Selecting a stick is very personal. Each player has specific likes and dislikes. The perfect stick means different things to different players. Some players like long sticks while others may prefer short sticks. Some like toes curves, others like mid-blade curves. Conversely, some players like sticks with a lot of bend or flex as it is more often referred to, while others like a stiff shaft.
So while there are some general guidelines and things you should be aware of when selecting a stick, at the end of the day it comes down to what feels natural in your player's hands.
Below we have assembled some general points, terminology, and stick features to consider when selecting a stick.
A kick point is a spot where a stick’s shaft bends or flexes the most. There are generally 3 kick point options from the major stick manufacturers; low, mid, and high.
Low kick point - The lower the kick point is generally for a quicker release for shooting.- preferred by most forwards that play in traffic and need to get their shots off quick
Mid kick point - The mid kick point is generally for players that want more power on their shot
High kick point - The high kick point stick is preferred by players looking for max power for firing slap shots
Flex is the measurement, in pounds, of the amount of pressure required to bend the stick 1 inch. Generally speaking the higher the flex number, the less bend or flex in the stick.
The flex of a stick provides a whipping, sling-shot effect to a shot giving it extra velocity. A general rule of thumb when selecting a stick flex is to choose a flex number that is 1/2 your player's body weight. So if your player weighs 200lbs a flex number of 100 would be the suggested flex. However, it again comes back to the player's preference and strength, For younger players who aren't as strong, I would suggest going with a flex number slightly lower than 1/2 their body weight. A good test is to have the player lean on the stick and try to bend it. If they have to apply too much force then the flex is too high and they should select a lower number. Conversely. if the stick bends super easy without much exertion you should probably select a higher flex number.
The general rule of thumb for measuring stick length has always been to put the toe of the stick blade on the floor, between your feet (with no shoes or skates on), with the stick parallel to the body, and measure to the bottom of the nose. Once locating this area on the stick's shaft this is where the stick should trimmed/cut. Again this length standard is just a rule of thumb. Players can and should deviate slightly from this benchmark length based on their preferences and/or position.
As aforementioned, a secondary influence on how far to deviate from this "bottom of the nose" standard is dependent on the position played. Generally, shorter sticks allow for better puck handling (think forwards, particularly centerman) while longer sticks provide better use of the stick's flex capability and provide a better defensive radius (think defensemen firing slapshots and making poke checks). The medium length, or
"standard length" provides what the middle usually does, a nice balance between the short and long stick benefits of good puck handling, yet with enough length to exploit the stick's flex and extra length for puck battles (think wingers battling in the corners and shooting off the wall),
Personally as a centerman my entire life I've always preferred a shorter stick for handling and navigating through traffic (easier to maneuver).
While there are lots of curve options available they mainly fall into 3 categories of curves ... toe, mid, and heel. In addition to the actual bend of the blade (the curve), there is the twist of the blade often referred to as its level of openness., Put in layman's terms the
openness of the blade means how much loft will it provide. The more open the blade the more loft and the easier it is to elevate the puck.
The curve is largely a matter of player preference, but generally speaking, a toe curve is for players who want a quick release, stick handle (and toe drag) a lot, and like to shoot high (often referred to by hockey aficionados as going "bar down"), On the opposite end of the spectrum is the heel curve. Heel curves, typically favored by a defenseman, help keep the puck low for long passes and slap shots. In the middle with a balance of the benefits of both the toe and heel is the mid curve. The mid curve is a good all-around curve providing good puckhandling, with passing and shooting benefits.
A stick's blade lie is the angle of the shaft relative to the blade when the blade is flat on the ice. As illustrated in the image below lies typically fall between a number of 4 and 7,
with most players' lies falling in the 5 to 6
range. A higher lie number, a favorite of forwards, brings the blade closer to the body, so the lie will be more upright.
By contrast, a lower lie number tends to put the blade further from the body and tends to be favored by defensemen.
How much to spend
Sticks can range in price from $50 to $399 for super high-end sticks, With such a wide disparity in price what should you spend? Generally, I think stick spending is dependent on three variables ... age, skill level, and budget. Below we'll make some quick comments on each.
Age - Younger players (12 and under) even highly-skilled ones aren't physically strong enough to get the benefits of a stick's flex and kick point so there is really no need to spend a lot on a stick for younger players. By not a lot we think the $70-$100 makes sense and maybe if you catch a good clearance sale you can get one for under $70. In my opinion, under no circumstances does a player less than 12 need a super expensive stick.
Skill-Level - The higher the player's skill level the better quality stick they should use. Higher-skilled players tend to understand flex and kick points and how to use these features to their advantage. For a player with a higher skill level (and older than 12), I think you can find a very high-quality stick in the $100-150 range.
Budget - Hockey's an expensive sport between all the equipment and ice time and not everyone has unlimited funds so stay within your budget - there are plenty of high-quality sticks on the market less for than $150.
When selecting a stick for a younger player stick to the middle of the road - a flex level 1/2 the player's weight, a lie of 5, and maybe a mid-curve. You should be able to get a quality stick (Bauer, Warrior, True, or CCM) in the $100 range.
As a player gets more advanced and older try to get them a stick that also matches their position and play style.
A few examples:
Center/Forward - A shorter stick, toe curve with a low kick point, and lower flex for a center who handles the puck a lot and needs maneuverability and the ability to get their shots off quickly.
Defenseman - A longer stick, heel curve, and high kick point for a defenseman who needs a low, hard shot and the ability to make solid breakout passes as well as a longer length for poke checks.
One thing I like to do is go to my local hockey store to test sticks in their shooting areas so I can get a feel for what I like and also compare brands. I suggest doing the same with your player. Once I know what I like I then go online and check some of the big online hockey stores such as Pure Hockey, Hockey Monkey, or Ice Warehouse to see if the sticks I like are on sale. If I think the price at my local store is comparable I'll also buy the stick right then and there as I do like to support local, small businesses.
The last thing I will say is don't get caught up in fancy marketing. Spending $250, $300 or $399 is just not necessary. If you're in college (or the pros) and they are paying then go for it. However, if you're spending your own money moderate price point sticks will have probably 90% of the same features and manufacturing technology as the more expensive models.
After all, if you give Conor McDavid a $150 stick versus a $399 stick he's still the same player.
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