Although skating is the foundation of ice hockey, it's really the hockey stick that makes things happen in the game—so buying a hockey stick deserves more than a passing nod. A player uses his or her stick to control the puck, pass, and shoot; and on the defensive side, a stick can be used to block shots, intercept passes, and cut off passing lanes. Of course, there is also an entire category of infractions, called "stick fouls," that will land a player in the penalty box, or even the locker room.
When all hockey sticks were made of wood, there weren't too many options for a player to choose from, and so buying the right hockey stick was less daunting. Today, composite hockey sticks offer a variety of features and benefits made to help your on-ice performance, but can certainly be confusing at first glance. When you take the time to determine the right hockey stick for your playing style, skill level and budget, you'll choose the one that ultimately helps you perform up to your potential on the ice.
Parts Of A Hockey Stick
When you first look at it, a hockey stick doesn't seem that complicated, but modern technology and materials allow manufacturers to construct, shape, or mold each part in myriad ways. What are all the parts? Let's start at the top.
- The long, straight part of the stick is the shaft. The lower part of the shaft is tapered to help control the stick's kick point, which is the part of the shaft that flexes the most during a shot or pass. The shaft's corners and sides can also be designed differently, to help with grip or comfort.
- The area where the shaft meets the blade is called the hosel, and it can also affect the kick point, as well as how much the blade bends under torque.
- The blade is the thin part of the stick, angled from the shaft, that controls the puck. The blade heel is the rear part of the blade, where it meets the hosel. The blade face is the forward-facing side of the blade, and the blade toe is the end of the blade farthest from the heel. The blade lie describes the angle that the blade is attached to the shaft. You want the bottom of the blade to be in contact with the ice as much as possible, so a player's height and stance will determine the best lie, but personal preference is also a factor.
Hockey sticks come in two-piece and one-piece models. Two-piece sticks—in which the shaft and the blade are separate components—are less popular than one-piece sticks and very rare in the market. On one-piece hockey sticks, the shaft and the blade are fused together into a single unit. One-piece sticks offer a lightweight feel and better balance.
Six Things To Consider When Choosing A Hockey Stick
1. Kick Point
While flex is a measurement of how much the hockey stick's shaft bends, the kick point describes where the shaft bends most during passing and shooting—and this has a big impact on performance. There are three kick points—low, mid and high. Finding the right kick point is vital for your on-ice game and should be your first focus when choosing a new hockey stick.
When choosing a kick point, you should consider your style of play. If you take quick-motion shots, prefer release speed over power, and most often shoot close to the net, a low-kick point would be a great choice. If you tend to take full-motion shots (like slap shots) from further away from the net, and you prefer power over release speed, you’ll want to consider a high-kick point stick. And if you take a variety of shots from everywhere inside the offensive zone and value versatility over pure power or speed, the mid-kick point is built for your game.
Traditional hockey sticks were made of wood, but most sticks are now made from composite materials. Stick designers can mix and match materials to reduce weight, add durability, affect flex, and more. Sticks made from wood are still available and have their benefits, but manufacturers continue to enhance the features of composite sticks to offer improved performance in shooting, passing, and puck handling.
The shaft of the hockey stick is where you hold it during play. The contours of the shaft—the corners and the sides (or walls)—can be shaped in several ways to offer a different feel in the hand. Square corners are traditional, but you might find it more comfortable to hold a stick with rounded corners. However, some players feel that it's more difficult to maintain grip on a stick with rounded corners. The shaft walls can be straight or concave, and you should hold several kinds of sticks to see which is right for you. Stick shafts also include grip technology to give you a more secure feel. Most composite sticks include a grip feature, but non grip sticks are still available - though mostly found in custom options.
Another important feature that will have an impact on your performance is the flex of the shaft, which is a measurement of how much the stick bends under pressure. A stick's flex rating is the number of pounds of pressure—applied to the center of the shaft—that it takes to bend the shaft one inch. The higher the number, the stiffer the stick (for example, an 85 flex stick is stiffer than a 70 flex stick). When choosing the right flex, you should consider your weight, playing style, and personal preference. But as a general rule, choose a stick with a flex that's one-half of your body weight, rounded down. So a 160-pound player should use around a 75 flex stick.
4. Blade Pattern
Because the blade is the part of the hockey stick that actually controls the puck, subtle variations in its shape, angle, and size can greatly affect shooting and handling performance. The most common blade curves today are the toe curve, mid-heel curve, and the mid curve. Each category comes with a variety of patterns from major manufacturers like Bauer and CCM. Your style of play may determine which blade curve is right for you, but often it comes down to personal preference.
5. Overall Stick Length
Measuring a hockey stick to ensure it is the right length for a player is easy. The standard method is to put the toe of the stick on the floor between the player's feet with the shaft running parallel to his or her body. The top of the stick should reach the player's nose, when he or she isn't wearing skates. (Skates on, the stick should come up to the chin.) Hockey sticks can be cut to length, or you can add an end plug if the stick is too short. These are general guidelines, and a player might find that he or she actually prefers a slightly longer or shorter stick.
Finding the right hockey stick inevitably involves the price you’re willing to pay. Your level and frequency of play can inform this decision. Those who skate once per week or less may not need a top-of-the-line stick, while those elite players who skate 4 to 5-plus times per week will most likely need a high-performing, top-end model. But don’t let your skill level or the amount you play influence your decision too much - anyone who plays competitively can benefit from the lighter weight, improved balance, puck feel, power, and pop improvements that a better stick can offer.
But if you are looking for a stick at a lower price point, top manufacturers like Bauer, CCM, Warrior, and TRUE offer plenty of options at a variety of prices, built for players at all levels. Just remember, you don’t want to sacrifice the right kick point, pattern, and flex for a more affordable stick. A stick at any price that has the wrong features for your game is no bargain, and will negatively impact your on ice performance.
This is a lot to think about, but taking the time to find the right features for your game, like the right kick point and blade pattern, will help to improve your on-ice performance and will be worth the effort. There are many great sticks on the market in a wide range of prices, and an informed player can find the one that's just right and will propel his or her game forward. If you’re still unsure about which stick is best for you, or you’re looking for more information and an accurate assessment, visit your local Pure Hockey store to get all the information you’ll need to make your purchase.