The game of hockey hasn't changed much in the past century, but the equipment certainly has. New materials are stronger, lighter, safer, and more versatile. One piece of equipment that benefits the most from these advances is the hockey stick. Hockey sticks have become highly specialized tools, but the basics remain the same: you want to equip yourself with a stick that provides good maneuverability and puck handling. In order to choose the proper stick for your skill level and type of hockey you play, there are several features that should be taken into consideration.
Finding the right length hockey stick is imperative, whether you skate on the ice or street, or play in the field. Why is size so important? Just imagine trying to play with an oversized stick--you would be unable to control it. Now ponder playing with a smaller stick--you would lose power and reach. These, of course, are two extremes. However, slight alterations in length can can give you some advantages depending on how you play. For the beginner, the general rule of thumb is that the hockey stick should complement your body size. A quick way to measure the length is to stand in your skates with the stick, the blunt end on the floor. The blade should come up to between your chin and nose. Without skates on the stick should come at least to your nose. For juniors, sticks should measure between 46 and 54 inches long, while an adult stick will be from 56 to 63 inches long.
More advanced players will find that there is much more to choosing length than these simple standards since length preference is highly dependent on personal comfort and playing style. Keep in mind that the stick needs to be short enough to catch passes that land at your feet so it would be a good idea to give the stick a test for clearance. Otherwise, here are some more tips related to choosing length.
* Buying a stick on the long side allows you to cut it down for a customized fit.
* Offensive players and forwards typically chose shorter sticks because they're better for handling the puck. They allow for quick wrist and snap shots, but they will also cause you to sacrifice some reach.
* Defensive players prefer longer sticks that give them more reach to attack the puck. Longer sticks also allow for more leverage and more powerful shots, however, traveling with the puck will require very precise control of the puck as it is easier to lose with a long stick.
Shafts come in two shapes: square or round. This is what affects your grip. If you have very large hands, a square shaft will allow you to manipulate the stick easier without tiring your hand. However, small hands (children and women) are best with a round shaft that they can maintain a firm grip on. Most men with an average size grip will choose the shaft shape by preference alone; a round shaft for easy handling and a square shaft for better leverage.
When it comes to materials, you should know that practical and performance features are at stake, from price and durability to weight and speed. Remember that with one piece sticks, if it breaks, that means you have to buy another. However, with two-piece sticks that use a replaceable blade, instead of buying a new stick, all you need is a new blade. This is a more cost effective option in the long run for adults and older children who play more aggressively. There are more advantages to both types of sticks, which you can read about in this excellent article at Epinions. Otherwise, here are the basics about the types of materials used for hockey sticks.
'''Wood and Fiberglass''': The shaft of a hockey stick is traditionally made from wood and these remain the most popular choice for young players since they are affordable and lightweight. They can also be fine-tuned by cutting or sanding. However, a wood and fiberglass stick is a better bet for the older junior hockey player since it is more than twice as durable for only slightly more money. Plus, there is only a minimal increase in weight. Note that most of these sticks whether they be 100% wood or wood and fiberglass composite, are usually one piece sticks.
'''Aluminum''': The original two-piece construction material, aluminum hockey sticks are relatively strong and lighter than wood or fiberglass hockey sticks. They remain low priced and they use replaceable blades.
'''Graphite''': Many players choose graphite hockey sticks because they are lighter than aluminum or wood sticks and they are also more durable than both. Graphite can be used either for the whole stick, or just as reinforcement to a stick made with a wooden core. In both cases, sticks with graphite are typically more expensive. Note that graphite sticks use replaceable blades.
'''Kevlar''': Kevlar can be used as a composite, or on its own. Either way, these are of the most expensive types of hockey sticks. However, Kevlar is a strong, lightweight material. They come in both one and two piece styles.
'''Titanium''': Titanium hockey sticks make a good choice for players looking for a strong and lightweight hockey stick who don't mind spending top dollar on the highest quality.
Stick flex is something that will definitely affect your performance and it is a feature not to be overlooked. When shopping, you will find the flex number on the top of the shaft. This number indicates the force required to bend the shaft. They range from 45 to 110, with 45 being more flexible and 110 being more rigid. Different players will need different shaft strength to complement their ability. For example, those that want stronger shots will want less flex (a more rigid shaft). Those who need less powerful shots can use a more flexible shaft.
Anyone weighing more than 150 pounds should choose a senior stick as it has a higher stiffness rating (85 flex). Over 175 and you should get a minimum of 100 flex. If you play defense, a heavy, stick shaft with little flex is a good choice, and the opposite goes for offensive front men. Another way of looking at choosing a flex rating, especially for beginners, is to choose a stick with a flex rating equal to half of your body weight. This often means getting a lighter, more flexible stick. However, it is a good step for beginners who can use that flex to their advantage for learning basic shots.
The blade is the part of the stick that handles the puck. You will notice that it is significantly different for playing different types of hockey. Besides that, there are few more factors to consider when determining which type of blade is right for you including: blade curve and blade lie.
The lie is the part of the blade that hits the ground. It should lie flat and flush with the surface. The lie can range from two to seven degrees. This is often dependent on your height and how you play. Hockey sticks with a low angle, or lie, have an L-shape and are used for those who skate low to the ground, or for people who are shorter. Blades with a higher lie have a more obtusely angled blade and are best for those who play in a more upright position, or for those who are taller.
'''Blade Curve'''Hockey sticks can have a left blade curve, right blade curve, or straight blade curve. Buy a hockey stick that has the blade angled so that the puck rests in the curve for your forehand shot. A smaller curve, good for beginners, gives you better control for backhand puck handling. More curve will make the puck harder to handle. Front men playing offense will want more of a curve since it will help lift the puck of the ice and enable high shots into the goal from very close distances. Defensive players need less of a curve.