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Goalie sticks are position-specific. Of utmost importance is the paddle length, which helps the goalie maintain the correct stance. The paddle—the wide, lower part of the stick—must be the correct length.
When the goalie’s in his stance, the blocker—the large, rectangular pad worn on the stick arm—is parallel to the leg pad. If the paddle is too short, the blocker will overlap the goalie’s leg pad (reducing the goalie’s area of protection) and the stick blade will rest on its heel with the blade tip up (creating another hole in his defenses). If the paddle is too long, the goalie’s stick hand—and blocker—are positioned away from the body, creating another gap between the blocker and the leg pad.
You can size your goalie stick in three simple steps:
1. If possible, wear your skates for an accurate stick height.
2. Assume your stance, with your knees bent, hands in front of the body, and the stick 12” in front of your skates.
3. Notice the position of the blocker:
Note, also, whether the toe of the stick lifts from the ice in normal-stance position: it shouldn’t.
The “pattern” of a goalie stick refers to the blade curve and the lie of the stick. Since today’s goalies are expected to play the puck, stick pattern is more important than ever. Know your game and purchase a stick that has both the curve and lie that suit you.
Stick blade curve is based on where the curve begins, and how the blade face is positioned, from the heel to toe. Understanding how these factors affect the stick’s performance will help you make the right choice.
Beginner goalies should start with a mid-curve stick and then adjust the stick preference as their game and skills develop, if necessary.
“Lie” describes the paddle location when the stick blade is flat on the ice. Lie is indicated by numbers. On senior sticks:
A higher lie of 15 means the inside stick angle is narrower with the paddle more upright, whereas a lie of 13 means the inside stick angle is wider with the paddle closer to the ice. A lie of 14 splits the difference.
As mentioned, for maximum protection the goalie’s blocker should not overlap the leg pad but instead should be naturally positioned alongside the pad when the goalie’s in their natural stance. Choose the stick lie appropriate for your stance.
Stick lie affects more than blocker position—it also affects shooting and puck redirection, each of which is a critical skill all goalies must possess. When trying out a new stick, it’s imperative to wear your skates so you can determine the most accurate lie possible.
Stick flex is a measure of the flexibility or stiffness in a hockey stick when force is applied to it. Because goalies are increasingly expected to leave the crease and handle the puck, it’s worth adding goalie stick flex to your list of considerations.
When a player bends their stick, the stick stores energy, like a coiled spring. When the shot is released, so is the energy—the stick unbends—and the puck accelerates from the stick.
“Stiff” sticks require more force/energy to flex. They are harder to bend but provide more powerful shots. Stronger or heavier players should consider a stick with a stiff flex. Stiff sticks are less useful for smaller or younger players who can’t yet bend the stick to take advantage of the energy recoil.
Sticks with a more forgiving flex release less energy but generally provide a softer puck feel and can be more manageable for young players.
Goalie sticks are available in three different construction types, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Wood sticks are typically made of laminated birch, ash, or aspen, with the paddle and blade wrapped in thin layers of fiberglass for additional durability.
Wood sticks are typically the most affordable option and tend to absorb impacts well, though they also tend to be the heaviest of the three options. Additionally, their blades can suffer from water damage because of regular contact with the ice, despite the wrap.
Because of their additional weight, wood sticks are not recommended for beginners.
Foam core sticks typically have a wood shaft with a glass lamination for increased durability. The paddle and blade are made of molded urethane which is injected with foam and covered with a glass or composite laminate for durability and water resistance. Many of the latest models also include a hard heel insert to extend heel life.
The injected foams enhance the stick’s rigidity and help dampen impact vibration for overall better puck control.
They are generally available at a reasonable price point relative to composite sticks, and are lighter weight than wood sticks, with a soft feel and good durability.
Composite sticks come in a variety of materials, including fiberglass, graphite, and carbon fiber. They often feature foam core injections for enhanced dampening and commonly come wrapped in high-grade synthetic materials like nylon or carbon fiber for additional durability.
Composite sticks tend to be the lightest weight goalie sticks available and boast the manufacturers’ newest technologies, for example, “rubbery” grip zones in the stick shoulder, convex or flat paddle profiles on the shot side, and contoured paddles for goalies who prefer to hold the stick closer to their body.
Composite sticks also tend to be the most expensive option, though they’re generally the lightest weight stick and afford players a variety of performance technologies not found in wood and many foam core sticks.
As is true of playing any position in hockey, outfitting yourself or your child in properly fitted gear is an essential first step to playing the position successfully. When purchasing new gear, be diligent and take your time, so you get the best fitting equipment possible.