BY JOEY WALSH
It is entirely understandable that your player would want a high-quality stick but making smart decisions about buying is key to keeping your hockey equipment budget under control!
It is important for parents to know that the most desired hockey sticks of today are made of high-quality expensive materials. The primary purpose of this is to create lightweight sticks with unbelievable performance capabilities. Heavier, less expensive sticks are typically much more durable but can be just as effective at a young age.
Below is a quick snapshot of what parents and players should know when purchasing a stick.
Basic Sizing of a hockey stick
Sticks are conveniently broken down into size classifications such as Youth, Junior, Intermediate and Senior. As they progress, the flex rating increases and the shaft and blade get bigger accordingly.
Start by looking at sticks with a flex rating of approximately half your child’s body weight, then make sure it is tall enough to reach the player’s nose when standing flat footed without skates. If you do not buy within the correct size parameters you will not be getting the performance that you paid for regardless of the overall quality or how recent the stick was designed.
However, one size does not fit all, players that are taller, play frequently, and/or like taking slap shots might find a slightly stiffer flex to be beneficial whereas shorter players and/or kids that take more quick-release shots may opt for a flex rating a little below half their body weight.
Quality of a hockey stick
The difference between a high-performance stick and discount models will make a bigger impact than you might think. Some players are genuinely shocked at how much of an impact a high-quality stick had on their game.
Most brands will have three different price points on similar looking sticks. The difference is the materials used and the weight. Typically the lighter the stick the higher the quality, but even more important is that the weight is evenly distributed (lower end sticks tend to have heavy blades and are therefore bottom heavy), and it should feel light and responsive to hold (heavier sticks are generally full of resin and therefore do not perform as well).
Choosing the right pattern
Choosing the correct curve is so much easier than it used to be. Though lots of pros use custom curves, there are only a few different options at the retail level now — they come with a standard lie angle and all brands offer roughly the same curves. What’s important is that you find the curve you think is best for your game and stick to it.
If you’re not sure, the Blade 1 Pattern (Bauer P92, CCM P29, True TC2, Warrior W03) is the most recommended. If you find that your kid’s shots are getting up too high you may want to try Blade 2 (Bauer P88, CCM P80, True MC, Warrior W88). For the danglers of the world, a Blade 6 (Bauer P28, CCM P28, True TC4, Warrior W28) has emerged as a popular option for those focused on stickhandling.
Selecting The Stick
Once you know the correct size, quality and pattern for your player then it is time to select a stick. In the first few years of hockey it won’t make a lot of difference. They must learn the game and how to shoot before they can really get much of a performance boost from any stick, no matter the price point.
Many young players will be influenced by what the top players in the NHL or what other kids on their team are using. The urge to buy exactly what your player wants in understandable, and although its often expensive, a top-quality stick that will likely last the whole season may be worth it.
If they aren’t picky about the make and model, you can often find a high-end stick on sale that is a year or two older. This is usually a great option as the technology doesn’t change massively year to year. As long as they are stored properly, sticks do not suffer at all by sitting on the shelf.
The biggest issue is that as kids grow stronger, they begin to break their sticks more often, which parents, junior, college and even pro teams can find difficult to pay to replace.
At this point, many parents start to look for solutions that still meet the first three criteria outlined, but perhaps with more flexibility on different makes and models. In fact, as players make it onto higher level teams that supply sticks for them, there are often limitations on what they can use until the time they make it to the NHL.