Will that $250 hockey stick help—or hurt—your game?
By Rick Parisi
You just went out and dropped a couple of hundred bucks on the latest and greatest hockey stick. It’s made of 100% carbon fiber and weighs less than the tape you’ve applied to the blade. So now you’re blasting the puck like Shea Weber, right?
No? Whaddya mean, “No?” Could it be that Shea Weber is 6’4″ and 233 pounds of solid muscle whose full time job is to play hockey? How tall are you, and how much do you weigh? And how much of your week is spent on the ice—or in the gym for that matter?
My point is rather simple. Even if you can afford it, more expensive does not necessarily mean better. Ask yourself this: If you were a size 9 and someone offered you the best skates in the world in a size 12, how much do you think your skating would improve? Heck, you’d be lucky to be able to stand up straight. Yet, I see a lot of players showing up at camp with sticks that just don’t “fit” them. Sure you can cut a stick to the appropriate length, but do you realize what that does to the flex?
There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a new stick. In addition to the price tag, there is flex, curve, lie, grip, durability, and more. But hockey stick flex is the most important. Get a stick that is too flexible, and you won’t get much power. Get one that is too stiff and you won’t be able to flex it, also resulting in not much power.
You see, much of the power in a shot comes from the potential energy of the stick. Before you strike the puck on a shot—slap, snap, or wrist—you are pushing the stick into the ice. (If not, then you’d better get to my camp soon!) As you push the stick into the ice you are bending it, thus increasing the potential energy in the stick. Then, when the shooting motion continues and the stick strikes the puck, all of that potential energy is released as kinetic energy, which is transmitted to the puck. So the key is to match the stiffness of the stick with your ability to bend it while shooting.
Stiff Stick = More Energy
A stiffer stick can harness more potential energy. But if you’re not strong enough to bend it, then the only force you are imparting to the puck is that from the swinging motion. (We see a lot of this at camp, and it makes for a very weak shot.) Conversely, if you have a stick that is too soft or whippy for you, then you are not maximizing the amount of energy you could be imparting on the puck… and you may break a lot of expensive sticks. If that physics lesson was too geeky for you, let me summarize as follows.
Which Flex is Right for You?
The higher the flex number, the stiffer the stick. A rough guide on stick stiffness is that the hockey stick flex number should be about half your weight (in pounds). Of course, that will vary a bit depending on your strength, but it’s a good starting point. So if you weigh 170 pounds, a hockey stick flex of 85 would be a good choice; and if you weigh 200 pounds, a 100 flex is ideal. But remember, you can’t necessarily go by the flex printed on the stick. This is because the flex number increases when we cut a hockey stick. Some stick manufacturers will print, on the side of the stick near the top, the flex for different cut points. This is very helpful.
So if you are 6’2″ tall, you probably don’t need to cut your stick at all. In that case, what you see is what you get. But if you’re like me—5’8″ in thick socks, and cut anywhere from 2 to 4 inches to get it to a length you prefer—then you are dramatically increasing the hockey stick flex number.
I recently had to deal with the problem of having a hockey stick that was too stiff for me. I had a few Bauer One70 sticks in a 77 flex that I ordered a few years ago, and they were great. But my last one finally bit the dust, so it was time to for me to break down and buy a new stick. I’m too cheap to spend $200 or more in a retail store, so I began scouring the web for deals.
I found one in an 85 flex at a good price, so I thought I’d give it a try. But I just wasn’t happy with it, and my shot was terrible. Because I had cut the stick down 2 to 3 inches, the flex was probably around 95 to 100. I’m not strong enough for that stiffness. So I continued my search until I finally found a stick with a 75 flex in my price range. I cut it down about 2 inches, which brought the flex up to somewhere around 85, and that is ideal for me.
In the next game I played in, wow, what a difference! I was immediately shooting the puck with more power and accuracy. Even my teammates commented on the power of my shot. I won’t be challenging Shea Weber in a hardest shot competition anytime soon, but not bad for an old guy my size!
The Bottom Line: It’s less about how much you spend, and more about getting the right flex. Go ahead and experiment with different curves, lies, grip and lengths. But above all, make sure that you have a flex that is a good match for your weight/strength.
And for most women (and some smaller men), I recommend an Intermediate stick. These are in between Junior (for kids) and Senior (for adult males). Typically they are a few inches shorter so you don’t need to cut them as much, or at all. Plus they have softer flexes, in the 60-70 range. As an added bonus, they cost less than a Senior hockey stick.
Once you get your new stick, be sure to come to camp and learn how to use it properly! We’ll get you shooting with greater power and accuracy in no time.
Rick Parisi is the Chief Executive Warrior of the Weekend Warriors Adult Hockey Academy. For more information, visit weekendwarriorshockey.com, or call 814-673-2000.