Ranking the NHL’s third jerseys

Buffalo Sabre's 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Buffalo Sabre’s 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Perhaps one of the perpetual cycles that NHL teams struggle most with is alternate jersey designs. Even when a team has a great one, something seems to crop up that causes them to change their threads.

As you may or may not remember, the third jersey craze really heated up in the 1995-96 season and has since skyrocketed to a perpetual cycle for most of the teams throughout the league. Not every team has a third jersey in active service, but most teams utilize some option as an alternate or for special occasions.

I base my preference of third jerseys off a handful of criteria which I have used to make a definitive ranking of the NHL’s alternate uniforms. A third jersey should offer a few specifics. First, proper use of the team’s color palette is a must. I prefer taking a complimentary color and using it as the jersey’s base. Second, using a different pattern than the primary uniforms is always nice. There isn’t much point in adding another traditional looking jersey to a pair that looks almost identical to it. Preferably a team with a more modern jersey set would go with a traditional design whereas a team with a traditional design would go in the other direction. The lone exception here is if a team goes with a full throwback style, typically those fit in well regardless of the team’s typical look. Finally, I like having the primary crest as a secondary and using a secondary crest as the primary. After all, most shoulder patches are a team’s alternate logo. Using the primary works just fine, but well done alternate logos are high on my list. What tends to happen is that some alternate crests don’t translate on a larger scale, which detracts from the jersey’s overall look.

Using my very particular tastes, I’ve taken the 19 teams with third jerseys and ordered them from best to worst. Here are my rankings:

  1.  St. Louis Blues: A perfectly executed alternate jersey. This takes a complimentary color and uses it as a primary, it gives a traditional take to a team with a more modern design standard and the circular crest is awesome. Full marks.
  2. Ottawa Senators: Like the Blues jersey, this offers a different, more traditional design standard when compared to the regular home and away jerseys. The crest couldn’t be any better and the whole jersey looks terrific.
  3. San Jose Sharks: The black and teal work too well together for this not to rank high on the list. A great, understated jersey that fits perfectly within the team’s identity; another important factor to consider with a third jersey.
  4. Vancouver Canucks: The first retro jersey on the countdown, Vancouver went with a complimentary design as opposed to one that stands out from their traditional jerseys. For a team that has so widely embraced that M.O., this jersey fits perfectly with their uniforms.
  5. Washington Capitals: Slotting in at five thanks to the nostalgia factor, these duds are a great throwback jersey that holds steady with the team’s current standard while taking everyone back by a few decades.
  6. New York Rangers: The New York vintage third jersey looks great. The traditional striping pattern works well with the team’s design standards. While the Lady Liberty jerseys will always be my favorite, these still look great. The vintage white does it for me.
  7. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings may deserve an asterisk here since they seem to be slowly doing away with their alternate jerseys. While this doesn’t meet many of the rules I set for proper third jersey design, the traditional throwback is a clear exception to the rule. Turning back the clock (like the Flames previous thirds) is an auto win for me because there is no way to screw them up.
  8. Minnesota Wild: The best overall set of uniforms in the league boasts one of the best third jerseys. While I think the crest leaves something to be desired, the overall design here looks awesome.
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Not much to see here, a throwback inspired jersey that looks great. It also looks a hell of a lot like their homes, so there isn’t much to judge.
  10. Phoenix Coyotes: Perhaps a surprise this high on the list, I love Coyotes alternates. The sand colored numbers, leaping Coyote and alternative striping pattern all work very well together. It offers a different look than the primary design even with a change in the crest, which can be a no-no.
  11. Colorado Avalanche: A blue version of their ultra-classy burgundy thirds from the early 2000s. While these certainly look nice, I’m not all that taken with them.
  12. Carolina Hurricanes: Alternate logos can be tricky if they’re overdone, but Carolina (and Phoenix for that matter) do a great job with theirs. The black-on-black shoulder patch and storm flag waist stripe are a little over the top in my opinion.
  13. Anaheim Ducks: What I like about this jersey is that they use the webbed-D as opposed to the out-of-place Ducks wordmark. What I don’t like it how the orange is incorporated. They get credit for not going orange with these – it just would’ve been too much to handle – but the way they incorporated it just doesn’t work for me. Not an appealing look.
  14. Boston Bruins: Holy vanilla, Batman. I don’t think the Bruins jerseys could get more boring than they currently are. I was a huge fan of the Pooh Bear thirds from the 90s and these are just so plain. No waist stripes hurt and I’m not sold on this particular alternate logo as a crest.
  15. Calgary Flames: The shoulder patch on these jerseys is so awesome. But the rest is just bad. It reminds me of a beer league softball jersey. Their throwback alternates were so perfect that these really pale in comparison.
  16. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts wordmark really hurts these jerseys. I like the change in the design standard and the blue base looks cool. But the crest is out of place.
  17. Columbus Blue Jackets: The color scheme looks amateurish to me. I think they went overboard with the off-white everywhere and it doesn’t translate well to the design. The pattern would be cool, but the color choices and that horrible crest really set this uniform back.
  18. Buffalo Sabres: This abomination has earned plenty of enemies in Buffalo since it was unveiled. Blame the cape-effect you get from the two-toned pattern. Don’t forget the grey number (why?) and oddly placed silver accents. They were on the right track with yellow, everything else is a miss.
  19. New York Islanders: Amazingly I still slot the Isles jerseys behind Buffalo’s new alternates. There is no black in the Isles color scheme. The baseball-style team name looks bad and the number actually overpowers it on the front of the jersey. Add in the odd choice of grey and this thing is a train wreck. 

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

Headshots dominate early NHL headlines

A rash of suspensions handed down from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in a response to a ridiculous number of illegal checks through the first month of the NHL season has been the primary focus of fans and media members alike.

John Scott’s elbow to Louis Ericsson’s head was the exclamation point on a two-week span that saw a handful of ugly hits and somewhat lengthy suspensions doled out as punishment  joined Pat Kaleta as the sole set of teammates on the list of suspended players and the combined games between the two illustrates the need for more strict policing both on and off the ice.

The worst side effect from these hits – outside of the media circus they often spark – is the long-term effects that players will suffer from repeated head injuries. With all the steps the NHL has taken in an attempt to curb head contact and dangerous concussions, it’s hard to say what type of effect the recent legislation has had.

Companies like Bauer, CCM, Easton and Warrior who each have a major claim in the helmet market have each taken strides to introduce technologically advanced helmets with features designed to help reduce the chances that a concussion will occur. The Bauer RE-AKT is the current trail blazer in this category as the Suspend-Tech liner introduces a padded liner designed to move independently from the helmet shell; thus limiting the chances that a jarring blow to the shell will cause the head and brain to react in a similar manner.

Interestingly enough, one of the most effective helmet designs with concussion prevention in mind was the M11 helmet that was on the market recently. Bauer has taken over the line and is utilizing the Seven technology in their new IMS line.

However, in the NHL at least, these technologically advanced helmets aren’t the norm. Many professionals choose to go the comfortable route with a VN Foam liner in their helmet. That isn’t to say that a player’s choice in helmets has anything to do with keeping them free from concussions, but the use of old technology can’t be helping, either.

Football and hockey have both shown that no matter what type of helmet you’re using that jarring collisions that cause the head to be shaken or rattled in a violent matter will likely lead to some concussion-like symptoms. Even on plays without head contact, violently altering a body’s motion has the ability to cause a concussion due to the whiplash effect.

Preventing head injuries is ultimately on the onus of the players. At the youth and professional levels, the responsibility falls on the participants to avoid dangerous hits, slow down when they see their opponents numbers and be smart when lowering a hit.

Not one of the hits that led to a suspension in the NHL this year showed any sort of caution or care for the opponent. In a sport as physical and competitive as hockey this isn’t necessarily a surprise. However, the reckless actions that were taken by John Scott, Cody McLeod and Maxim Lapierre could have been easily prevented had the player processed what they were doing prior to leading with their elbow or throwing their opponent into the boards head first.

Goons, enforcers and grinders aren’t the lone culprits here either. Skill players who get away with taking liberties due to their status is a trend that cannot continue. While the physical force of the game isn’t likely to be drastically changed anytime soon, longer suspensions for violators in these cases will continue to serve as the deterrent for these plays.

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

He’s the major piece in the first major blockbuster of the NHL season. Thomas Vanek was shipped to Long Island on October 27 and has plenty of new gear on his hands now that he’s suiting up with the Islanders. Here’s a look at the products that Vanek’s wearing this season.

Skates: CCM RBZ

Vanek, when he’s not using Warrior, is using CCM. He graduated to the RBZ this season after wearing the U+ for the last year or two. Vanek is a sneaky quick player who happens to spend a lot of time in front of the net. He needs a tough, durable skate that’s lightweight and the RBZ meets each and every one of those requirements.

Gloves: Warrior Covert

Warrior’s Franchise line may be the favorite among most players, but the Covert is a very close second. A glove with an anatomic build, the Covert offers a snug fit and excellent responsiveness. Exactly the type of glove a sniper like Vanek would want.

Helmet: CCM V08 with an Oakley Visor

Yet another pro who prefers the traditional VN foam liner to than of the more technologically advanced helmets that are on the market. A number of years ago Vanek was sporting the old Mission Intake before changing over to the CCM in the past few years. It’s hard to argue as the CCM helmet line passes the comfort, protection and mirror tests with ease. Vanek’s Oakley visor is the Pro Straight small. It’s a slightly scaled down version of Oakley’s Pro Straight with a small indent along the bottom edge. It’s not a notch or even curve, but simply a small change of height (more or less) that allows for a very nice field of vision.

Stick: Warrior Covert

If there’s one thing to be said about Vanek it’s that he’s a brand loyal guy. Aside from changing up his helmet brand, he’s been using nearly the same thing for about half a decade. Aside from graduating to new models each year, Vanek has been scoring piles of goals with Warrior sticks dating all the way back to the Dolomite. He’s now sporting the Covert taking advantage of the Dagger Taper technology and Warrior’s growing reputation for building some of the game’s best sticks.

Protective:

It’s hard to make out, but it does appear that Vanek is rocking Warrior’s Covert pant based on the Velcro on the inner thigh. However, it’s just as likely that he’s using an Islanders shell while continuing to use his Sabres pants. If that’s the case he could be in anything from a Warrior Hustler to even another company’s pant.

Leave a comment for us below on some players you’d like to see profiled in the What They’re Wearing section. 

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.

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres

There is going to be a big spotlight on Ryan Miller for most of the 2013-14 season. As he enters the final year of his contract with the Sabres many are wondering whether he will be convinced to re-sign, if he will be traded at the deadline or if he’ll simply play out the deal and sign with a new team in free agency.

While there will be plenty of talk about his play in Buffalo, one thing you may or may not have noticed is that he has completely switched his gear. After a number of years using Reebok equipment, Miller has gone to a Vaughn set up for the 2013-14 season.

Perhaps he is thinking of switching things up after a couple of playoff-less seasons in Buffalo. Maybe Vaughn was able to better construct the type of pad he wanted to wear moving forward. It’s anyone’s guess and here’s a look at what Miller is wearing this season.

Mask: Warwick custom – Dating back to his time at Michigan State (and probably earlier), Miller has worn a custom Warwick mask. It’s a small custom mask shop that primarily builds for pros and college players. But they have recently started doing work for Vaughn. Look for some of their design features in the new Vaughn mask line.

Blocker: CCM EFlex (blocker) and Vaughn T5500 (glove) – Ryan Miller broke his thumb during the 2005-06 season and subsequently switched to a Reebok (then RBK) blocker. The Lefevre design has a one-piece cuff that offers  comfortable, full-coverage protection that many other models don’t feature. Miller may actually be wearing the Vintage version of the EFlex, but the lack of graphics makes it hard to tell. I feel like it has become something of a comfort level with Miller as he’s worn a different model blocker (don’t be fooled by graphics) than his catch glove and pads since that 05-06 season. Miller’s new glove appears to be a T5500 model from Vaughn. Miller is known to be particular about his gear and it’s certainly possible that this is more of a custom build than what you’d find with a stock 5500. What’s for sure is the two-piece cuff and T-pocket appears to have all the qualities of the 5500.

Pads: Vaughn Velocity V5 – The most obvious change for Miller comes with his leg pads. Not only the manufacturer but that fact that his new Vaughn pads appear to be relatively stock. One thing many people didn’t know is that Miller’s Reebok Larceny’s were a fully custom pad that was built with the Larceny graphic. His previous pads were actually a custom build with traits from different Vaughn and CCM pads from previous years. These new pads have a flat face (as opposed to having shin rolls) and a more modern build than the traditional construction of his previous pads.

Stick: Reebok Pro – Miller has stuck with his sticks from previous seasons. The sturdy Reebok Pro wood stick. This is a solid stick that is popular throughout the league. I doubt he switches things up this year from a model that he’s been using for so long.

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

Sabres prepared to defend Traverse City title

You can’t say the Sabres haven’t won anything. They enter this year’s Traverse City Prospect Tournament as the defending champions after their triumph in 2011.

Buffalo’s title defense was delayed after last season’s lockout and they may benefit from the delay as they are prepared to ice a scary talented roster for the 2013 tourney. Mikhail Grigorenko will lead Buffalo’s other top prospects including; Joel Armia, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and others in search of another tournament championship.

Sending stacked rosters isn’t necessarily something that only the Sabres participate in. Each team manages to send a combination of pro ready prospects, new draft picks and players who have seen pro ice time to the tourney. It just so happens that Buffalo makes sure to construct a roster of their best prospects.

In 2011 the top line of Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian bullied their way through the rest of the tournament and claimed the first championship the franchise has ever seen.* Considering that Armia, Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson are amongst those participating, I think the Sabres are betting on bringing back another championship.

In addition to Girgensons, Grigorenko and Larsson – all who played professionally last year – Buffalo has a pair of NHL defensemen (Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Pysyk) to skate along with another NHL-ready player in Ristolainen.

Traverse City Tournament provides in live action for an organization’s prospects prior to the start of preseason action. For those players who aren’t expected to see time in the preseason – mostly newly drafted junior players – it serves as a way for coaches and scouts to see their new players live.

Even though the tournament serves more as an evaluation tool, it is still a nice point of pride for the winning club. It almost serves as verification that one team owns a better prospect pool than the others in some ways. For Sabres fans, this should offer a nice barometer for seeing how Darcy Regier’s recent investments are developing.

One benefit from the tournament is putting brand new prospects in a team setting with some of the older members of the group. This not only allows players like Nick Baptiste to see how Pysyk carries himself, it gives Pysyk a leadership opportunity that would otherwise be missed in the regular season.

That type of locker room and off-ice growth is a valuable fringe benefit that goes along with the on-ice play each of the prospects get over the course of the tournament. Although it didn’t seem to do too much for guys like Adam or Kassian in 2011, perhaps the inclusion of an established talent like Pysyk indicates the Sabres are hoping for him to take the reins.

Like the Sabres, the other participating clubs don’t shy away from using their big guns. The Stars will have Jack Campbell, Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin among others on their roster, proving that each team is indeed out to impress during the event.

Buffalo’s participants include a handful of very intriguing names who will be very interesting to watch. Seeing Johan Larsson in a Sabres jersey for the first time will be cool and having the chance to see him skate with someone like Girgensons will be particularly exciting.

Fans are likely hoping to see Armia and Grigorenko skate on a line together – Kris Baker from Sabres prospects points to Dan Catenacci as their linemate, which I fully endorse – and having the chance to see Ristolainen playing in North America is also encouraging. Obviously those five are the marquee names wearing blue and gold but they’re not the player’s I’m most interested in seeing during that weekend.

Catenacci is one of my favorite Sabres prospects and I’m very hopeful that the 2013-14 season serves as a major stepping stone for him moving forward. An NHL callup isn’t what I’m hoping for, so much as a great growth year that prepares him for a solid NHL career. Colin Jacobs found his footing as a shootout specialist in his Rochester debut and I’m hopeful that he can evolve his game now that the Sabres invested a contract in him. Logan Nelson could also push for a professional deal if he has a strong showing, and the Coon Rapids, MN native has an offensive side that would be great to see flourish.

In addition to Jacobs and Nelson, I’m waiting to see if Brady Austin grows into a late-round sleeper and I’m also hoping to see Justin Kea explore the physical side of his game.

A few of those names are boring, long-term prospects who don’t carry the pedigree of the big names who will likely grace Traverse City and First Niagara Center during this season. But they’re also prospects who appear to have solid value given their draft status.

Depth in the prospect pool is something each and every team at the Traverse City Tournament shares. I’ll be keeping my eye on the depth players while waiting to see if Buffalo’s big guns earn another title.

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.

On the Ice: CCM RBZ skates

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

On the heels of their partnership with Taylor made to release the RBZ stick last season, CCM took a step forward in 2013 in not only revamping the RBZ stick, but introducing the RBZ skate to their line.

When I got around to getting the RBZ skates on the ice, it wasn’t the first time I had a chance to try a pair on. The CCM RBZ Demo Day afforded me a chance to take a spin in the new wheels and helped to inspire me to give the product a closer look.

Finer details of the skate’s design can be found in our product review posted earlier this summer.

Out of the Box

The RBZ is a very good looking skate. It’s a very basic, traditional look that goes light on accents and crazy desgins and heavy on dark colors. It is a nice way to disguise the all-carbon boot as the dark upper just looks like the outside of any old skate you’ve grown up wearing. Upon closer inspection, however, the details of the construction are more evident.

One difference with the RBZ over just about every skate on the market is how big they run. CCM constructed them to fit a little wider which practically sizes them up nearly one full size for most people. I’m anywhere between a 10 or 10.5 in skates and the RBZ I’m wearing are a 9.5. Keep that in mind when you go to try them on.

The wide fit is pretty much uniform through the entire skate and it isn’t reduced until they take a spin in the oven and get laced up the first time. This doesn’t mean that putting them on out of the box gives a deceptive feel, but allowing them to bake and mold will do wonders in the fit and comfort department.

Most other facets of the skate are relatively basic. There’s nothing that stands out in store or even in the locker room in terms of the feel or ascetics. The physical attributes of the skate are another story as the incredible weight savings CCM used are the first thing anyone notices when they hold the skate.

This balance and weight work that CCM put into the RBZ is noticeable on the ice as well, as the skates are barely noticeable at times.

On the Ice

One word of warning on the RBZ skate; wear them around your house a lot. My previous on ice review of the Easton Mako revealed a skate that was pretty much game ready after baking. The RBZ is close but does need a little extra wear before your first ice time. While I didn’t get a chance to break them in further at home, I only experience slight discomfort the first time I got them on the ice.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fit once I was ready to go. The wide fit caused me to lace my skates a little tighter than usual to ensure the fit I have grown accustomed to. However, once I got the skates to a point I liked it was smooth sailing.

Since I’m not an overly fast or quick player, nothing much improves those attributes of my game. Yet, the three games I’ve worn the RBZ for have been ice times in which my cornering and edge work have been improved. While only an ACME rocket would give me more straightaway speed, I feel that my edges and in-tight agility have improved with the skates.

There’s something about the RBZ that makes me feel incredibly comfortable on the ice. While the wide fit was something I had to adjust to, the comfort level of these skates is completely unparalleled. CCM has a full line of skates in the RBZ family and each and every one is worth a long look when you come in to grab a new pair.

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.