wg stick al

honda copy

It was November 25th, 1989, six months after my Dad had retired from the Los Angeles Kings and moved the family to Kelowna, BC. He decided to make the drive to Vancouver with my brother and I to see a Kings/Canucks game. I was granted the privilege of taping Luc Robataille’s stick before the game (I’m sure he re-taped it) on a night he recorded a hat-trick. After the final buzzer, we popped back into the Kings room for Dad to say his see-ya-laters, and he introduced us to his old Canada Cup teammate Wayne Gretzky. That day is one of my best childhood hockey memories.

Gretzky used the stick you see above that night, took the tape off and signed it. Look at that thing! Pre-made foam grip? Shiny as all get-out? NOT WOOD? How cool is that thing?

***

The first time I used an Easton Synergy one-piece hockey stick, I was playing Junior B for the Osoyoos Heat of the KIJHL (Kootney International Junior Hockey League, out of BC). At that level you still paid for your own sticks, so I had to go full puppy dog eyes on Mom and Dad for weeks to finally convince them to drop the dough. There was a cool new toy on the market, and I needed it to succeed.

At $200-plus a pop, it wasn’t a small investment, and I wanted to have it forever. I was terrified to take a slapshot with it for fear it would break, which is sort of ironic – “Mom, Dad, I need this great new tool that will completely minimize my arsenal of shot options, y’know, to get better at hockey.” First generation Synergys were nearly unusable tools, comprised of a substance that I believe was mostly hardened sugar (I mean, they had to have been). Two shifts into my second game with it, there I was, using my old Easton Aluminum Silver Tip (convex) just like I had been a few days before. My Synergy was in two tidy pieces after it failed to withstand a puck battle that involved someone breathing on it (30 day warranty though!).

Eventually, Easton – a former employer of mine, full disclosure – found their stride, in a big way. They make arguably the best sticks in hockey today. But prior to their takeover, there were a ton of companies vying for the “Mommy and Daddy will pay too much for junior’s sporting equipment because they think he’s the next Sidney Crosby” market. And that’s one lucrative market.

I’m going to say the true Easton Synergy matte silver one-piece became truly popular and relevant around 2001-2002, and they changed the game. The one-piece revolution was on. Prior to that and in the transition years, there were some neat twigs, which we’ll reminisce about below. Hell, I once tried a triangular-shafted twig called the “Trilage” at one point; companies were trying everything and anything. Wood sticks took major strides around this time too (they had to), while non-wood sticks got more creative. It really was the glory days for gear fiends.

The 10 Best Pre-Synergy Hockey Sticks

Sherwood PMP 5030 (Coffey curve mandatory)

sherwood 5030

Probably the best pure hockey stick ever made. Every other voter using the #presynergy hashtag mentioned it, along with the most important part – COFFEY CURVE. To describe the Paul Coffey curve on the Sherwood PMP, the best I can do is:  C  . Not the letter “C”…that’s the shape of the curve. You had NO backhand, and you gave NO s**ts, because you could hit the crossbar while standing on the goal-line.

It was even better when used as a road hockey stick, because a curve like that and a tennis ball? You could hit your brother in the throat nine times out of 10. You’d use it until it was so thin and the toe so sharp you could shank your neighbor like a prison thug. It was the best.

Easton Z-Bubble

A bubble? Revolutionary! (…I guess? Taylor Made was doing it in their drivers around then too, so there must’ve been something to it).

 zbubble

The hell was that bubble supposed to do anyway, aside from create a weak spot just above it?

zbubble bubble

Anyway, the Easton Z-Bubble was the first have-to-have stick for me. It was a shining beacon of light that led us from the dark ages of wood sticks and into the glorious world of two-pieces. It allowed us the feel of a wood blade, with the weight of a stick a fraction of what you’d been previously using. Never mind that it made for comically-weighted sticks – it was a revolution. (Speaking of “revolution,” remember those old Kohos? Those were pretty popular too, though they didn’t make the list.)

Easton Ultra-Lite

ultra lite

(Edit: image of original Ultra-Lite.)

The closest thing we’ll get to an overlap on this list. Very comparable to the Z-Bubble, but even lighter, and it came with GRIP. More amazing ideas from Easton! Grip sticks changed my world. It let you take a hard one-timer with zero slippage, which meant a sturdier blade, which meant less flubbed shots. Two thumbs up.

(One more Easton stick below, and one more shout-out: I see you, T-Flex.)

Easton aluminum (silver and gold)

The Gretzky classic. This led a bit of an era of Easton sticks (like the silver tip I mentioned above) that were really cool, but made out of actual metal. Meaning, they weren’t that much lighter, and they were roughly 46,000 flex. You could’ve used them in place of rebar to construct high-rise buildings. Zero whip possible, especially for a kid. But MAN WERE THEY SHINY. Any hey, Gretter used them. At the time, that was enough in itself.

Innovative, rubber shaft

Innovative

My personal favorite stick ever, the Innovative. Its main selling point was the shape of its shaft (round or square, I preferred the latter) and a rubber wrap. No grip stick today comes close to the volume of sticky these shafts offered (listen, you’re just going to have to turn a blind eye to sex jokes in this post, okay? This is impossible otherwise). I scored a good amount of goals in junior with that bad boy above, and still got to be semi-hipsterish about it because not many people used them. Pff, nice Eastons, you human SHEEP.

Louisville TPS Grip

tps_shaft

I feel like every player who used the Louisville TPS grip had it in a Lidstrom curve, and had a bomb for some reason. I don’t think I ever owned one myself, but I do distinctly remember wanting one, because it seemed all the guys who did were bombing pucks over goalies shoulders with regularity. They were a little flashy, but when you’re a kid that meshes well with your mis-matched socks and yellow laces.

Branches (wood)

branches_6770_fix

It made me sad that I couldn’t find a better picture of the now-defunct “Branches” sticks, because I thought their innovation was pretty cool: they had tapered knob-ends. For a kid with small hands, it was cool to have that extra little bit of control. Or at least I thought I had more control, and that’s half the battle. Placebo Brand Hockey Sticks: get in the right mindset. Get yours today.

My first ever aluminum stick was a Branches, and it was the exact same rebar make-up I talked about with the Easton. I remember my Dad subtly asking if I didn’t want a stick with some more feel and whip, and me saying no strictly because I thought it was cool to be a kid with a non-wood stick at that point. The wood Branches, though? Those things had mad feel and whip.

Black Bauer 3030

bauer supreme

This was the junior hockey staple. Painted black (ooo, cool), fairly thin and fairly light, they were ubiquitous. Just about everybody used this thing in a Lindros curve, which was far and away the worst curve in hockey history (okay, mild exaggeration). You might as well have used a straight blade though.

Actually, a secret: I thought these sticks looked and felt good, but sucked. People loved them, but I couldn’t use the tool for whatever reason. And we all know that’s not on ME.

Titan 2020

Titan 2020

You people are crazy. I can’t believe this stick got so many votes. You might as well have carved your own from an Oak. The Titan Cumbersome. New, at Canadian Tire!

And finally, a nod to goaltenders:

All Curtis Curve sticks

Curtis curve

Here’s what I’ve been told about “Curtis Curves” from goalies: they sucked.

The idea was that you could go paddle down and have way more stick flat on the ice to take away the bottom of the net, particularly during scrambles. The only thing was, it made the stick harder to wield in every other situation, which is like, 95% of the game.

Much like I’ve said about other sticks in this list though…I just thought it was a cool idea.

***

It’s amazing some of the nostalgia that these sticks inspire in people. If you’re asking for the “best pre-Synergy sticks” and someone recommends a Titan, I mean, come on man. I gave our friend Bob McKenzie the gears over his list:

A Mic Mac? Green Flash? I’m so confused.

Do us a favor and submit your write-in votes below. I’m sure I missed some beauties out there.