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The NFL has the Mannings. Pro tennis has the Williams sisters. The NHL has the dual-threat Sedin twins, along with a small army of Staal brothers – there’s four total. Just a hunch, but we’re guessing these families had some healthy rivalries and a few bruised egos growing up. Professional sports rivalries make for great theater, but as fans we love the added drama when family bragging rights are on the line. Strong rivalries thrive on competition and sometimes the most pure are those cast in blood, so here’s to all the brothers and sisters out there pushing to the next level in the name of being the best – or beating your sibling.
In the brave new world of hockey retail, it’s all about the brand. Rivalries live and die here. Loyalty comes at a premium and the currency is innovation. Stay on the leading edge or go home is the message and the one-upmanship between rivals is obvious, if not enjoyable.
And that’s where we find our current focus – in the unique relationship that is the rivalry between Reebok and CCM and their flagship model composite sticks. Two brands. One family. This is a rivalry unlike most.
A BLENDED FAMILY
The year is 2004 and the corporate side of hockey retail has been rocked. The Reebok family, seeing an opportunity to break into the industry, has just completed a marriage with one of the most storied brands in all of hockey by merging with CCM. A new – stronger family is formed and what each lacked in knowledge the other made up for with expertise. Reebok would go on to consolidate their power further by shutting the doors on some well known brands previously owned by CCM. Brands like Koho, Jofa, or Titan were deemed expendable; it was a tough - but wise - decision. By the time the dust settled, the newly formed family of Reebok CCM (in that order) was all that was left standing, prepared to take the battle to their opponents in a unified front.
As we enter the 10th anniversary of this power move, we’re drawn to the competition that’s emerged between the two companies. They may share the same billing address, but these are distinct brands with unique appeal, each going after the same piece of the pie. This is a rivalry of shared resources and lonely losses. But enough with the history lesson, on to the reason you’re here.
We put each company’s top-of-the-line stick through our battery of drills and real world testing. We’re grading on visual appeal, stick feel, and bare-bones performance. Hundreds of shots and many hours later, we’re prepared to pick a favorite child. We’re just happy we’re not picking between one of our own.
THE BETTER LOOKING ONE
Judging a book by its cover is never appropriate – except for when it is. In this case, looks are one of the first judgments a player makes. It may not always be fair but it’s the truth. Luckily both sticks have exciting visual appeal, though they share nothing in common graphically. We’re looking at two completely different ends of the spectrum.
The Ribcor has a stealthy, blacked out vibe going for it, and it’s quite impressive. The exposed carbon-fiber weave running the entire length of the shaft reveals its true character. No frills. No nonsense. It evokes a feeling of industrial rawness. This is a stick that knows who it is, what its mission is and is not looking for attention. Black with Gunmetal is the color scheme at hand with a barely-there splash of Reebok Green in the Ribcor logo. When juxtaposed with the RBZ Stage 2, our testers gravitated towards the Ribcor’s simple yet tough demeanor.
At first glance the RBZ Stage 2 is supremely attractive. The color palette immediately eye catching – we love how the white of the shaft contrasts against the ruby red fade of the CCM logo. It’s definitely more attention grabbing, and that can be a good thing. But upon closer inspection the overall impression offers a bit of a riddle. The graphics trend to the loud side with multiple patterns, lines and angles overlapping and it gets a bit confusing. Yet there are parts that absolutely rock. Take the aforementioned CCM logo on the lower shaft or the way the Red, White, and Gunmetal colors play off each other - Beautiful.
Yet when the scores were calculated, the consensus was the RBZ Stage 2 left us wanting and wondering what could have been, where the Ribcor gathered universal approval.
IT'S ALL IN THE TOUCH
If looks are the cover of the book, how each stick feels represents the first few chapters. This is you picking the stick off the shelf and giving it a few good flexes before putting it back. This is where first impressions are either sealed or reconsidered.
What stands out immediately is how balanced each stick feels.
Put your hand just offset center of either stick and they'll hang out there all day - there’s no real tendency towards being top or bottom heavy. Where the original RBZ came off blade heavy, the new Stage 2 has corrected its course.
Side by side, the Ribcor felt more at home in our hands. Although, both models feature rounded corners and concave sidewalls, the Ribcor rested easier. We attribute this to the Ribcor's sleeker shaft and more aggressive rake on the corners. Our testers ranked the palm fit on the Ribcor higher than on the RBZ Stage 2.
The Ribcor is also the lighter of the two, clocking in at a trim 417 grams. The CCM RBZ Stage 2 comes in just a hair more at 430 grams - it may not be much but when you're splitting differences, details matter. The slight weight advantage along with a more comfortable fit gave the Ribcor a slight nod by our testers. The point is clear though, these are two rivals playing for keeps.
THE ON-ICE PERFORMER
A few chapters in, we're now approaching the dramatic conclusion. Our on-ice testers were amazed by how light each stick felt in their hands as well as the flex each stick provided. Whether they were shooting, passing or simply stick-handling, the RBZ Stage 2 and the Ribcor gave every skater exactly what they desired in their lumber.
The RBZ Stage 2 provided the feedback and connectivity we anticipated. Passing, shooting, stick-handling, the stick responded with ease to each movement of the wrist. Perhaps most praiseworthy in the performance test was how the puck felt coming off the revamped blade – dubbed Speed Blade 2 the RBZ Stage 2 had our team singing praises about its response and pop off the blade.
With assistance from golfing giant and technological partner, TaylorMade, CCM removed the traditional foams from inside the blade and replaced them with hollowed out channels that are lighter and more responsive. Called – get this – Freak Channels, when compared to the original RBZ, the Stage 2 provides 20 percent more C.O.R (Coefficient of Restitution), which means that the face of the blade has a built-in, spring-like effect, that when shooting or passing stores the energy and accelerates it outwards, providing more pop to the puck. The result was rocketing shots that would make even the great John Vanbiesbrouck curl up into a turtle. The top speed recorded by the RBZ Stage 2 was 92 mph slap shot. Not bad coming from a group of amateur players. Innovation indeed.
While the innovation of the RBZ Stage 2 primarily rests in the blade, the Ribcor's main claim to fame lies in its shaft. Using the newly formed Ribbed Shaft Technology, the Ribcor is chalked full of fibers that are woven into constant tension with one another to move power from your hands to the puck with ease. These Ribs along the lower half of the shaft are eternally ready – wanting – to pop back into place when flexed. This means the power you’re maxing out with in your current stick is amplified in the Ribcor. It was not uncommon to hear our testers emphatic about how their shots seemed, felt, sounded harder with the Ribcor.
We recorded our hardest shot of the day [and of the year] with the Ribcor. With a heavy 97 mph, the Ribcor had us thinking we were Al MacInnis himself. In addition to the harder shot, the Ribcor excelled in all other aspects of our performance testing. Passing, stick-handling, shooting, it equaled or surpassed the RBZ Stage 2 in every way.
There’s competence and there’s confidence. The RBZ Stage 2 was impressive and controlled during testing, however it came down to how the Ribcor made us feel when shooting (97 mph!) and sealed the victory, at least on this day for the Ribcor.
THE GOLDEN CHILD
It was a clean sweep for the Ribcor – the favorite child. But like any win over a family member is was bittersweet. Trust us, it was not an easy choice. Both sticks provided a sleek finish, confident feel and top performance on the ice. The selection process came down to tiny differences in how the Ribcor looked and felt – and it didn't hurt that we felt a little taller after each shot.
Isn't that just like a sibling rivalry, though? It's not easy picking Peyton or Eli, Serena or Venus, or any of the umpteen Staal brothers. They are all triumphant in their own right; it just comes down to personal preference.
What would you decide?