Of all the happenings around the NHL this summer, nothing has been more shocking that Ilya Kovalchuck’s decision to retire from the NHL and return to play for SKA in the KHL. As he departs for Russia, we’ll take a look at the gear he sported in the NHL.
Unlike our first target, Mikhail Grigorenko, Kovalchuk is a very loyal Warrior client who hasn’t been seen in anything but their gear for a number of seasons. Since Kovalchuk doesn’t bounce around with the equipment he uses, tracking his set up was much easier. Here’s what he wore during the shortened 2013 season:
Since Warrior has not jumped into the skate market just yet, Kovalchuk sports Bauer’s APX line for his skates. A popular, lightweight skate, the APX is used by countless professionals and is equally popular in youth and adult rec leagues across North America. No surprise to see a skill player like Kovalchuk in a skate that promotes agility and speed.
The Luxe line bridged the gap, in a way, between the Franchise and this year’s Covert line. While Kovalchuk didn’t get into a Covert full-time, the Luxe shares many of the same qualities. A more tapered, anatomically fit glove compared to the traditional four-roll fit of the Franchise, the Luxe provides a little more snug fit which is beneficial for players who like their gloves to respond in unison with their hands. While the Covert has taken up the Luxe’s mantle, you can find the same tapered comfort in Warrior’s new line.
The one Warrior product Kovalchuk doesn’t use is the Krown 360 helmet. He opts for the traditional, low-profile 4500 model which is still prevalent in many areas. The 4500 uses a traditional foam liner as opposed to some of the high-end EPP foams with special inserts seen in such helmets as the Bauer RE-AKT or the Krown. Kovalchuk’s visor appears to be the Bauer J-cut which is very similar to the wave or aviator cut visors on the market but with an additional cut on the side of the visor. It’s a tough visor to find but the Bauer or Oakley aviator cut visors provide the same appearance.
A truer form of the word sniper may not be known when you consider the type of player Kovalchuk is. He certainly serves as an excellent poster boy for Warrior to show off the benefits of their Covert stick line. Kovalchuk uses a big right handed curve and sports a unique red based graphics package on his DT1.
As the summer days roll along and the temperatures continue to rise, there’s one event on the horizon that will have you thinking of cold, wintry weather in no time.
The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale is kicking off on August 1 and will continue through to August 10. The sale is available online, at greatskate.com and at our Buffalo, NY store. In addition to phenomenal deals on this year’s best equipment, you will have the opportunity to demo hockey’s newest releases and take part in a number of exciting giveaways and promotions.
Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok and Warrior will each be participating in demo days between August 5 and 9 that will feature each manufacturer’s newest sticks and equipment. Players will have the opportunity to demo the newest sticks which will be hitting the market along with trying on each company’s newest gear between 10am and 6pm each day that the demos take place.
Along with providing a unique demo of their newest equipment and sticks, Easton will also be providing an opportunity for a team to win a full set (18) of Easton composite sticks for the season. All you need to do is provide your full team roster to enter the drawing for the team set.
Bauer is getting in on the fun as well, offering a week’s worth of prizes that run from Monday through Friday and include a Ryan Keseler James VanRiemsdyk and Patrick Kane sticks, a new pair of Vapor APX skates and Friday’s grand prize of Bauer sticks for a year.
The Summer Sale will also feature one of the newest Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s own Justin Bailey will be on hand from 5pm to 6pm on August 1. You will have a chance to test your shot against Bailey and see how you stack up against an NHL draft pick.
Bailey won’t be the only competition Summer Sale guests will have for shooting. Warrior is sponsoring the Warrior Hockey Chara Challenge which will be a fastest shot competition with giveaways that include Warrior merchandise and a Dynasty AX1 stick.
In addition to the Chara Challenge, Warrior will be providing one lucky winner with two tickets to the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan with $200 spending money and one night’s hotel accommodations for the game.
Be sure not to miss your opportunity to take home any one of the terrific prizes that will be up for grabs while also taking advantage of all the phenomenal deals that will provide up to 80% savings on select items.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in the market for new protective gear – both in net or playing forward. On a recent trip to Great Skate I was trying on some different elbow pads an noticed one common theme; elbow pads have become incredibly bulky.
The whole host of offerings from Bauer down to Warrior just didn’t feel perfect on my arm. I noticed a relatively similar pattern with some of the back leg designs on shin pads and all over the shoulder pads each company has out currently. Warrior, however, had some nice anatomic features on their protective line which I took as a major benefit when perusing their Dynasty protective line.
Warrior’s Axysym technology is something that has been integrated throughout their equipment for 2013. From sticks to goaltender chest pads, it is a fit system designed to maximize mobility without sacrificing protection. The primary areas affected by the Axysym design on the protective line is the forearm and bicep wrap (elbow pad), the shin and calve area (shin pad) and the chest (shoulder pad).
The way Warrior worked the Axysym into each piece of equipment managed to focus the fit of the equipment on the portion of the body that needed the most freedom of movement. In addition, Warrior’s Sling Wrap (elbow pad and shin pads) and 2-Timer straps allow for a snug, fully adjustable fit for the wearer.
Specifically with the Sling Wrap, the strap focuses on the one area which can use the most additional support. The Sling Wrap will keep you from doing the raised arm elbow pad pull 200 times per game. Add in the 2-Timer strapping which appear to be a more heavy duty Velcro strap system designed to fit you well and not move during the course of a game.
The shin pads look particularly snug as the Sling Wrap strap ends just below the knee on the front but actually comes up and around the calve at a 45-degree angle (as opposed to just wrapping straight around). In addition the primary strap keeps the protective calf wrap fully secured.
Perhaps the single most impressive feature on Warrior’s protective line is the 2-Way Smart Cap system. The knee and shin areas, elbow and shoulder caps are all built with a multi-layer cap that includes compressed plastic along with HD foam as well. The shoulder and elbow caps actually have a four-layer build that includes the 2-Way foam cap (meets NHL standards) along with the compressed plastic and HD foam. The shin pad is more of a traditional build with the hard plastic shell and HD foam over the comfort liner.
All of the Warrior protective gear uses the yellow War-Tech liner system with Polygiene bacteria and odor fighter built in. This is an impressive line from top to bottom that builds nicely on the reputation Warrior already carries in their stick and glove construction.
When the time finally comes to ditch my current gear, the Dynasty line will be one of the first sets that I strap on in the store.
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.
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: 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.