By Joey Walsh
Today’s hockey sticks are highly technical. Even the most experienced hockey players may not fully understand all of the terms and features of their sticks. If you’re looking to pick up a new twig, or are just curious about what goes into the design of one, these brief descriptions will help you sort through the maze for your future purchasing decisions.
- One-Piece Stick A composite stick where the blade and shaft are fused together and ready for use. Almost all pro players now use one-piece hockey sticks because they usually are well-balanced, lightweight, and give players superior feel for the puck along with harder shots.
- Two-Piece Stick A shaft-and-blade combination that come as separate units. The shaft can be composite, fiberglass, aluminum, graphite, or a combination of materials, whereas the blades are either wood or carbon fiber. These became popular because many players desired to use a lightweight carbon-fiber shaft and wood blade. Since good-quality blades and shafts are still pretty expensive, today most people opt for a one-piece, even though a two-piece can provide great value for those who go through a lot of hockey sticks.
- True One-Piece Construction A composite stick where the blade and shaft are not fused together. An advanced technology sometimes referred to as compression molding or monocomp technology; used to produce a lighter, better-performing hockey stick. Typically used in only top-of-the-line sticks. The traditional one-piece, along with most sticks on the market today, are still fused together.
- Blade Toe The end of the blade, furthest from the shaft. Finished as either rounded or square, and can be either open or closed (most toes are rounded and closed).
- Blade Heel The heel of a hockey stick. Refers to the bottom of the stick, at the back of the blade below where the blade and the shaft meet.
- Blade Pattern Consists of a number of different elements: Curve Type, Curve Depth, Toe Shape, Face Angle, and Lie.
- Blade Curve Type Curve types are typically defined as Heel, Mid-Heel, Mid- or Toe Curve.
- Blade Curve Depth The amount of curve in the blade at its deepest point.
- Blade Face Angle Face Angles are typically described as Open, Slightly Open, or Closed. The more open (where more of the front of the blade is visible from above), the easier it is to lift the puck.
- Blade Lie Describes how the blade sits on the ice. Determined based on the angle of the blade in reference to the shaft.
- Hosel The section of the hockey stick where the blade and shaft come together.
- Butt End The top end where the player holds the stick (also, the verb used to describe the act of jabbing, or “spearing,” an opponent; the penalty you get from doing that).
- End Plug/Extension Retail hockey sticks typically come with a 60-inch shaft. For players that need a longer stick, an extension can be added by gluing the end plug into the butt end (not available for wood sticks).
- Stick Flex The number that quantifies the level of “stiffness” of a hockey stick. Measured by the amount of pressure it takes to bend the stick 1 inch over a 1-meter span (i.e., if it takes 85 lbs to bend the shaft, it is an 85 Flex). The higher the number, the stiffer the stick.
- Flex, or “Stiffness” Profile Refers to the manner in which the stick bends when the player takes a shot. You may see this described as different “Kick Points” (see below); i.e., Low, Low-Mid, Mid-Taper, Amplified Mid.
- Resin/Resin System Resin is added to the carbon fiber before baking the stick, which helps the fiber take shape and harden. Advanced resin systems will have ways of removing a lot of the excess resin to make it lighter. Heavier/cheaper hockey sticks often have lots of residual resin.
- Grip The coating on the shaft (can come in different textures) for the purpose of improving a player’s grasp and feel.
- Matte/Clear Finish The final coating of paint on a shaft that leaves a smooth surface, so that the player can easily slide their bottom hand on the stick.
- Loading the Shaft Refers to the storage of energy in the shaft when the player is flexing the stick. The more energy stored in the shaft, the more the puck can explode off of the blade.
- Kick Point The portion of the shaft that bends the most when the stick is flexed. This is the central point of energy when “loading the shaft.”
- Low Kick Point A Kick Point in the bottom portion of the shaft. High-end sticks often are engineered to have low Kick Points on the shaft for a quicker release (less distance from the blade = faster load and release). It should be noted that this feature comes with an increased risk of stick failure.
- Mid Kick Point/Amplified Mid Kick Supports the entire force of the shot across the full length of the hockey stick. Often comes with a thicker hosel and stiffer lower portion so that the stick’s primary bend-point is in the middle of the shaft.
- Custom Kick Point Refers to a kick point that varies based on the position of the player’s lower hand. Designed to optimize a variety of different shots.
- Tapered Shaft The bottom of the shaft becomes thinner as a strategy to move the Kick Point lower.
- Tapered Blade The tapered shaft created a need for a new blade size. It fits inside at a lower portion of the shaft (traditional blades do not fit inside tapered shafts, and vice versa).
- Compression Molding A high-pressure molding process where layers of carbon composite are wrapped on a metal mandrel. The main advantages are that it gives the stick consistent weight and balance, and minimizes construction problems that lead to breakage.
- Balance The location of the balance point of a hockey stick. This significantly affects the overall ‘feel’ of the stick. Higher-end sticks typically have tremendous feel and balance compared to lower-end models. (Note: wooden extensions can have a major affect on stick balance.)
- Carbon-Fiber Orientation/Laminate Design A composite stick can feature up to 25 different layers of carbon fiber. Fiber angles, along with the order of these angles, affect the overall makeup and performance of the stick. You sometimes hear manufacturers talk about different processes they use to maximize these layouts.
- Micro-Fractures Micro-fractures will develop in composite hockey sticks through game play (often from face-offs, slashes, pucks, etc.), which lead to failure and breakdown in a stick’s “Pop.” An important consideration as various manufacturers advertise different ways of preventing micro-fractures.
- Pop/Whip Refers to a stick’s capacity for power when taking shots, or the responsiveness of a stick’s Flex Profile. Sticks will lose pop or become ‘whipped out’ with use. Top-end sticks have significantly more Pop than lower-end sticks.
As you can see, whether it is manufactured of bare composite construction or nanomaterial reinforced, a hockey stick’s design has become incredibly complex. While performance and feel continue to improve, it’s vital that both recreational and elite players alike understand the components driving today’s stick advancements, therefore allowing them to take full advantage of the technologies now within their grasp.
Joey Walsh is a leading authority on hockey sticks.