So, where was I? Wood sticks…aluminum shaft…Z-Bubble…OK, got it. So we reviewed where composite sticks came from now let’s talk about why they work, what’s important in selecting a composite stick that is right for you
Probably the most common question I get asked about composite sticks is what’s the most important feature when selecting a stick. When I first started in this business and wood sticks were the norm I’d tell you the order of features ranked by importance was lie, curve, flex. For composite, while I’d actually list lie as #2, it tends to go flex, curve, lie, well, in reality for most younger players it goes curve, curve, curve but I digress. Texture and weight are 2 other elements to consider but far less important in the overall scheme of things. Let’s talk about flex, lie, and curve.
Selecting the proper flex of a composite stick is probably most important. The design of the original Easton Synergy was developed with the the physics of the swing of a golf club in mind. What this meant was that the bottom of the stick should flex enough that at the top of the swing the head, or in this case the blade, should flex back well behind the shaft and your hands. When the direction is reversed and the blade catches up to the shaft the result is catapult like creating a low, hard shot. So, basically stated, a stick that is too stiff will eliminate this explosiveness. Yes, on the other hand a stick too “whippy” loses some accuracy but your really buying a composite stick for the velocity benefit so much better to err on the side of too flexible. Most sticks are rated on the original Easton scale of 85, 100, 110 flex. At it’s basest explanation, think of it as pounds per square inch. An 85 flex would take approximately 85 pounds of pressure to bend one inch etc. For our purposes the scale is simply a standard measure with 85 being more flexible then 100 etc. So, now that you’ve decided on the flex there is one more curve ball; cutting the stick to height. Every 2 inches you cut a stick will increase the relative stiffness of the stick. It is MOST important to keep this in mind before your final decision is made. Decide and what would be your ideal flex then choose the stick that, when cut to you ideal height, achieves that flex. It’s not as confusing as it may sound but as always you can consult with your local hockey shop pro.
The lie of the blade and by extension the stick itself is every important. It is literally how the blade “lies” on the ice. Simple, right? Well, back when blade heels were less rounded it was maybe the most singular element of importance in your stick. It affected your stance, the way the blade struck the puck, and whether or not you’d find pucks sneaking under your blade. As the heels and bottoms of the blades became more and more rockered the importance of lie became lost in the shuffle to the point until recent years the lie was not even printed on most composite sticks at all. Advice here? Grab a stick, figure where you would cut it, hold it like you would at that cut height, stand in a ready position and see how much “daylight” is under your blade then adjust accordingly. One problem is that typically, each curve pattern come in only one lie so you will have to weight that decision which leads us to…
Curve patterns. Quite literally this is the size and position of the curve on any given blade. position is usually named as heel, mid, or toe curve. Each position has it’s advantages and drawbacks. The curve size runs from diminutive to maximum legal size (about 3/4″) with each having it’s own set of pluses and minuses. So how do you choose? Well, typically in the States the slighter mid or heel curve reins supreme (Forsberg, Modano). My theory is that a “vanilla ice cream” curve involves a lot less risk at the high price of most stick and so they are most popular. Most pros tend towards a severe heel wedge which strikes the puck in a similar fashion to a sand wedge in golf and provides a hard accurate shot. However as there is little actual “curve” only a really skilled player can get a great wrister or pass with this kind of curve. Bottom line is simply go with what you’re comfortable with or the right balance between curve and lie (see above) that works for you.
OK, this has run on a bit but the gist of it is whether it’s a Synergy SE, RBK 9K, or Nike Bauer ONE90, whether the lightest or most durable, grip or no grip start by making sure the flex, lie, and curve are what’s right for you and the rest will fall into place.
When next we meet we’ll discuss popular myths and misconceptions and are composite sticks really worth the money. Until then may all your shots be on net!