What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

What They’re Wearing: Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin is one of the most electric playmakers in the NHL today. He’s perhaps the most pure goal scorer amongst the league’s elite and he is one of the few players that opponents need to keep an eye on at all times when he’s on the ice.

He’s also a player who is very focused on his gear. During the Capitals’ appearance on 24/7 he was one of the most excited players when their new equipment arrived ahead of the Winter Classic. He’s also gone through a major overhaul after he switched from CCM to Bauer a few years ago.

Helmet: Bauer RE-AKT helmet: Ovechkin wears the flagship helmet from Bauer along with a Bauer HDO Pro Straight Visor. His history of wearing a smoked or tinted visor added to his legend in a way given the unique look that he sported throughout his early career. The RE-AKT is a great helmet for a player like Ovechkin who has shown that he doesn’t shy away from contact and having a lid with Bauer’s Suspend-Tech padding liner will aid in lessening impacts taken when Ovechkin is giving or taking checks.

Stick: Bauer TotalOne NXG: Ovechkin’s banana-hook curve has gained almost cult status as the curve on his stick is beyond that of what any other pro uses these days. The TotalOne NXG suits Ovechkin’s game well as the lightweight, responsive stick is also quite tough. For a player that takes as many slap shots and one-timers as Ovechkin, a more durable model stick is exactly what’s needed.

Gloves: Bauer APX Pro: Interestingly, the TotalOne is the only piece of equipment that Ovechkin uses that doesn’t fall in line with the rest of his gear. Between his APX gloves and skates, it seems clear that Ovechkin prefers the speed and quickness promoted by that line of gear. The APX Pro gloves are no exception. Their tapered fit promotes a snug, responsive feel for the player, allowing the most adept stick handlers and shooters a glove that moves along with them at all times.

Skates: APX 2: A ridiculously lightweight skate, perfect for powerful skaters like Ovechkin. The stunning weight of the overall package leaves you feeling barely anything on your foot while you play. The APX 2 utilizes the new Lightspeed 2 TUUK that promotes a tighter turning radius due to a slightly higher angle thanks to the new holder. These are a perfect skate for Ovechkin as he’s consistently playing with the puck on his stick; and for a player who steams up the wing before making split-second changes in direction, a skate like this suits his game perfectly.

On the Ice: Reebok RIBCOR

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

The RIBCOR has special ribbed ridges at the kick point of the stick designed to keep the carbon fibers in tension at all times. By doing so the stick not only becomes easier to load for shots, but produces much more kick because of it.

Reebok also introduced an interesting new set of texture zones along the upper portion of the shaft for this season. In addition to offering a full grip model, the non-grip stick’s texture zones provide a tactile area to offer a bit more feel during play. Add in the new SSX blade specifically built to stay stiff, rigid and strong and Reebok has built a slap shot machine not seen anywhere else on the market.

Out of the Box

One of the coolest things about the RIBCOR is the basic design features Reebok chose to utilize. It is a matte black stick with minimal silver or grey accents worked in. The RIBCOR logo and a few trim items are highlighted in a neon green, but it isn’t anything that’s overdone. It gives an attractive, low-profile look. The feel off the rack is great. It’s a well-balanced stick that is extremely lightweight. With or without gloves the texture zones stand out but aren’t over the top or distracting.

On the Ice

The RIBCOR responds very well from top to bottom. Reebok isn’t kidding around when they say the stick loads and kicks easier and stronger than most others on the market. The ribs do indeed increase the kick point of the stick and the results show right off the bat when taking slap shots.

The same can be said of the way the blade reacts. One teammate – coming from using an original CCM RBZ – was actually surprised at how much he had to compensate when taking passes and when shooting. It was the responsiveness of the blade that took him by surprise more than anything else. Much in the same way, he noted that the balance of the stick – while not perfect – was much more impressive than his RBZ.

Overall the strength of the stick was impressive as well. More than a few hacks and slashes found their way to the ribbed area of the RIBCOR during our game and it endured just fine. One added benefit of the pre-loaded ribs is that they help to strengthen that area of the shaft as well. Reebok actually built-out the taper in a different way than they have in the past for the RIBCOR and the added strength shows without limiting performance.

A few more ice times will certainly yield a few more goals and an even better feel for moving the puck with the new stick. But the RIBCOR is the type of stick that will wow you from your first spin in warm ups.

On the Ice: Warrior Dynasty AX1, revisited

Dynasty AX1 Hockey Stick

Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

A while back we made the Warrior Dynasty our first on-ice review. Now, six months later, I want to revisit some of the thoughts I shared after the first few times I used the stick and add onto what was previously a glowing review.

In case you missed the original review, here’s a refresher course for you.

The looks and “out of the box” impressions of this stick haven’t changed since I first acquired it. The simple graphics look great and the Velvet Touch grip is a pefect mix of tacky and smooth that fits the type of finish I like to have on a stick.

In fact, the Velvet Touch may actually be superior to other options simply because it’s the best of both worlds. It has the Goldilocks effect in that it offers some resistance and tug during play but it isn’t a super sticky grip that will get in the way, either. As I’ve used the stick more and more, the finish has worn a bit, but since it wasn’t a traditional grip finish, the performance and feel of the stick hasn’t changed with wear.

After my first few ice times I had really grown to love the stick. It was durable (taking a number of two-hand hacks) and lightweight. The adjustment I needed to make to the thinner blade took a game or two, but now I don’t even notice a difference from what I was using previously.

It didn’t take long to start potting goals with the new stick and the end of my winter season was choc-full of goals and assists off the blade of my new stick. A short while into the summer I began using an RBZ Stage 2 but I wasn’t enjoying as much success with it as I was the Dynasty. AS I opened yet another winter schedule, I reverted back to the Warrior and found my stickhandling, shooting and passing improved greatly by switching sticks.

Perhaps it was mental, but I felt a much stronger kick from the Dynasty than I had with the sticks I had played with over the summer. What is still impressive to this day is that my passing with the Dynasty is so crisp. I’m able to lay flat backhand saucer passes with ease and I get a great snap on forehand passes when I’m attempting to fit the puck into a tight space.

I have to think the Strongarm and AXYSYM technology are to thank for the feel I get using this stick. Not only do my wrist shots fire off the stick, but I have solid power in all facets of shooting and passing.

Even though this stick was shuffled to second string for a short period of time in the summer, it saw plenty of action and is no worse for wear because of it. Warrior has been making serious strides to add reinforcements where they’re needed most to their new sticks and this is a testament to that new technology. This stick is an impressive model and is still available on the shelves – alongside Warrior’s newest Covert line – today.

Ribcor hits the shelves

Ribcor hits the shelves

Ribcor hits the shelves

The wait is finally over. A few weeks after CCM introduced the RBZ Stage 2 stick, Reebok has introduced their newest twig for the upcoming season. The revolutionary Ribcor is now available in stores and offers a groundbreaking feature in stick development.

For the most part, the Ribcor is a pretty basic stick. The black on black finish gives it a sleek, stealthy look with fewer frills than other, more complicated sticks on the market. Nothing more than the neon green Ribcor logo stands out when looking at the stick from a distance.

Reebok offers a full host of flex and curve options with the Ribcor and when it comes down to blade technology, there isn’t too much different from that of the other sticks in the Reebok line. Where the difference is with the Ribcor is the kick point.

Reebok developed a ribbed (hence the name) design that keeps the carbon at full tension at all times. This differs from other stick technology in which the carbon is only at full tension when shooting or passing. Because of this change, the Ribcor is always loaded and ready to fire. This translates to less effort for the player when shooting.

The technology is all about power transfer. Much like other features in sticks like the Dynasty or RBZ that harness the power behind each player’s shot, the Ribcor’s technology almost enhances that power because of the way the stick is constructed.

What’s even better about the Ribcor line is that the technology doesn’t waver in the price point models. While many equipment lines only offer the top technology in the pro stick, gloves, skates etc.; the ribbed shaft is a hallmark of the entire line. That means you get the benefit of the new technology no matter what model you purchase.

For those players hoping for the lightest and highest performing model, the pro is the only way to go. During the demo day for the Ribcor I was surprised to feel the balance of the stick despite the new addition. My expectation was a drastically heavier stick than models like the 20K or A.I.Nine, but it wasn’t any heavier than the RBZ I was trying out. That, combined with the pop you get on your shots makes for a dangerous scoring weapon.

From the short time I had with the stick on the ice, I noticed a nice response and a stiffer shaft. Comparing the 100 flex Ribcor to a 100 flex RBZ, for example, there seemed to be more whip to the RBZ due to the construction. Even though the Ribcor felt stiffer, it didn’t react as if it was stiffer. In fact, the pop on a slap shot was equivalent, if not improved as compared to the RBZ when I used both on the ice.

You don’t have to wait any longer to snag the Ribcor and Great Skate has a full line of the new twigs for you to check out.

Bonus On the Ice: RBZ Stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

As a bonus for August, I’ll do a second product review from the CCM RBZ family. In addition to having a chance to try out the RBZ skates, I’ve also but an RBZ Stage 2 stick into my arsenal.

The Stage 2 has incorporated a number of new features that weren’t part of the original RBZ stick and the results are noticeable.

Out of the Box

I went with an 85 flex Hossa curve with no grip for my RBZ. The non-grip, matte finish looks very nice and has a nice, smooth feel to it off the rack and on the ice. In addition, the Hossa curve is a solid toe-curve that gives a high level of control.

What I like best with this stick is how it looks with white tape on the blade. Just as cool as the Easton Stealth was with black tape, the RBZ’s white finish looks really cool on the ice, framing the puck without much to disrupt the color distribution between the blade, shaft, puck and ice.

The new graphics package that CCM put in looks real good the first time you pick the stick up off the shelf and some of the physical changes are noticeable too. The original RBZ wasn’t nearly as well balanced as the Stage 2 and had a blade-heavy feel the first time you picked it up. The Stage 2 is ultra-lightweight and has a great balance when you first pick it up.

On the Ice

Unfortunately I’ve been enjoying quite the dry spell in the goals department this summer, so I can’t say the stick has brought me positive results in the finishing department over the last few games. However, like with the original RBZ, when stickhandling and shooting the hot blade stands out. The speed channels in the RBZ blade are such a unique idea when it comes to hockey and the structure makes for a very firm blade when passing or shooting.

The overall feel of the stick is great. I love stick handling with it and have found that passing on the forehand and backhand has been excellent. While my shooting hasn’t been finding the net, I’ve noticed a nice pop off the blade with snap or slapshots. Even when taking wrist shots, the strong blade keeps the puck on plane and on target.

What I’ve yet to see translate with this stick is an overall consistency in my game. In only a few ice times I’ve had limited chances shooting the puck and haven’t really had a chance to tee off on any. I have made more than a few plays with my backhand as of late and I actually feel as if I’ve had a little more on those passes or shots – which hasn’t always been the case. While I’m not sure if the speed channels are to thank for that, I certainly would say the build of the stick has given it a truer flex, kick and strength in all areas.

I’m looking forward to getting this – and the skates – on the ice more in the coming weeks to get an even better feel for the return you get with the technology and perhaps also start filling the net on a regular basis.

Finding the helmet that’s right for you

Bauer IMS 9.0 Hockey Helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Ice Hockey Helmet

In the dizzying world of new sticks, varying glove designs and new models of skates being unveiled each season, it can be easy to overlook the importance of purchasing a helmet that is going to offer comfort and, most importantly, protection.

There is a plethora of available helmet manufacturers and models to choose from on the market today and figuring out which one works best for you or your child can be difficult. While picking the shiny new model that Pat Kane was wearing on TV may be the temptation, often there are other factors to consider when evaluating a helmet purchase.

First off, you have to ensure that the helmets you’re trying on will fit properly. This means finding a helmet that fits comfortably on your head, that doesn’t wobble when secured and one that doesn’t apply too much pressure either. Some of this focuses on comfort, but that’s very important. Uncomfortable helmets will drive the wearer to loosen them to increase comfort; this decreases the safety of the helmet ten-fold.

A snug helmet should simply provide a snug fit on your head. It shouldn’t move side-to-side or rotate horizontally, either. Again, it shouldn’t be so tight that it is uncomfortable while it’s being worn.

Finding the right size helmet isn’t necessarily a major bugaboo lately since a vast majority of models can be adjusted on the fly. However, just because you wear a large now doesn’t mean that another large will fit the exact same way. For example, the Bauer IMS 9 sits a little higher on the head and has a slightly more snug fit than a helmet like the CCM V08 which sits lower and fits larger than the IMS. So be sure to try on and fully adjust each helmet model you’re considering before making a final decision. The last thing you need is to snag what you think is your size off the shelf only to find that it fits too large once you get it home.

Another important factor to consider in terms of comfort and fit is the construction of different helmets. Not only in terms of the shell design but also the interior padding. Every company uses a different approach with their helmets lately with some sitting higher on the head and others sitting lower. In addition, each company uses varying levels of design for the guts of their helmets too. For example, Bauer uses a boatload of new technology like Suspend-Tech and PORON foam in the RE-AKT and IMS 9 helmets while the mainstay 4500 still uses a basic VN foam liner.

VN foam is the traditional, soft foam that can be found in many helmets in ice rinks around North America. It is soft and molds well to your head after time providing a high level of comfort. However, VN foam doesn’t provide the same type of resistance as can be found with a more high-tech product like EPP foam or Bauer’s new PORON product.

Many helmets have made EPP foam the primary liner for their helmets as it guards well against high-impact collisions better than most other products. Helmets like the Easton E700 and Reebok 11K use an EPP liner with comfort padding throughout to maximize protection and comfort. One of my personal favorite helmets is my Reebok 8K that uses a similar design to the current 11K helmet.

Of course, with new technology comes new expenses and sometimes breaking the bank isn’t the most vital step to take when purchasing a helmet. For example, a youngster playing mite or squirt hockey won’t need the same type of impact protection as a Triple-A midget or even a junior player. A the risk of high-speed collisions increases with the level of play, the need for increased protection will increase as well.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that no helmet is concussion-proof. Even non-head impact hits can cause the whiplash effect that causes concussions. A helmet designed by NASA wouldn’t help you then. Well, probably not.

The next time you’re in Great Skate picking out a helmet be sure to know the model type you’re searching for. Do you need a helmet like the RE-AKT or 11K that offer an elite level of protection? Or is something like the Warrior Krown 360 or Easton helmets with their high-level of fit, comfort and impact protection something you’re looking for. Perhaps a Bauer 4500 or CCM V08 works best for you. Be sure to evaluate your options, ensure a proper fit before making any final decisions.

Beat the dog days with the Great Skate Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale August 1st – 10th, 2013

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.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale kicks off on August 1, be sure you don’t to miss a minute.

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

Balance and power is the name of the game for the RBZ Stage 2 stick. After the wild success of the hot faced RBZ stick that rolled out last year, the great minds at CCM have found a way to take another step forward.

The RBZ Stage 2, due out in July, has taken CCM’s innovative stick and added even more pop. When I first picked up and used the original RBZ I noticed two things about it. First, the pop off the blade was noticeable. Second, the balance of the stick felt odd.

When you pull and RBZ off the rack at Great Skate you’ll notice that it is incredibly light but that it feels a little blade heavy. This was likely a product of the placement of the balance point that worked with the PowerSwing Technology that CCM and TaylorMade touted with the original stick. PowerSwing is straight from the golf club technology but it didn’t fully translate on the original. It does now, however.

The Stage 2 has an improved balance point to further exploit the Powerswing traits while also increasing the feel and balance of the stick exponentially. The Stage 2 is expected to have a much lighter feel in the blade.

In addition, the Stage 2 has a new blade construction. While CCM determined that the Speedblade was a great addition (it truly is), they wanted to improve upon it. What they did was take the original blade with four speed channels and adjust it to three larger speed channels. Not only does this alter the interior structure of the blade by decreasing weight, it increases the pop that the pucks comes off the stick with.

What they effectively did was make a light stick with a hot blade lighter and hotter. Based on the on-ice results, they hit a home run. The RBZ Stage 2 hits the shelves on July 19, make sure you’re first in line to Strap a Rocket to the Puck.

In the Crease: What type of cage should I wear?

NHL goal mask rankings: The top ten

NHL goal mask rankings: The top ten

After I got out of school I eventually obtained an Itech (now Bauer) Profile mask. It happened to have a cat eye cage and it was the first mask I had ever used with that type of cage on it. However, that helmet has since been forced into retirement and I’m back in a helmet with a certified cage. While I’m considering fitting that helmet with a cat eye, I realize that many rec league goaltenders wear both certified and cat eye cages. The question is; which is the best?

Certified Cages

Certified cages are the norm in virtually every level of hockey. Only the professional leagues, NCAA and ACHA allow goaltenders to wear cat eye cages. So all goaltenders have worn a certified cage at some point in their lives.

Most basic certified cages have a grid pattern layout for the bars on the cage that are designed for maximum vision while also ensuring that sticks and pucks won’t find their way to the goalie’s face. Some companies also now make certified cat eye cages which have an additional bar that ensures that sticks and pucks won’t find their way in but while carrying the general look of a cateye cage. The one issue that I have with the certified cat eye cages is that each manufacturer uses different techniques to ensure their cage is up to par. Not only do they look awkward (mirror test) but they simply don’t perform the way you would expect from a normal cat eye.

Whether you’re sporting a certified cat eye or a traditional certified cage the common theme is that all certified models ensure maximum safety as no sticks or pucks can get through.

The main drawback with certified cages is that they have a number of additional bars that can obstruct your vision. Most are built in a way that any bars in your field of vision are blurred by your eye’s natural focusing mechanisms that they aren’t an issue. However, I can attest that you do notice those extra bars. Especially the ones in your peripheral vision.

Cat Eye Cages

Take a look at any NHL game and you’ll see the goalies wearing a cat eye cage. These are cages with a wide, elliptical gap that provides an unobstructed view of the game for the goalie. The structure of the cage is such that the bars are shaped to go around the goaltender’s field of vision as opposed to crossing directly over top of it. They also have a pretty attractive look to them as the sleek, curved bars leave more open space than the basic grid layout of a certified cage. The real benefit lies with the increased field of vision with this helmet. The wide opening provides you with a completely unobstructed view of the ice and even your peripherals are kept clear of most of the cage’s bars. It is definitely the better of the two choices when it comes to performance.

The only drawback with a cat eye cage is the fact that a stick can easily fit inside the mask and a puck can be forced through as well. I myself have been caught with a stick once by a passing player and the risks associated with these cages are very real.

Which to wear?

The determination that any goalie needs to make when choosing between a cat eye and certified cage is the performance vs. safety that each offers. If you’re comfortable wearing a cat eye cage despite the inherent risks then you should certainly do so. In addition, if you feel that a cat eye cage improves your play that much more, that’s probably the one to go with. However, if sticks to the eye aren’t something you care to deal with and the difference in vision is negligible, then a certified cage is probably the route you want to take.

At this point in time I don’t have much use for simply buying a cat eye cage. The certified cage on my current mask doesn’t bother me so much that I need to change it. However I can say with certainty that the next mask I purchase will have a cat eye cage.

Warrior protective makes strides with new features

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Shoulder Pad

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Hockey Shoulder Pad

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.