Category Archives: Warrior

Industry Q&A: Keith Perera – Warrior Hockey

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick
Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.

Great Skate:  Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.

Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey.  He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card!  I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it.  My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction.  PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market.  Making better products to make players better is our main objective.

 

GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?

 

KP: I have a very unique hockey background.  I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed.  I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey.  I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college.  Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie.  It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way.  Our industry is a great one.

GS: Lefty or righty?

KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.

GS: Pattern?

KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby.  When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks :)

GS: Flex?

KP: 85

GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?

KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel.  But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).

GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.

KP: I do work with Pros sometimes.  Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks.  Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season.  Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.

GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?

KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates.  Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class.  Toughest…no comment.

GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?

KP: Great question.  The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”.  We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history.  After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd.  In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer.  Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance.  Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks.  I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.

GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?

KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons:  The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league.  I love the feel of the True1 construction.  I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate.  In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing.  Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!

GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?

KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most.  It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player.  True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be.  We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need.  Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented.  The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar.  Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.

GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?

KP: The Covert has been a joy.  The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5.  The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me.  I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release.  It’s really a great time at Warrior.

GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?

KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later).  Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.

GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?

KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac.  He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force.  We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past.  Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example).  We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.

GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?

KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior.  We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty.  We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that.  Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”.  He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko
What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing will be a new feature for the Great Skate Blog which will focus in on the gear being worn by players from around the NHL. These posts will focus on both skaters and goaltenders so both groups of players are well represented. Hopefully this series not only gives you a better idea of what your favorite players are wearing, but clue you in to which gear you may be looking to pick up the next time you’re at Great Skate.

My first target for WTW is Mikhail Grigorenko, the top prospect in the Sabres system. He was up and down with the big blub this year but managed to wear quite a bit of gear during his time. This breakdown is based on his final game of the year against the Islanders, but I will reference a few other games too.

Skates: Bauer Supreme TotalOne

One of the few pieces of gear he didn’t change at any point during his time with the Sabres. A solid skate with a tough, rigid construction, the TotalOne is immensely popular at the NHL level and there are a number of models in the Supreme line available at Great Skate.

Gloves: Bauer 4-Roll

Grigorenko was quite loyal to the Bauer Supreme TotalOne glove for most of the season but was sporting the 4-Roll for the season finale on April 26 (see entry image). Both gloves are great choices. The 4-roll is a classic fit that is more or less the go-to for most professionals. It is a clean, traditional look with a clean, traditional fit. The Supreme is design for maximum ergonomic feel and responsiveness and moves beautifully with your hand when playing. For a gifted playmaker like Grigorenko, the TotalOne makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, you can never go wrong with the 4-roll.

Helmet: CCM Vector 08 with Oakley Pro Straight visor

Grigroenko sports the wildly popular CCM Vector shell with a Oakley Pro Straight visor. The Pro Straight is used by just about every NHLer who wears a visor and provides excellent clarity to the wearer. Grigorenko uses the 08 Vector with a more traditional foam liner rather than the EPP foam with the heat molded pad liner that is found on the Vector 10 model. Either way, it is a good looking helmet and one that I’ve been seriously contemplating for a purchase for some time.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (white)

This is the reason I wanted to choose Grigorenko for this first installment. He has used a number of sticks throughout the season. While I can’t be sure, he may have been trying out an RBZ at one point as well. However, there is proof of him using the Covert throughout the year and in the final game. What is very interesting is that he’s switched sticks in the middle of games at times. Against the Rangers he went from the Covert to an APX and it wasn’t the first time I picked up on it. He also used a TotalOne early in the year.

While I’m fascinated by his choice to just rotate sticks whenever he wanted (he is a pro after all) I think the all-white Covert looks awesome. The Dagger Taper on the Covert is an awesome feature and I’m a sucker for all-white sticks. Great choice if you ask me.

Feel free to leave your recommendation for the next edition of WTW in the comments.

2013 NHL Playoff Preview

2013 NHL Playoff Preview
GreatSkate.com 2013 NHL Playoff Preview Today marks the opening day of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. This begins a month-long saga that will

Today marks the opening day of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. This begins a month-long saga that will lead to one team hoisting the Stanley Cup. While most expect the Blackhawks and Penguins to cruise through to the Cup Finals, don’t count any team out. This is the best tournament in all of sports and the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of each period, game and series makes it such.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh vs. New York Islanders

Pittsburgh is on the top of the heap of everyone’s favorite to advance to the Cup Finals. Looking at their roster as it compares to the Islanders (specifically in this series) you can see why so many are expecting them to advance. Last year, on my personal Sabres blog (twointhebox.com), I expected the Islanders to
make the playoffs. I was one year off but I think this is an organization on the rise. However, I don’t think they’re deep enough to run with the Penguins. Simply put, the Penguins have too many horses. Pens in 5

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

A very interesting matchup and the first of two Northeast Division showdowns. Ottawa has begun to tail off lately as I believe their injuries are beginning to catch up. This could be a very interesting series to track but I wonder if the Senators youth could bite them here. This will certainly be a battle and I do believe that Montreal will be in for a dogfight. Montreal in 6

Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

A week ago the Rangers were staring a first round series with the Penguins square in the face. Fast forward to the start of the first round and they’re looking at the Southeast Division winner, a much more comfortable matchup. The Caps are talented but I feel that the Rangers have built the momentum they’ve been searching for and will roll through the first round series. Don’t count out Ovie & Co. but I don’t see them advancing. Rangers in 6

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto has started to skid and skid hard. I don’t think they’re as talented as their finish showed and I don’t think they will fare well in a seven-game series with the Bruins. Boston’s struggles shouldn’t be ignored but I think they will have at least one more round to work them out. Bruins in 4

Eastern Conference Champion: Montreal over Pittsburgh in seven games.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Minnesota made the postseason by the skin of their teeth and are rewarded with the league’s best team. While the Blackhawks goaltending is the only looming question mark, I don’t think the Wild will have the depth to truly test the Blackhawks. Blackhawks in 5

Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings

All playoff series rely on goaltending, so it is hard to say that one will need better goaltending than another. However, if Anaheim’s tandem is off they are a very average team in net. If Hiller or Fasth are on top of their game, then it is an entirely different story. This will be a very interesting series to track. Wings in 7

Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks

It seems like these two teams are perennially meeting in the postseason. Fans in San Jose keep waiting for this franchise to take the next step but opening with the Canucks probably isn’t the way to do it. The Canucks are deep and talented. I think the Sharks are preparing to retool in some areas of their roster and may make a quick exit. Canucks in 5

Los Angeles Kings vs. St. Louis Blues

The Kings swept the Blues last year when Brian Elliott fell apart in the second round. I like the Blues – and as a Sabres fan I’d like the pick in the Leopold trade to be a fourth – but I wonder if they can hold up this year now that they’ve shored up their depth in many areas. At the end of the day this is the defending champs and I think that gets the job done in this room. Kings in 7

Western Conference Champion: Vancouver over Chicago in seven games

Stanley Cup Champion: Vancouver over Montreal in six games

In the Crease: Maintaining your gear

Perhaps no one position relies more on their equipment than goaltenders. From your skates to your helmet, every piece of gear can be used to make a save and is therefore vital in each and every game. Making sure your equipment is maintained is an important part of playing between the pipes.

While goaltending equipment is anything but fragile, it is important to ensure it is maintained properly. Ensuring to properly dry and store your equipment is an obvious rule of thumb but there are some other actions you can take to ensure your gear will help you perform at an elite level.

– Maintain the shape of your glove’s pocket

Each model of catching gloves have different features and construction methods for the pocket. Some have a hockey lace pocket, some use basic twine. Some have a split-T, some a reinforced-T and others a simple single-T. However, it is vital to make sure your pocket maintains proper integrity at all times.

A simple way to do this is to pop a softball in your glove when you’re storing it. This may not work for those of you who dry their gloves in the open position. But whenever you have the opportunity, toss a regular softball in the pocket.

The size of the softball will keep the T fully shaped and also keep the twine or lace pulled out with the T. This will ensure that the pocket will not collapse or lose its original structure. While it may not seem like much, it will help with popouts when making saves with your glove and sealing on the ice when covering the puck.

– Save your laces

All goal pads come with very generic twine to tie your skates into the pad at the toe bridge. This twine isn’t the best option for you to use when tying your pads into your skates. One of the first things I do when I get a new set of pads (which isn’t often enough) is to pull out the stock twine that the pad is manufactured with and replace it with skate lace.

Skate lace is far more durable than the stock twine and can also be adjusted to any length that you’re comfortable with. Using skate lace will give you a long-lasting product on a portion of your pad that is under constant stress and wear. Skate last will last far longer than the life expectancy of the stock twine.

The skate lace will also allow you to cut it to the exact length you prefer when tying in your pads will all but eliminate the lace from either coming untied or hanging down around the ice during games or practices. Stepping on a loose piece of twine is a terrifying feeling and putting your own skate lace in will make you feel very secure.

Another helpful hint with the lace: don’t buy a brand new set of laces for this. Collect old or ripped laces from around the locker room (or if you replace your laces). You don’t need a full 96” lace for your pads and even an old, ripped lace will be cut and adjusted anyway.

– Make those laces last

Most goal skates have a full plastic cowling these days. The plastic is rounded and smooth which makes the area between the blade and cowling an area far less susceptible to wear. However, older skates and some lower price point models still have exposed steel. Whether you have a full-plastic cowling or exposed steel, it is wise to wrap tape around those areas your pad lacing and straps will rub against. The tape will limit wear and add life to those parts of the pad. Once again, another nice way to prevent the laces that you use to tie into your pads from ending up on the ice.

– Dry your pads upside down

This is only a recommendation you should follow if you really like having a significant s-curve in your pads. If you prefer or use a stiffer pad, don’t try this. By storing your pads upside down, the wettest portion (the bottom) will help to add pressure on the rest of the pad while drying, thus slowly creating a more pronounced s-curve. I used this on my old Vaughn Velocity models and it led to great closure along the ice and at the five hole when I was in the butterfly. I have since stopped since going to a longer pad that has a different construction.

The main drawback is that this will shorten your pads over their lifetime. So if you don’t have a tall enough pad, or don’t want to lose that vertical length, don’t give this a try. However, the s-curve it creates will help when the pads are on the ice.

If I were to go back to a leg pad with a softer construction (Velocity or even Bauer’s new Reactor) I’d consider flipping my pads once again. This is definitely not for everyone, but I loved the way my pads performed when I tried it.

– Treat your gear as well as you want to play

This is more about the mindset associated with playing the game more than anything else. As the saying goes, “look good, play good” (sic). If you’re happy with how your gear feels and performs, you’re likely to respond in a similar manner. If your equipment is soggy, feels awful and is breaking down, you probably won’t play very well.

Make sure you fully air out your equipment, take sweatbands out of your helmet or other removable areas on your gear. You should want your gear to last as long as possible and perform at the maximum level. Hopefully these tips will steer you in the right direction.

CCM helmets boom in popularity

CCM Hockey Helmets
This shot of the Maple Leafs’ bench shows all but three players wearing a CCM model helmet

Laying claim to the most popular piece of equipment in the NHL is no easy feat. With players using custom models – and even some prototypes – determining the most widely used piece of equipment might not be the easiest task.

However, just look up and down any NHL bench and you’ll see one obvious trend; more players in the world’s best league are using CCM helmets. In fact, I reached out to CCM on Twitter and found out the V08 model is the one that has become the most popular helmet in the NHL

The CCM shell design meets all the requirements that players look for. It has a narrow, low-profile look with plenty of ventilation and an overall design that passes the ever important mirror test. All of CCM’s helmets have a similar shell design, but only the VECT and V08 models use the same ventilation layout and on-the-fly adjustment tabs.

In fact, CCM’s helmets sport 19 total vents in various areas of the helmets to ensure maximum airflow for the wearer. The vent layout on the front of the helmet has a somewhat futuristic look to it that adds some attitude to the look of the shell.

What might be interesting to hear is the fact that the V08 has more popularity amongst professionals than the VECT model. However, the liner foam in the V08 is made up of dual-density VN foam that has long been wildly popular at the pro ranks. This type of liner is used by all manufacturers and although it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the liners used in each company’s top helmet model, it is extremely comfortable despite some of the technical shortcomings

CCM’s VECT model uses EPP foam with memory foam padding at strategic points in the liner. This combination provides excellent protection and actually offers some improvements over the traditional VN foam liner in the V08 model (CCM’s V06 model also uses the EPP and memory foam combo). When it comes down to choosing one model over the other the determination comes down to comfort.

What shouldn’t be ignored are the safety and comfort of the EPP and memory foam found on the VECT model. As someone who has used helmets that utilize both a traditional VN foam liner and the more advanced EPP with memory foam pads, I’m not sure if there is a clear favorite.

Amongst the numerous helmets I’ve donned are a Bauer 4500 and 5100 (current) along with a RBK 8K which, at the time, was their top model.

The 8K had the EPP and memory foam combo and was extremely comfortable to wear. The specific design of that helmet allowed for a lot of airflow and the memory foam pads were strategically positioned for maximum comfort. Much like my old 8K, I’m certain that the VECT liner construction will offer the same comfort if you should choose to make it your next purchase.

The main issue many have is that the EPP and memory foam combination doesn’t always feel as comfortable for all wearers. That is the beauty of the VN foam liner. It is a generic liner that cushions your head no matter what comfort level you’re seeking. While the foam doesn’t have the same properties as memory foam, the sweat and heat produced during play will help to break in the foam and it will end up molding to your head over time.

I’d have to say that if tasked with choosing a new helmet that a model with VN foam would be what I’d purchase. However, that shouldn’t direct you or anyone else from the protective qualities that a model, like the VECT, with EPP foam has. Ultimately it is all about finding the delicate balance between comfort and

Composite Mini Sticks

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick
Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

 

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

Knee hockey is one of the numerous things that makes hockey what it is. Not many sports have a portable, miniature version that can be played just about anywhere.

Just think back to travel tournaments and the countless hotel hallways you were expelled from when playing knee hockey. Knee hockey just happens to be a portion of hockey culture that makes our sport so incredibly unique.

Not unlike the full size version of the sport, knee hockey has seen a number of advances in recent years. Manufacturers now make miniature nets (not necessarily a new development) which inevitably saves desks, tables, chairs and hallway radiators from the beating that comes along with the game. In addition, the days of dipping your straight-blade plastic stick in boiling water to create a curve are over. Now you can choose a mini stick from a plethora of choices that are near mirror images to the full size sticks made by hockey’s biggest manufacturers.

Warrior, Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Sher-Wood all have created their own composite mini sticks complete with curves and identical design patterns to that of the full size retail sticks you use on the ice. What these sticks do is add a little style and extra performance to a rec-room or travel tournament classic.

Reebok not only has a mini composite version of their new 20K stick, they also introduced a composite goal stick that is patterned after the 11K composite goal stick that is being used throughout the NHL – this follows previous miniature versions of the O-Stick and A.I.9. CCM also produced a mini composite of their premier stick with a mini RBZ. Like the 20K, the mini RBZ also sports the same markings and art that the top model does – although it doesn’t provide some of the technological advances that the full size stick does.

Both CCM and Reebok have their own net models as well which can be set up in your basement or rec room to add even more of an ice element to each knee game.

Bauer actually has a Vapor APX and TotalOne NXG for you to choose from while Sher-Wood’s collection spans the entire NHL. So, for those of you who are nostalgic for the straight plastic, team-branded sticks of the past, perhaps the Sher-Wood team models would provide a nice transition.

While I can’t attest if the composite mini sticks can add performance to your knee hockey game as their full-size cousins do for ice hockey, I can say they bring a cool wrinkle to a game that you should never need an excuse to play.

I, for one, am seriously considering setting up a knee hockey rink as part of my man cave in the very near future.

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick
Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

On the Ice: Warrior Dynasty AX1

On The Ice will be a recurring series that will focus on the on-ice performance of new equipment. I will take you through my thoughts and impressions of this equipment from taking it “out of the box” and after the first few ice times of use.

Warrior’s newest stick to hit the market is the Dynasty AX1. The Dynasty line actually features five different models at varying price points (AX1 through AX5) with the AX1 serving as the top professional model used by professionals and other top talents.

The Dynasty line is the first to feature Warrior’s new, groundbreaking AXYSYM technology in a stick. This system focuses high-compression fibers on the back and bottom of their sticks in order to increase the benefits of the stick’s flex. Combining with the natural flex and kick of the stick, the AXYSYM fibers stretch and compress as you shoot and are designed to put more power behind each shot.

The AX1 also utilizes the countless blade innovations that Warrior has created. The Aramid Sole and Carbonized finish add ridged strength to vital portions of the blade to ensure longevity and performance for the user. Warrior’s Twin Spar support system provides additional internal structure to the blade to resist bending while the Hardcore X maintains overall strength while reducing weight.

While the entire Dynasty line is designed with a mid kickpoint, the AX1 features a number of other features that aren’t found in each and every model. The AX1 is built with a high fusion point that moves the primary fusion point away from the blade and further up the shaft of the stick. In addition, Warrior has introduced the Strong Arm reinforcement that adds additional structure on the lower portion of the shaft.

As someone who has lost a majority of my sticks to breaks at or near the fuse point at the bottom of the shaft, I can say the HiFused and Strong Arm features are a welcome addition. Both aren’t noticeable the first time you pull a stick off the rack but one your stick starts taking the beating it incurs on a game-to-game basis.

Out of the Box

The first “out of the box” impression this stick makes is with the eye test. The AX1 has a sleek black and sliver finish that has a very professional look with a clear, uncluttered design. The basic design is amplified by the Slick Grip and Velvet Touch finish that my particular twig has. This finish is a two-fold feature that is the exact opposite of the typical grip finishes you get with other manufaturers.

What really stands out is the Velvet Touch. Quite literally the stick feels like velvet in your hands. An almost grimy feel at first, after you adjust the Velvet Touch is not only appealing but preferable –this is coming from a guy who likes a traditional grip finish, too. The velvet touch isn’t as noticeable with gloves on but the overall feel was solid when I did some stickhandling with gloves on.

Other immediate impressions that I found were with the mid kickpoint and the weight of the stick. I have previously used the Stealth RS, Total One, S19 and other extremely light one-piece sticks and this is right up there in terms of weight. The balance is also impressive as it maintained the same feel with tape as it did before I cut it down. Credit that to the HiFused fuse point and the mid kickpoint keeping the center of gravity in the center of the shaft.

My particular model is a 85 flex Zetterberg pattern. It is a nice mid curve with a slightly open toe and rounded toe. It’s the type of curve I prefer, but as you’re well aware, picking a curve and flex is up to the player and what they’re comfortable with.

Bottom Line: This is one of those sticks that makes you want to pull three off the rack, tape them up and hit the ice. It looks great and feels phenomenal the first time you hold it. The AX2 has a number of the features found on the AX1 at a slightly lower price point while the AX3, AX4 and AX5 models are all great sticks that offer terrific value while. However, the AX1 is truly the gem of the Dynasty line and it shows that at every turn.

On the Ice

An unfortunate scheduling situation forced me to wait nearly 14 full days before getting this stick on the ice. It was well worth the wait, in the end.

The first thing you notice about the stick is the Velvet Grip. Just like when pulling it off the rack, the Velvet Grip feels interesting when wearing your gloves. Personally I thought it was nothing short of perfect. It provides a tacky finish but isn’t even close to what a traditional grip finish feels like. A good way to describe it would be to say that it provides friction but not grip when you’re playing.

My biggest adjustment to the twig wasn’t the grip nor the incredible balance, but the blade. The past few sticks I’ve used have had a far thicker blade than the Dynasty and the feel for the puck with this blade was much different than the pro stock Total One I had been using previously. This isn’t necessarily a detraction so much as something I’ll need to adjust to.

All of the technology that Warrior poured into the blade is evident when you’re stickhandling, passing and shooting. The Twin Spar and Hardcore X features do their job well in allowing Warrior to pare down the profile of the blade while maintaining strength and rigidity. I noticed that my passing – particularly on the backhand – was much more crisp and my control of the puck was equally improved. Firing shots is where the thin blade threw me off as I spent most of the warm up adjusting to the feel of shooting with the stick.

Once the game started I was able to settle in and play my game. Shooting still wasn’t fully comfortable, but I was able to get off two acceptable attempts on net. My passing was great though. Aside from one that rolled off my blade, I saw marked improvement in moving the puck that I’m confident will translate to shooting the puck after another ice time or two.

This stick gets full marks from me. Any new piece of equipment comes with an adjustment period and sticks are no different. This is an incredibly light, responsive twig that feels great when you take it off the rack and once you get it on the ice. Four-and-a-half out of five stars for me.

Warrior breaking tradition with goal line

WarriorWarrior’s introduction to the hockey world has been far from ordinary. After building a strong niche with their stick and glove designs; the company recently ventured into the realm of goal equipment. Warrior pulled pad guru Pete Smith to head the design group building their goal equipment.

This isn’t a new strategy for Warrior, as they also pulled experts from other companies such and Innovative and MIA for their stick and glove departments in the past. For goaltending the company has really begun to push the envelope with their new line of chest protectors.

The new Ritual line has unveiled a number of new features that will easily set their equipment apart from traditional powers. For 2013, the Ritual Pro will have all of the new bells and whistles that include a few additions that haven’t been considered in chest pad design.

The most obvious of these changes is the Shockshield feature on the arms of the unit. This is a hard plastic cap that is designed to disperse the impact of the puck while increasing protection over the typical soft pad. The Shockshield is designed to float just above the rest of the arm guard to offer additional protection.

While this certainly seems like an interesting addition that will surely increase protection, one worry has to be the chance of rebounds coming off the arms harder than they usually would with a softer design. Even though the number of pucks bound to hit your arms on a game-to-game basis might be low, the difficulty of trapping a puck between your arm and chest could certainly be difficult should the plastic Shockshield kick pucks out.

Warrior also built the Shockshield to function in unison with the Axyflex system that is designed to maintain maximum protection while increasing comfort and flexibility of a goaltender’s arm. Much like a sliding toe bridge allows for your skate to be at a better angle of attack, the Axyflex has a similar feature on the outside of the elbow that slides in and out with the arm guard as you bend your elbow. Quite literally, the Axyflex is a mechanical hinge that will increase flexibility at what has traditionally been an awkward and bulky area of a chest protector.

Introducing the Axyflex and Shockshield designs are two very interesting steps for Warrior to take simply because they are truly groundbreaking additions. While the Ritual Pro has many features found with other manufacturers units, these two additions set the equipment apart for a very good reason.

The rest of the build is fairly traditional. The Ritual has more of a tapered fit as opposed to a bulky, boxy fit that should maximize mobility for the wearer. This is a design feature that is reflected throughout the line with the Ritual senior, intermediate and junior models.

The remainder of the line reflects many of the major design features seen on the pro model just without the two new innovations – Shockshield and Axyflex. This means that the rest of the line is a far more traditional looking and feeling chest protector that maintains the protective and mobility that Warrior has built in the past and has improved upon this year.

One feature that the entire line does have is the Adjustable Chest Height system. This is nothing more than a Velcro strapping system that will tighten or loosen the fit of the chest pad depending on how high a goaltender wishes to wear the unit. What is so interesting about this is that it eliminates the annoying nylon straps adjusted with various plastic pulleys that are the norm on nearly every other chest protector ever manufactured. The Ritual’s system makes adjustments incredibly quick, easy and comfortable as there is little guess work as to where the most comfortable setting will be found.

Warrior’s new Ritual chest protector line will be hitting stores soon and the impressive new designs will be available to the public before you know it. For those considering a new chest pad purchase this year, be sure to consult with a Great Skate associate once the Ritual is in stores.

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Hockey Stick

The Warrior Dynasty AX1 hockey stick launched in the NHL last night and will be in stores February 1st.

  • It is a mid-flex stick with compression fibers on the back and under-sides of the stick to build up power and recoil into the puck.
  • It is a Hi-Fused stick with the fuse placed at the widest area of the shaft, with this there is no joint to interrupt flex and feel.
  • By raising the fuse this brings optimal balance and feel
  • The lower area of the shaft is thicker to reinforce the lower part of the stick to ensure a strong hold of the blade.
  • Less twisting and much more blade stability

The blade which is taking over the NHL brings the following construction.

  • Twinspar which is 2 carbon fiber support structures to reinforce the blade core. Increase blade endurance and strength by 40%
  • Hardcore X which brings the lightest blade package with 60% higher compression and resistance
  • Aramid Sole which brings a bulletproof wrap under the bottom edge of the blade to increase impact and toughness by 4 times of any high end stick warrior has produced in the past.
  • Finally a carbon plated glass fiber resists cracking and chipping and as well adds stiffness to the blade.

With all these pieces mixed into a bowl the AX1 stick is the stick of choice and a must for all high end players.

Finding Your Hockey Stick Flex

Wandering through Great Skate’s stick section provides players with a plethora of options from manufacturers like Bauer, CCM, Reebok, Warrior and many others. Picking the right stick for you is determined by many factors that ultimately will help find the right stick for your game.

The right look, feel, weight, curve and flex of a stick are all determining factors for a player making this choice. Determining the right curve and weight is often something that has developed over a number of years and that has been determined by the style of game you play. In many ways the flex of any stick you buy will be determined in the same manner. However, how do you know which flex suits you best?

There are a number of different flexes available for players to choose from the range upwards to 110 (very stiff) to 40 (junior flex). It is important that the flex used by a player meets their specific strength and skill level.

In the case of young players who are still perfecting stickhandling and shooting, ensuring that the flex of your stick is adequate for your physical strength is just about all that needs to be considered. For those players who are stronger and more developed, finding an adequate flex will be more important.

First off, understand that different stick manufacturers utilize different practices and construction methods. Just like Ford, Toyota and Chevy all make different four-door cars, Bauer, CCM and Warrior make different composite sticks. So you may find that the 100 flex on the new CCM RBZ will feel differently from the 100 flex on a Bauer Total One or the new Warrior Covert.

Another thing to keep in mind is that lengthening or cutting down a stick will affect the flex. Each time you cut down a stick, you add stiffness to the original flex. You can expect to increase a stick’s flex by about 10 if you take off 2-3 inches. The opposite is true if you add length to a stick as it will add whip.

When it comes down to choosing the right flex there are a number of determining factors that come into play. For players who aren’t fully developed, an intermediate flex – between 50 and 75 – is a good starting point while 90 or 100 is a good place to start for those players who are fully grown.

Going up or down in flex will be determined by a few different factors that include playing style, strength and how skilled you are. Bear in mind that a player who isn’t as skilled and is still working on developing different facets of their game will struggle with a stick with a stiff flex (anything above 100) as it will not only limit your ability taking slap shots but wrist shots too.

If you’re a player who has a heavy slap shot, a stiffer flex would be best for you. In addition, physically strong players will not only have an easier time flexing stiffer sticks, they will gain more benefit from using one. The inverse is also true. If you’re slap shot is lacking and you aren’t as physically strong as others, going with a lighter flex will allow you to fully utilize your specific skill set.

Conferring with a Great Skate sales associate will also provide expert guidance to your specific needs when shopping in the store or online.

At the end of the day, finding a proper flex is going to be based largely off personal preference. But if you find a certain area of your game lacking, consider going up or down in flex to see if there is a noticeable difference.

CCM RBZ Grip Senior Hockey Stick 100 Flex
CCM RBZ Grip Senior Hockey Stick 100 Flex
Warrior Covert DT1 Senior Composite Hockey Stick - 85 Flex
Warrior Covert DT1 Senior Composite Hockey Stick – 85 Flex
Bauer Supreme Senior TotalOne NXG Hockey Stick - 77 Flex
Bauer Supreme Senior TotalOne NXG Hockey Stick – 77 Flex