor. We would have liked a 20K, but Reebok declined. Since they are the same company as CCM, we were also told not to expect any blacked-out RBZ's either. No real reason given. Easton - same thing.
But we really wanted blacked out Easton and CCM sticks, no real stick test can occur without those two heavyweights involved. So we went to the local hardware store and purchased some matte black spray paint and just spray painted them. We weighed both sticks prior to and after painting and surprisingly there was no difference in weight. Voila! We had our five latest, elite level sticks, all blacked out. The list:
Note: we had to eliminate the V9E due to the elliptical shaft - again, too easy to spot the difference there and we wanted this to be as anonymous as possible.
Armed with 5 sticks of relatively equal specs - flexes in the mid-80s, all roughly the same as the most popular curve (Kane) and cut to the same height, we set out to do some TRUE testing. In our initial set of sessions, we grabbed five players from Southern New Hampshire University's men's team and two of our store managers (Danvers MA and Nashua NH). In our second set of sessions, we gave the sticks to the Boston Junior Bruins. We interviewed each player before each session and asked them what stick they currently use and why - then we sent them on the ice with their blacked-out beauties for some shooting. Afterward, we interviewed them again about which one they liked the best.
This is the Pure Hockey Stick Challenge. We hope you enjoy it. We sure did. We'll be releasing a series of videos in the coming weeks and months detailing each player, their session and their choices.
Then we'll really see which stick(s) resonate with players.
We hope you enjoy it! Here's video #1, with Nashua NH store manager Rick Stuart.