If the above image looks like an ad for Easton, it’s because, well, I also work for Easton, so it is. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the process of getting yourself that (non-brand specific but obviously Easton I mean right?) perfectly custom stick that’ll best allow you to bury pucks at every opportunity.
Below are some of the things you need to pay attention to. Keep in mind that your average sports shop may not be up on all the exact ins and outs of the stick they’re trying to sell you, so a little self education goes a long way.
If you’re at least planning on spending an average amount of money on a twig, curve is your basic starting point, and what you’re going to look at first. You know how it is – you pick the stick, check the name on the shaft, pick it up and set it down, and evaluate the curve.
Depending on where the hook starts, curves are classified as heel curves, mid-curves, or toe curves. A heel curve would be more like the early-day Lidstrom’s which tend to open the blade up like a wedge. The toe curve is less rounded early on, and has the majority of the hook in the toe (and therefore usually less loft). I’m guessing you can figure out what a mid-curve is (an old-day Yzerman, or Sakic, now Hall).
My personal preference: low-lofted mid-to-toe curve.
Loft, to be clear, is how many degrees the blade opens up. if you struggle to get the puck up, you may like more loft. With more loft comes a small lack of accuracy though (or so I found), which is why I preferred a low-loft – getting the puck up was never an issue.
D-men tend to prefer heavier sticks to forwards (dead seriously, part of the reason is for chopping those quick little bastards). Being the last man back means you’d like a little more weight/reliability to your twig, so like Boris the Blade told Tommy in the movie Snatch, weight = reliability.
Weight really comes down to what you’re spending. I’m spoiled, and couldn’t fathom using something heavier than the lightest thing available. For many others, they don’t give a shit. Total preference.
Like all things stick, this is preference, but there’s an explanation for why guys like what they do. The whippier the shaft, the less you have to put into it to take a quick, hard shot. But then again, if you have a high swing speed (and muscles) and like to take slapbombs, whippy shafts don’t let you take the hardest possible shot (unless you’re Brett Hull, which you’re not, so let’s move along).
Danny Briere starts the year using a 75 flex stick, and as he loses muscle mass throughout the season (as most players) do, heads down to a 65, which is what Hull used to use. Those guys are anomalies. Most people use a regular flex (100) or stiff flex (110 – some guys, like Chara, likely use triple-stiff), depending on their strength and priorities.
In college, I used a 110 because I felt like the lag of waiting for my damn stick to flex cost me a millisecond in front of the net. Later in my career, I came to prefer a regular 100 flex, which I use now.
Here’s where you’re going to run into problems at the sports shop, and it sucks. You generally can’t choose your lie off the rack, and it makes a big difference. Lie equals how upright or low your blade-to-shaft ratio is. My Dad liked to use a real low lie, which means he’d be great stick-handling with the puck away from his body, but on passes in tight, the heel would come off the ice and make it harder to take passes.
I liked to (and still do) stick-handle with the puck in close to me, so I liked a very upright lie. But to use that, you need to pay attention to…
Obviously this is something you tend to after you purchase the stick, but using a more upright lie means you can use a shorter stick. For me, an offensive creator, a short stick with an upright lie was perfect. All depends what you’re into.
You’ll see some NHLers that wrap tape all the way down the shaft of the stick, and they’ll do it on non-grip sticks. This makes no sense to me. In fact, using non-grip sticks makes no sense to me, but again: preference.
I liked to be able to really grab hold and fire without my glove (which may be damp by the third period) moving out of place when I’m trying to shoot. I would tell most people to just get grip shafts.
The toe of a stick can come squared or rounded. With the round toe, you’re able to take more awkward passes in around your feet (given that there’s more surface area on the ice than with a square), and allows you to get creative with your dangling.
The square toe allows more surface area for a direct, true toe pull, which means that for a defenceman trying to change the angle of his shot (likely trying to shoot it past a blocker), that might be for you. As you could guess, I’m into the round toe.
Most shafts come in almost the exact shape these days. When I was younger, I tried the convex, concave, and at one point, the Trilage triangle. There are no advantages to something funky, though I do prefer sticks with sharper, more square edges so the stick doesn’t turn over in my hands when I don’t want it to.
This comes down to you. If you’re willing to spend triple digits, you’re going to end up with a nice stick. If you’re willing to hit the $200 range, goddammit you better like it, and better keep that receipt. Old wood sticks broke more than current one-pieces (you’ll never win that argument with me), in that they used to crack, semi-break, get flimsy, lose chunks and all the rest, but when these ones go, they go.
As much as it may hurt down the road, I just couldn’t go back to a heavy, cheap stick. But it’s all about what you know and like, so take some time to figure out exactly where you fit into each of the above categories, and get shopping.
After all, it’s hockey season, you guys.
I’ve written a little bit about stick-prep before over at Puck Daddy, but more specifically about how to prepare it *after* you pay for it. You can check that out here.