How To Select The Right Hockey Stick
By Bryan Naylor – Part 2
In the first part of this post, we covered the various styles of sticks currently available, along with the importance of choosing the right stick. Now we get to the technical pieces and frankly the stuff I find most interesting.
Out of the gate, for the younger player, many of the things we discuss here, will not likely have much impact. But as they start getting into the Major Atom or Minor Peewee age groups, your child is going to begin to take advantage of a lot of what we’re going to talk about here. So it’s always good to know how some of these things can help to enhance their game.
Please always remember the basics are everything. Make sure your kids have a firm grounding in fundamentals and good shooting, stick handling and passing mechanics as a base. The equipment can enhance that, but make sure they have the fundamentals nailed.
Size and Flexibility of the Shaft
There are several factors that come into play, when you begin to take a look at the right stick. One of the first things to consider is the diameter, length and flexibility or “flex rating” of the shaft.
There is a common misconception that the easier a stick is to flex (lower flex ratings), the harder the shot will be. Just about all of the one and two-piece sticks will have a flex rating that usually indicates how many pounds of force it takes to flex the stick one inch.
The idea that a more flexible stick will get you a harder shot is absolutely wrong. The bottom line is that the correct flex will be the stiffest stick a player can flex in their shooting motion. That’s what’s going to get your player the hardest shot. So the choice in flex-rating is going to change over time as your kids get older, stronger and faster. Initially, since they won’t be able to flex the stick at all or very little, flex-rating won’t make a difference, no matter what they try to tell you. Believe me, my son has tried…
The root of the misconception may come from the point that if the shaft is too stiff to be properly flexed, the shot won’t be as hard, which is true. The trick is to ensure that your child can in fact flex the stick with their shooting motion to get the full potential. A good rule of thumb is that the flex should be about half of the player’s body weight. These numbers are just a rough guideline however. If a player has a good shot or above average strength for his or her size, they might need a slightly higher flex rating. The opposite is likely going to hold true for those newer to the game who may want to go to a lower flex rating.
Youth and junior sticks usually have flex-ratings between 45 to 55 pounds. Then you’ll get my son who hits the high-end racks picking up a stick with a flex rating in the 95 to 110-flex range to see if he can make it bend.
You may find that once your child reaches a certain age, they’re going to be in between the junior and senior stick offerings. Many of the main stream manufacturers will offer intermediate sticks These are closer to the size of the senior stick offerings, but have lighter flex (typically in the 60 to 75-flex range) and usually a slightly smaller diameter.
Senior sticks typically cover a range between an 85 flex (regular) all the way up to a 100 flex (stiff) or 110 (extra stiff).
It’s always important to make sure that any stick you choose is a comfortable diameter for your player’s hands. The diameter will vary a bit between models and manufacturers.
The other thing to consider is stick length, especially while your child is still growing. It becomes real easy once they stop as the correct length is usually between the chin and lips when standing in their baldes and at about the nose when they’re in their shoes. Until they stop growing however, trying to get a full season out of a stick might be a challenge. Every child grows at different rates, so try and have the stick cut just a little longer (1 – 2 inches). This should get them through a season.
There are a couple of other things that are going to impact the length of the stick you may want to think about, depending on what level and age your child is at. For example, a lot of defensemen like using longer and heavier sticks to help with poke checks and the rougher play in front of the net. This also helps them keep their shots lower from the point.
On the other hand, many forwards, like a shorter, lighter stick to help them with their stick handling manoeuvrability and to help them get their shots off more quickly. This also helps them to more easily raise the puck over a goalie who is down in the crease.
Skating style also plays into this as well. if your child skates in a more hunched-over style, a slightly shorter stick might be better than if they skate more upright. My son skates more upright and like to get his shot off from the top of the circle. His sticks tend to be a bit longer. While one of the other centres on his team definitely has a powerful lower skating stride and style and likes his sticks just a little shorter than normal.
It really boils down to preference in the end. Usually choose a stick that is lightly longer if you’re not sure. Like a haircut, you can always cut a bit off the top, but if it’s too short, it’s tough to add more on. The weight of the stick is also important as no matter what position your child plays they will need to manoeuvre the stick into position quickly. Especially if your children are a little younger. Generally speaking, the higher the flex-rating, the heavier the stick.
The kick point is where the shaft flexes when enough pressure is applied to bend it. Composite sticks are often engineered to have low kick points on the shaft for a quicker release. The stick usually loads sooner since the distance for the stick to bend is less, before it begins its forward motion whipping the puck ahead.
The Effect on Flex-rating When A Stick is Cut
Unfortunately you’re not going to be able to buy a stick right off the rack and use it as is. If you can, that’s great. Cutting an inch or two off the stick is really not going to effect the flex-rating too significantly. The more you cut off the stick, the stiffer it becomes. If you cut 4″ to 6″ off a stick, it can increase the flex rating by as much as 15 to 20. What’s more important is to understand if your child can flex the stick once it’s cut, about 1 inch using gradual pressure. For the younger or less experienced children, this really won’t matter at all.
In the next post, we’ll cover selecting the right blade pattern and then we’ll look at how to select the right goalie stick.
About the author:
Bryan Naylor is a hockey parents who love the game whose mission is to bring back old school hockey. He is committed to working with premier hockey vendors who provide high quality, affordable hockey equipment and skills development offerings. Brian’s is also the founder and operator of STDH Hockey. You can visit his website here