Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

The cranes that dot the skyline in downtown Buffalo are feverishly assisting in assembling Terry Pegula’s newest piece of the growing Sabres campus at the foot of Washington Street. HARBORcenter is rising higher by the day as the hotel, twin-rink and parking garage complex works towards the slated 2014 opening date.

HARBORcenter -  is set to welcome a Marriott branch to the hotel portion of the project – will also include a large parking facility that will serve the adjacent First Niagara Center, hotel and the pair of rinks which will sit on top of the parking structure. One of the two rinks will seat 1,800 people and it was just announced that it will serve as the home for the Canisius Golden Griffins hockey program.

With the Golden Griffins joining the Junior Sabres minor program, it will make HARBORcenter a mecca for hockey in downtown Buffalo. Don’t forget that since the facility will be joined to First Niagara Center, it will create the NHL’s first three-rink facility.

Perhaps the ultimate benefit of having a premier hockey venue in the heart of downtown won’t be felt, but I’m sure that it won’t take long for the benefits to reveal themselves. Not only will one of the top youth programs in the area be operating out of the building, Buffalo’s lone DI NCAA program will not be playing feet away from the NHL rink. If there was a better way to bring the focus of Western New York’s hockey community to this building I’d like to know how.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Canisius’ program will blossom uncontrollably due to their move, but the recruiting trail might be a bit easier when professional scouts will be a hop and a skip from every home game in a brand new, state-of-the-art arena that is set to feature a training center specifically designed to develop hockey players.

I’m hopeful that the Griffs will be able to lure a few more premier names to their home for inter-conference matchups now that they’re no longer borrowing home ice at a different facility. Perhaps a certain blue and white clad team from Pennsylvania will want to check out the digs funded by the very man who provided funding for their new home.

Another benefit that will surely be on the table thanks to HARBORcenter will be the ability to lure national tournaments to Buffalo’s doorstep. This includes the Frozen Four. Buffalo first hosted the tournament in 2001 and have since (slowly) built out the waterfront while hitting the fast track with a premier hockey venue which will not just serve as a practice facility for the teams being hosted but also has a hotel to house each of the competing teams. Not to mention the additional development that is sure to impress the visiting guests from across the country.

Despite the fact that his professional team is beginning the difficult process of a rebuild, the construction happening outside of the First Niagara Center should bring attention to the arena for years to come.

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

One of the best parts of the start of a new hockey season is all of the new goalie equipment that gets broken in during training camp and into the start of the season. New mask paint, pads and the like makes the first few weeks of the season fun.

While we are still a few weeks away from seeing all the new gear that goalies will be wearing, I wanted to take the chance to evaluate the gear worn by New Jersey’s newest netminder, Cory Schneider.

Mask: Bauer 961 – This is a classic throughout the NHL. It is a lightweight mask that offers great protection. It also has the iconic shape of Bauer’s design team that is reflected in products like the NME mask series.

Blocker & Glove: CCM E-Flex – CCM’s newest model that debuted this season. Designed by Lefevbre – the same guy who designs the Reebok line – the E-Flex is a great looking set that incorporates a number of design standards that have made Lefevbre designed equipment so popular over the years. Schneider specifically uses the one-piece cuff on the E-Flex catch glove as can be seen in this photo.

Pads: Vaughn Velocity V5: Schneider, like myself, is a fan of a softer, flexible pad. One of the few goalies in the league to use a double break on the outer roll of his pad, Schneider has what looks to be a very traditional set up for his leg pads (and his glove set too). While many NHL goalies use a number of special customizations on their pads, there doesn’t seem to be many on Schneider’s set. One interesting thing about his choice of an all-white design is he had been using a really cool color scheme earlier in the year before switching.

Stick: Warrior Swagger: Just a traditional white-based Swagger for Schneider. I’d personally would go blue with green trim if he’s keeping his pads all white, but that’s just my personal preference.

Skates: It is very hard to tell from the picture available on the web, but it would appear that Schneider is using one of the high-end models from Bauer. I’d venture a guess that they’re TotalOne skates or something similar based on the cowling and look of the boot. Leave a thought in the comments section if you have more information on this.

If you have a candidate for What They’re Wearing, please contact us on @greatskateblog or leave your recommendation in the comment section.

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.

Hockey Fitness: Summer Training

Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer, you’ve probably had plenty of time to spend at the beach, hanging with friends and possibly getting some ice from time to time with friends or even rec teams. But with summer heading towards the finish and tryouts and the regular season closing in, it is time to whip yourself into game shape.

There are a million and one hockey workouts for the summer online and they’re all great. For the most part you can find a host of programs that focus on weight, endurance and cross training to ensure you get a full body workout while you’re away from the rink on a regular basis.

The beauty of a summer workout is that you can vary the exercises you wish to focus on. Is this an offseason where you want to put on solid weight? Are you looking to build explosiveness and foot speed? Or maybe you’re looking to get back into game shape with a simple, well-rounded workout routine.

Regardless of your primary focus, a sound cardiovascular element is vital. Whether it’s on a stationary bike, roller blades, bicycle or jogging, make sure you build in an adequate amount of time for a proper cardio workout. Few things are going to help keep your third period legs fresh than a run or bike ride in the heat of July and August.

Mixing in different cardio elements will aid in building different muscle groups while keeping the primary focus on your cardiovascular health and building some of the endurance you may have lost catching up on the tan you lost during the winter. One other key to your cardio work out is to keep varying levels to the workout. Interval training is a great way to not only maintain endurance but also build explosive and high-tempo bursts (much like shifts in a game) into that training.

As for the weight and strength training aspect, the key is a full body focus. Keep the focus on specific muscle groups and ensure that each day’s workout is collectively going to improve that muscle group. One practice I picked up from working with various trainers is the concept of supersetting work outs.

This may not necessarily be the practice that you wish to pursue, but using a superset workout will not only allow you to mix in multiple exercises at once, but can provide for full body movement as opposed to single-muscle exercises that you may be used to.

The final element, if you hadn’t already worked this in, is core strength and agility. While a lot of agility drills work very well in a cardio setting, they can definitely be done individually and when combined with core strengthening workouts can serve as a tremendous compliment to the typical cardio and strength training programs you’ve used in the past.

Ultimately your summer workout is yours to build. Goalies may be only concerned with lower body focus, cardio and a high level of agility training to increase their side-to-side mobility and effectiveness for the coming season. Maybe some defensemen are trying to add weight and strength for added physicality as their regular season is set to begin. Or perhaps you need to get back in shape and ready for training camp and a full-circuit workout is just what the doctor ordered.

Do your research, see what other players are doing and make sure that you keep a broad focus on the entire practice.

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

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:

Skates: Bauer Vapor APX

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.

Gloves: Warrior Luxe

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.

Helmet: Bauer 4500 with Bauer visor

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.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (red graphics)

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.

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Now that I’ve taken a look at the forwards who I expect to make the US Olympic team for the 2014 Olympics, let’s take a look at the group of players who will be keeping the puck out of the net.

I feel like there is going to be a ton of turnover between 2010 and 2014 on the blueline. A boatload of young Americans have come up through the ranks and are ready to take on a major role in Sochi. Gone will be guys like Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney to be replaced by young stars who will move well on the big surface:

Ryan Suter (A)      Ryan McDonagh      Brooks Orpik

Keith Yandle      Kevin Shattenkirk      John Carlson

Paul Martin

  Ryan Suter returns to my roster with an increased leadership role from 2010. He was a minute hog in Vancouver and certainly will be again in Sochi. Pairing him with Ryan McDonagh is a no brainer for me. McDonagh might just be the best defenseman of this group and should only get better with another year under his belt. This will be the shutdown pairing for the United States.

Brooks Orpik happens to be one guy who I’m on the fence on. He’s a guy I love to watch and a player who holds a lot of value in my opinion. I also think that he’s a quality defender who won’t get caught in the wash on the big ice. However, I could see his footspeed as an issue to the decision makers.

Regardless, Orpik and Keith Yandle make up my mixed second pairing. Yandle, a straight-ahead puck mover should be complimented well by Orpik’s steady, stay-at-home style quite well. Unlike my top pair who has the ability to contribute at both ends, this is a pairing which will need to feed off each other to be successful.

Kevin Shattenkirk and John Carlson make up my final pairing of quality two-way defenders. Shattenkirk is more of an offensive threat but Carlson has an all-around game that is perfect for the short Olympic tournament. He also happens to be a seasoned international participant (remember his WJC triumph?) which helps his resume.

Paul Martin is penciled is as defenseman number seven for now as he has really rounded back into form these past few years. I think he has the mobility to be effective on the big ice and will bring a very nice presence to the roster because of that.

In net the Americans are stacked. Vezinas, playoff veterans and a Conn Smythe dot resumes of American keepers that will be eligible for a spot. How Dan Bylsma plans to sort this out is anyone’s guess, but I have a good feeling about the guys I take.

G

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Quick

Ryan Miller

 

You’re probably wondering why I have Howard over Quick. I just feel that Quick is better suited to play the type of teams the US will be seeing on a big surface. Quick is such an aggressive goaltender that I worry his tendencies will be exploited while playing on an Olympic surface.

Howard plays a slightly more measured game which seems to have less of an opportunity to be hurt by rebound or back-door opportunities. That isn’t to say that Quick isn’t deserving of the starting job, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that Howard may fare better on the big ice (he’s also seen a couple World Championships).

Ryan Miller makes my roster on the darkhorse ticket. His numbers have fallen off but he’s played his best hockey in Olympic years. I have little doubt that this trend will continue in the 13-14 season and he may even steal the starting job again if he has a stellar opening to the year as he did in 2010.

As for the watchlist on the backend, here’s a few names to keep an eye on:

Cam Fowler – A young prospect who could certainly steal a spot if he catches fire this season. I doubt that he’s a primary target but I wouldn’t doubt if his play merits consideration.

Jake Gardiner – Same boat as Fowler in many respects. He’s a great puck mover who might garner attention with a strong start to the season.

Justin Faulk – If the United States management team is looking for an offensive x-factor, Faulk will be it. Paul Martin is a nice two-way player as the seventh defenseman but Faulk could certainly make the team as a power play specialist defenseman.

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.

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

As time continues to tick down towards the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics, hockey fans are gaining more interest in which players will be representing their country at the Sochi Games.

After an impressive and surprising silver medal effort in Vancouver, the United States will come to Sochi with much higher expectations and a much more impressive roster. With an impressive amount of defensive depth and a bevy of talented goaltenders to choose from, the biggest challenge will be determining who will be scoring the goals for the Americans next February.

I expect to see a few roster spots turnover for the US team this time around, but the same strong core will return up front:

LW

C

RW

Patrick Kane

Joe Pavelski

Dustin Brown

Zach Parise

James VanRiemsdyk

Phil Kessel

Max Pacioretty

Paul Stastny

Bobby Ryan

David Backes (A)

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Callahan (C)

Derek Stepan

 

The offensive engine for the United States will be powered by Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and Phil Kessel. Those three bring a different level of electricity to the ice and they should thrive on the big surface where they can escape from the high traffic areas they typically encounter on the NHL pad.

As of now I have Kane skating with Joe Pavelski and Dustin Brown. Brown is riding shotgun for the offensively gifted duo and his muck and grind style should result in a few ugly tallies throughout the tournament. Pavelski is going to play a major role for the United States as they’re woefully thin at center from top to bottom.

The Kane, Pavelski, Brown trio should combine will with Parise, James VanRiemsdyk and Phil Kessel to form a top-six with plenty of scoring acumen. While my penciled in top line has a little bit of two-way responsibility (Brown and Pavelski), my second unit won’t be entering the Selke race any time soon.

I also take a slight stretch by placing VanRiemsdyk at center. This isn’t his natural position but I love the idea of he and Kessel feeding off their preloaded chemistry from the regular season. Parise is the outsider in a sense, but he’s such a great talent that I doubt he will struggle to run up some points with that pair.

My third line is something of a set of sleepers. Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Bobby Ryan as all American veterans from various international tournaments and Stastny and Ryan will be returning for their second Olympic games. Stastny was going to be off my list until his stunning play at the Worlds changed my mind. Putting him with two battleships like Pacioretty and Ryan should allow him to serve as playmaker to the two snipers.

Lastly comes the grind line. The Americans succeeded in Vancouver thanks to their goaltending, physical play and plenty of gutty leadership. Veterans like Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner weren’t expected to be major contributors but the pair brought more to the table than was expected. A trio of 2010 vets should bring the same attitude to the table in Sochi.

Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan and David Backes are all first or second line players for their respective NHL squads and they all happen to be world class defensive forwards. Playing an overly physical game on the big ice in Russia is going to be a risk/reward game plan and these three are talented enough to find a healthy balance. When it comes to shutting down the countless superstar lines from Canada and Russia, these three will likely earn the toughest task. I don’t know if I could think of a better set of forwards to handle such a task.

Derek Stepan is my extra forward and he makes my team based on the fact that he can play center. The US is so thin at center that they need all the help they can get. Stepan is a shifty, dangerous forward who can step in as a pivot and produce if necessary. If he makes the team, most of his minutes will come on the wing. But when needed, he can slide inside.

This roster is contingent on a couple of factors. First; the staff needs to feel confident that one of those top three lines is capable of playing a little bit of defense. The Backes, Kesler, Callahan line is a shutdown dream but the rest of the forwards are more of the one-way variety. Second, the health of certain players (Kesler to be precise) will weigh heavily on how the roster comes together. Bearing that in mind, here are a few watch list players to keep an eye on:

TJ Oshie – A dynamic winger who has some strong two-way ability. Oshie is young but has shown great promise in St. Louis’ defensive system. He was may final “cut” but could easily find his way on the roster.

Brandon Dubinsky – Think of Dubinsky as Kesler Light. He’s a solid two-way player who can fill a shut down role. If defensive responsibility is at a premium, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him.

Alex Galchenyuk – A darkhorse, but someone to keep in mind. He’s incredibly talented and there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t have a place on this roster. I doubt that he’d see time as a center, but if he has a big start to the season, he could be a possibility.

Up next, the defensemen and goalies

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.

On the Ice: Bauer IMS 9.0 helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Hockey Helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Ice Hockey Helmet

One very interesting development this year was Bauer’s acquisition of the Messier helmet line. The agreement brought the Messier line’s groundbreaking SEVEN technology to an already well received family of Bauer helmets.

In addition to the IMS 11 and IMS 7.0, there are fingerprints from the Messier line all over Bauer’s new helmets. The new technology and introduction of Poron XRD foam into the RE-AKT and IMS 9.0 are great new additions and have really separated the Bauer line into a league of their own.

I recently picked up an IMS 9.0 for trial on the ice and I’ve had a few icetimes with it since getting it. There aren’t many things wrong with this helmet.

First things first, it has a perfect mix of soft, conforming padding in specific areas that mixes well with the harder HD foam in high-impact zones. I’ve found that the HD foam on many top end models make the helmet somewhat uncomfortable and the softer, more traditional set up that is so popular in the NHL doesn’t have the varied protection that I value. The IMS 9.0 finds that happy medium.

Poron XRD is supple by design. There are two large panels on either side of the helmet to help with side impact collisions. The Poron XRD actually wraps around the entire helmet (giving 360 degrees of protection) but is plainly visible just behind your temples. In addition, the brown and the back of the head have soft pads that keep the helmet snug against your head. The key here is that it’s not just a pillowy pad. It’s closer to the heat molding memory foam that still offers excellent protection.

The Poron XRD plays very well with the Vertex Foam that takes the place of traditional EPP foam that is found in such helmets as the 5100 and 4500.

The single adjustment location on the crown of the helmet is somewhat unusual, but it doesn’t work any differently from the old double wing adjustment from past Bauer helmets. One super awesome feature is that the mounts for the j-clips or visor on the side of the helmet have been embedded into the temple pads. This keeps those pesky little pieces of hardware in the same spot and makes switching out cages and visors much easier.

The only adjustment I have had to make it to the height of the helmet. I was previously wearing a 5100 which sat low on my head and brow. The 9.0 sits higher on my head, thus feeling a little different than my old 5100. This wasn’t a surprise for me, however. The construction of the helmet indicates that the 9.0 (and likely the RE-AKT) would rest a little higher on a player’s head than some older helmets. The beauty of this is there isn’t a decrease in how safe I feel in the helmet.

In all, I love the feel and I haven’t expressed any doubt over the protection of this helmet. It’s definitely worth a serious look the next time you’re considering a new helmet.