So you just went out and dropped $250 on the latest and greatest stick. It’s made of 100% carbon fiber and weighs less than the tape you’ve applied to the blade. So I suppose you’re now blasting the puck like Shea Weber, right? Whaddya mean, no?!! Could it be that Shea Weber is 6’4″, 233 lbs. of solid muscle whose full time job is to play hockey. How tall are you? What do you weigh? And how much of your week is spent on the ice? How about in the gym?
My point is rather simple: Even if you can afford it, more expensive is not necessarily 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? Hell, 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? It actually makes it stiffer.
There are a lot of things to consider in a new stick. In addition to the price tag, there is flex, curve, lie, grip, durability and more. But 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 better get to a WW 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, transmitted to the puck. So the key is to match the stiffness of the stick with your ability to bend it while shooting. 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:
The higher the flex number, the stiffer the stick. A rough guide on stick stiffness is that the 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, an 85 flex would be a good choice, and if you weigh 200 pounds, a 100 flex. But remember, you can’t necessarily go by the flex printed on the stick. This is because the flex increases when we cut a stick. (Note: 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 cut your stick at all. In this 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″ to get it to a length you like, then you are dramatically increasing the flex of the stick.
I recently dealt with the problem of a 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. They were great. But my last one finally bit the dust, and it was time 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 internet 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 2-3″, the flex was probably around 95 to 100. I’m not strong enough for that stiffness. So I went back online. I finally found a stick with a 75 flex in my price range, and ordered one. It came a few days later. I cut it down about 2″, which brought the flex up to somewhere around 85, which is ideal for me. In my next game…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, but not bad for an old guy of my size.
So it’s less about how much you spend, and more about getting the right flex. Sure, 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 Intermediate sticks. 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), and have softer flexes (in the 60-70 range). As an added bonus, they cost less than senior sticks.
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.