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, others prefer short sticks, some like toe curves, and 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 want 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 where a stick's shaft bends or flexes the most. There are generally three 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 200 lbs, a flex number of 100 would be the suggested flex. However, it again comes back to the player's preference and strength; I recommend a flex number slightly lower than 1/2 their body weight for younger players who aren't as strong. 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, the flex is too high, and they should select a lower number. Conversely, select a higher flex number if the stick bends easily without much exertion.
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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 this area is located on the stick's shaft, the stick should be 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 depends on the position played. Generally, shorter sticks allow for better puck handling (think forwards, particularly centerman). In comparison, longer sticks provide better use of the stick's flex capability and 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,
As a centerman my entire life, I've always preferred a shorter stick for handling and navigating traffic. Additionally, the shorter stick forced me to keep my knees bent more and be in a better skating stride position.
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While many curve options are available, they mainly fall into three 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 it will 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. The mid curve is in the middle, balancing the toe and heel benefits. The mid curve is a good all-around curve providing good puckhandling, with passing and shooting benefits.
A stick's blade lie is the shaft angle relative to the blade when the blade is flat on the ice. As illustrated in the image below, lies typically fall between numbers 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 that 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 depends on 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 the 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 the equipment and ice time, and not everyone has unlimited funds, so stay within your budget - plenty of high-quality sticks are on the market for less 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 a stick that matches their position and play style.
Here are a few examples:
Center/Forward - A shorter stick, toe curve with a low kick point, and lower flex for a center that 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, the ability to make solid breakout passes, and a longer length for poke checks.
I like to go to my local hockey store to test sticks in their shooting areas to get a feel for what I like and 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 buy the stick right then and there, as I like to support small businesses.
The last thing I will say is don't get caught up in fancy marketing. Spending $250, $300, or $399 is unnecessary. If you're in college (or the pros) and they are paying, go for it. If you're spending your money, moderate price point sticks will probably have 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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