HOCKEY STICK SIZING
The right hockey stick size and flex are integral to your game. If a stick is too small for you or not stiff enough, it could break easily. On the other hand, a stick that is too big or too stiff can hinder stick handling, passing, and shooting. Navigating these problems can be especially tricky when choosing and buying hockey sticks for kids. But whether you’re buying for a youth, intermediate, junior, or senior player, there are a few important things to consider, beginning with determining the correct hockey stick length.
1. HOW TO DETERMINE THE PROPER HOCKEY STICK LENGTH
The hockey stick length is generally the easiest variable to determine, and it is imperative for a player's success in the game. Sticks usually come in four sizes: senior, intermediate, junior, and youth. Each descending size is shorter and normally offers a smaller shaft circumference and a softer flex. Senior sticks are usually used by players ages 14 to adult; intermediate sticks by players ages 10-15 and by some adult female players; junior sticks by ages 7-12; and youth sticks by players ages 4-8.
Knowing how to measure a hockey stick will ensure you easily find the right length. Have the player stand without skates, and then place the toe of the stick on the ground between the player's feet, positioning the stick vertically against the body. The general rule for the proper hockey stick length is that the end of the stick should come to about the nose. If the player's skates are on, the stick should come up to the chin. Please note that this is a general rule of thumb for hockey stick height and can change with personal preference.
If the stick is too long, simply make a mark at the correct place and cut the handle of the stick accordingly. If the stick is too short, extend its length by inserting an end plug at the top of the shaft. An end plug can is handy for rescuing a stick if a player cut it too short, or prolonging the life of a stick if the player has experienced a growth spurt.
2. HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH HOCKEY STICK MATERIAL IS BEST FOR YOU
Sticks are composed of a variety of materials including: wood, wood and fiberglass, carbon and fiberglass, graphite, and Kevlar.
To help decide which stick is best, ask these questions:
- Is the stick for playing on a non-ice surface, like for practicing in the garage or playing street hockey?
- Is the player new to the game?
- Is this the player’s first stick?
- Is the player coming back to playing after a long break from the game?
If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, the player is likely to benefit from a slightly heavier stick, which will provide a better feel for the puck. The additional weight will help the shot during off-ice practice and give the player more confidence when stick handling, passing, or shooting on the ice.
Wood sticks are generally heavier than composites. They are perfect for the casual street hockey player or for those trying the sport for the first time. They also tend to be less expensive than lighter weight counterparts.
One-piece composite hockey sticks are made of carbon fiber, fiberglass, graphite, Kevlar, resin, or other materials or combinations of materials. These sticks are designed to provide a higher level of performance with less weight and greater torque. As a general rule, the higher-quality materials will result in a lighter, more durable, and often more costly stick. These high-end, lightweight sticks transfer energy faster to deliver higher velocity shots and passes. Although heavier sticks still provide the best feel for the puck, in recent years manufacturers have dramatically improved the feel in the blades of composite sticks, making the transition from wood to composite sticks easier.
3. DETERMINING HOCKEY STICK FLEX
The first thing many players do when fitting a new hockey stick is bend it. Why? Because they are testing out the "flex" or flexibility of the stick.A good hockey stick fit allows the player to bend the shaft a little without much effort. Most players prefer flexible and lightweight shafts that allow for optimal passing and shooting. A too-stiff stick shaft decreases shot accuracy and puck speed, and it does not provide a good feel for the puck.
Most stick manufacturers offer a variety of flexes. The higher the flex number, the stiffer the stick. Regardless of a player's age, the correct flex should allow them to bend the shaft when they take a wrist shot or slap shot.
Different manufacturers have different systems for measuring flex ratings, but most conform to this method: the flex is a measure of the amount of weight required to bend a stick 1 inch when suspended between two support points that are 48 inches apart. For example, an 85 flex stick requires 85 pounds to be applied at the center point between two support points to flex the stick 1 inch. The lower the flex, the more elastic the stick, and the higher the flex, the stiffer the stick. The taller and heavier a player is, the higher the flex the player will need. In practice, a good way to estimate the flex a player needs is to divide their weight in pounds by 2.
Flex can be broken down into four categories of hockey stick sizes: youth, junior, intermediate, and senior. Youth sticks typically feature a 20-40 flex. Junior features a flex in the 35-50 range. Intermediate flex ranges between 55 and 70. Senior sticks have the widest range of flex, from 65 to 105.
Please note that flex will change slightly if the stick must be cut down to fit the size of the player. Although it is not an exact science, the common rule of thumb is that each inch cut off the shaft increases the stiffness by 10 percent.
4. HOCKEY STICK GRIP
During a stick fitting, it's important to get a hockey stick with the right grip, or a smooth stick if preferred. Hockey sticks can have either a smooth surface (non-grip) or a textured, sticky surface (grip). The smooth surface of a non-grip stick allows the bottom hand to easily move up and down the shaft for stick handling, passing, and shooting. However, during a game it is possible for the gloves to become slick with sweat, sliding on a non-grip surface and hindering a player's performance. If that is the case, a stick with grip might be the better option for the player. Some grips cover the entire stick, while other grips are featured only on the main area of the shaft where the player's hands are located. The grip can also be a coating or it could be incorporated in the texture of the stick. You can even fashion a grip yourself from hockey tape. The main purpose of grip is to provide increased control if the player's gloves are wet. If the gloves are not wet, grip may make it more difficult for the player to move his/her bottom hand. Ultimately, the choice of grip or non-grip comes down to personal preference.
5. WHAT IS THE KICK POINT ON A HOCKEY STICK?
Kick point is the place on the stick flexes when you pass and shoot. It is one of the more overlooked variables when a player evaluates the hockey stick fit. Is the player a defenseman with a booming slap shot from the point? A mid-kick point is probably the best. And what about someone who's more of an agile playmaker—who stickhandles, makes tape-to-tape passes, and takes wrist shots and snap shots over slap shots? This player needs a lower kick point for a quicker release.
6. HOCKEY STICK BLADE PATTERNS
A different hockey stick blade curve—also called its pattern—is used for different skill sets, and is one of the easiest stick fit variables to see. Please view our blade pattern guide to see the different specs and pattern names for different curves from various manufacturers. Stick pattern is almost entirely a matter of player preference, with the location of the curve in the blade moving toward the toe for players who favor wrist shots and handling the puck. Defensive players and those who favor big slap shots tend to prefer the blade curve toward the heel.
7. BLADE LIE
The blade lie of a hockey stick is a classification of the angle that the stick shaft would take when the bottom of the blade is sitting flat on the ice. When fitting a new stick, players tend to choose based on the blade pattern—including the hockey stick lie—they prefer. Normally, stick lies range from 4.0 to 6.0 in half increments. Most sticks have a 4.5, 5.0 or 5.5 lie. The more upright the stick, the higher the lie number.
Whether you’re determining what size hockey stick to use, or deciding on a flex, blade pattern, or lie, knowing how to measure the stick and all its variables will help you understand how to choose the best hockey stick for each player.