Olympic gear watch

Olympic gear watch

Olympic gear watch

As hockey equipment has evolved, the ability for players to swap out gear for special events has been a growing trend. Goaltenders are the easiest to pick out as they sport different helmets and pads for events like the Winter Classic each season.

The Olympics are not immune to this change as skaters need to switch over to gloves and pants that align with their country’s colors and some goaltenders choose to wear new equipment as well to match their nation’s colors.

It will be pretty easy to notice which goaltenders have made changes as their new gear will certainly stand out as opposed to what they wear on a nightly basis in the NHL. Most players will likely wear a shell over their team-issued pants to remain as comfortable as possible and skaters have likely had a chance to break in their Olympic gloves for at least a week.

There will be some other changes that may or may not stand out to fans as they’re watching the games aside from the simple color change that a player’s gear will undergo. Like the NHL, the IIHF has specific equipment standards and those standards must be followed by all players.

In the crease, some equipment manufacturers choose not to pay the fee to the IIHF so their company logos can be shown during play. Vaughn is a company that has long been logo-less in international play and that trend will likely continue this year as Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard are both heading to Sochi without the Vaughn branding on their equipment.

Ryan Miller’s gear was changed over to red, white and blue using a special aftermarket product that will keep him from breaking in new equipment for the short tournament. As you’ll notice, Miller’s pads (and gloves) still have the Vaughn logos showing but he’ll likely need to have those covered up.

As the games continue small things like that will probably become more obvious and one feature of the 2010 games in Vancouver seems to have carried over to Sochi. Forwards, who will have small Sochi logos on the front and back of their helmets, will have an interesting change made to their gloves.

An interesting rule was created heading into the 2010 Olympics which limited the size of manufacturer logos on the cuff of player gloves. This meant that the size of the font needed to be reduced from the relatively large font found on the ice in NHL games and on the shelves in stores.

It also made for some confusing visuals as the smaller logos looked out of place on the ice (check out Brian Rafalski’s gloves in the bottom portion of this picture). Easton decided against putting their logo in the smaller font and swapped out the Easton font for each country’s name with a smaller Easton logo on a different part of the cuff. Warrior and Bauer followed suit with the rule and based on action from the women’s games early on, it appears that the rule is back for 2014.

One other big change will be the handful of players using Bauer’s OD1N equipment. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Henrik Lundqvist were all tabbed to test the revolutionary gear that Bauer is comparing to a concept care. The player skates will stand out most as their peculiar design is like nothing that’s ever been worn before.

The OD1N line is designed to save massive amounts of weight that will ultimately give players more boost and stamina on a game-to-game basis. While it’s unexpected to be seen in stores anytime soon, keep an eye on those players to see if their game receives a noticeable boost.

If you notice any other distinct differences in something a player is wearing, leave a comment here or on the Great Skate Facebook page. It’s interesting to see some of the new and exciting products that companies will release around this time.

Tips for picking out goalie sticks

Tips for picking out goalie sticks

Tips for picking out goalie sticks

Not that long ago Bauer introduced the Vapor XXX composite goal stick to the market and forever changed the landscape of that particular niche of goaltending equipment.

While a few other entries served as a precursor to the Vapor, there wasn’t much out there in terms of a non-wood goal stick to purchase and use for goalies of any age. Today the goalie stick market is nearly flipped 180 degrees.

Each and every equipment manufacturer in the stick business has at least one line of full composite sticks to complement their traditional wood models. Some companies offer a number of lines that actually outnumber the traditionally built models they offer (Bauer).

When it comes to goal stick shopping, a few things need to be considered. The most important of which is durability and price point. While no two sticks are built the same, knowing that the one that works best for you is going to last longer than a few practices is vitally important.

Other factors that come into play are balance, weight, pattern and feel. With a plethora of composite sticks to consider when sorting through the stick rack, those factors become that much more important.

In my time playing net I’ve used a composite only a handful of times. Not once did I feel that I enjoyed the experience. Short of using the highest price point models, I found that the sticks I tried out were no lighter than the wood stick I have used my whole life, their responsiveness was anything but and the smooth composite finish was slippery to the touch.

That last point is an easy fix, of course. A little tape where the shaft and paddle meet will provide a tacky finish and even today nearly every model has some sort of grip applied to that area. Yet, the difference in feel between a wood and composite stick can be difficult to get past.

Keep in mind that I prefer to keep the shaft of my stick devoid of tape so that my hands can move up and down freely with just a good, solid knob at the very end to provide control with poke checks and puck handling. Many other goalies – like Ryan Miller – prefer some sort of homemade grip area where the shaft and paddle meet and the built-in grip that many composites have can eliminate the need to waste any more tape.

Another thing that helps with is vibrations caused by stopping pucks. Wood sticks, for the most part, pretty much absorb all vibrations caused by shots. But composites can suffer from something similar to a baseball bat with vibrations from a shot running up through the stick and into your hands. However, that’s something that is becoming less of an issue.

Advances in stick technology has provided a significant edge in many of the shortcomings composite sticks suffered from in the past. Most composites have shed weight in recent years and even the lower price point models are significantly lighter than the war clubs that preceded them. Yet, unless you’re aiming for the stars and the pro models, the weight savings aren’t all that much more than you find with pro model wood sticks.

The one primary advantage that I’ve found composites have over wood sticks is in durability. While you can certainly get a bad twig that breaks after 20 minutes of ice time, nearly every composite model out there will offer a longer life than wood sticks. While composites can snap at any moment, the well built ones don’t slowly deteriorate like a wood stick.

Wood sticks absorb water and will soften over time. As the blade of a stick deadens with age, rebound control will change and your puck handling (specifically passing) will suffer. Since a composite won’t suffer that sort of deterioration, you can count on them to give you a longer effective life after purchase.

Any sort of debate of wood vs. composite ultimately comes down to personal preference. There are plenty of guys and girls out there who swear by their composite sticks and won’t ever go back to a wood model. But then there are people like myself who prefer the feel you get with a wood stick and won’t change their tune.

A few other things to consider when planning on purchasing a stick:

- In many case weight and balance are more important than the curve or paddle length. If you’re able to easily move with the stick in hand and make normal goaltender moves, then that’s the stick for you. Just because you see NHL goalies using 27” paddles or big curves, doesn’t mean that is the type of stick you should use.

- Don’t buy a stick that you’ll need to cut down. Ideally a goalie stick is going to be just right for you when you purchase it. It doesn’t need to come to your chin or neck like a forward stick. Goal sticks are built with a specific balance point that will be altered if a portion of the shaft is cut down. Find a stick that fits you right, not one that needs to be altered.

- Buy at least two sticks at a time. The worst thing you can do is use two different sticks with drastically different patterns. When you find a curve and paddle length that you play best with, don’t mess around too much with it. Buy a second stick as a backup or practice stick and move forward with a unified arsenal of goal sticks.

- Try to use the more beaten up of your two sticks as your practice or warm up stick. If you have two identical sticks and one is more beaten up than the other, use that well worn stick for practice and warm ups. That will increase the longevity of your game stick and allow you to perform at a higher level.

Murray’s track record shows a strong hire for the Sabres front office

The Buffalo Sabres press conference introducing Tim Murray & Craig Patrick

The Buffalo Sabres press conference introducing Tim Murray & Craig Patrick

With Tim Murray named the new General Manager for the Sabres, the front office makeover has been completed nearly two months after it began with the introduction of Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine.

LaFontaine’s extensive search for a GM ran through a gamut of candidates before landing on Murray, who served as Ottawa’s Assistant General Manager prior to this appointment. While the process took far longer than expected or desired for many (including myself) it would appear that LaFontaine exhausted all options and vetted every candidate on his list to the fullest extent. While the original timeline was expected to only be a few weeks, I give credit to LaFontaine for conducting the search properly. If it indicates the type of work ethic LaFontaine will put into his position, I’m confident that the Sabres will be in good hands with him at the hockey department’s helm.

Murray also seems like a strong pick despite the early clubhouse leaders being names like Jason Botterill and Paul Fenton. A vast majority of Murray’s tenure in the NHL has seen him at the reigns of amateur talent evaluation and draft operations. He was part of a management team that scouted and drafted players like Joffery Lupul, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan in Anaheim before working with his uncle in Ottawa to draft players like Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Jakub Silfverberg, Robin Lehner and others. One interesting thing I found when perusing the drafts of team’s he’s been with is that he’s had varying success in the middle rounds (like most GMs) and the Ducks swung and missed on back-to-back first round selections after Murray’s departure.

Pierre LeBrun has pointed out that Murray’s talent lies in talent evaluation and it would appear that his talents are particularly effective with younger players as his duties as Binghamton’s GM helped the Baby Sens win a Calder Cup just three years ago. Given the scores of picks and prospects the Sabres own, Murray appears to be a strong fit for guiding the Sabres through their rebuild.

Murray’s tenure as Buffalo’s General Manager begins at an interesting time, with the Olympics just a month away and just two months out from the trade deadline. Murray will need time to evaluate the organization, evaluate the talent depth from the junior level up through the AHL and then determining what assets he already has in the NHL as well.

It’s likely a tricky situation to find himself in as he’ll likely want at least a month to go through his own organizational evaluation before being in a situation to make any necessary decisions towards the future of the team’s future. That includes trading or re-signing Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott among other decisions that will need to be made prior to the deadline.

I’m expecting a quiet January from Murray as he figures out exactly what he has in the NHL and AHL while also assessing the direction the team will be heading in the offseason. The Olympic break will prevent him from making any moves prior to the deadline, but it will also allow him an extra month to take a look at his prospects in junior and Rochester prior to the NHL getting back up to speed leading up to the trade deadline. The only real question mark about Murray is the role that he played in the trades made by the Senators in recent years and if he’ll be a strong presence at the trade tables when it comes time to negotiate for the Sabres.

Don’t expect to see any fireworks from Murray in the short term as I would expect and adept talent manager – as Murray is said to be – to take their time determining the strengths and weaknesses of their organizational depth. Certainly there will be fans who expect him to wheel and deal from the minute he settles into his new office, but that seems wildly unrealistic.

He’s going to be tasked with determining the solution to the Ryan Miller saga and he’ll likely be judged on that in the short term, particularly if Miller leaves for greener pastures. While the route he takes with Miller will likely shape his legacy, his actual effectiveness won’t be determined for at least two or three years as how he drafts might wind up being the most vital trait he brings to Buffalo.

While it’s important to get first overall selections and land generational talents, it’s equally important to have a GM who is capable of guiding the ship in the right direction. Murray’s knack for talent evaluation and strong drafting says a lot about his pedigree.

I’m certainly confident in the choice the LaFontaine and the Sabres have made with Murray and although it may be some time before he makes a significant move, I’m looking forward to seeing how Murray operates at the helm.

Ranking the Winter Classic goalie masks

New York Rangers Winter Classic Goalie Mask

New York Rangers Winter Classic Goalie Mask

I’m a freak for goalie equipment. I’d die to have unlimited access to different paint jobs, custom pads and the like. That’s what makes the NHL’s annual outdoor games so awesome.

There have been some pretty cool masks and gear sets used since the first Winter Classic in Buffalo back in 2008. While it is becoming tougher and tougher to one-up the previous year, each goalie has managed to put his own twist on the gear worn for the special outdoor contests each year.

The easiest and most common change is to simply get a special paint job done for the day. Few goalies have decided against any sort of change for the Winter Classic as most have a new mask painted for them at the very least. While there has been a handful to make no change between the NHL’s Winter and Heritage Classics, here is a ranking of those goalies masks from previous years (and this year’s Winter Classic):

  1. Henrik Lundqvist takes the cake for his mask and gear set up for the 2012 Classic. He went with a full makeover, sporting some vintage white pads and a new paintjob. The pads are only so-so, but the paintjob is phenomenal. The worn look on the mask and cage make this look perfect. A+ for the design and execution.
  1. Tukka Rask is second for his Green Monster mask. The tattered Yankees jersey was a nice touch and incorporating Fenway was cool. Too bad the mask didn’t get a chance to see the ice in the 2009 Classic.
  2. Dany Sabourin didn’t get to see the ice in the original Winter Classic. Had he played better leading up to the game, everyone would have been treated to his phenomenal throwback set up. The pads perfectly compliment the unique helmet. The paintjob isn’t as outstanding as the first two on this list, but the full look gets him in the top-five.
  3. Tim Thomas went with a pretty basic look for 2009. His pads remained but he had a commemorative paintjob done up. It was well executed and the Bruins portion looks great from a distance and up close. The eye black helped too.
  4. Top marks to Jimmy Howard and his Winter Classic mask. Ray Bishop does some excellent work and I love Howard’s mask. It’s clean, simple and works perfectly with the throwback uniform motif. He also has a nifty Santa mask but I doubt we see that on the 1st.
  5. Cristobal Huet could have gotten bonus points for his pads had he not worn them for the first half of the season. However, his special edition helmet looked awesome. A great paintjob incorporating the Wrigley marquee and the “Go Hawks” written on a car windshield (not pictured).
  6. Brent Johnson had a great set up for the 2011 classic. His pads and mask worked perfectly with the special uniforms. A well done setup that trumped the starter’s look.
  7. Ilya Bryzgalov’s best mask for the 2012-13 was barely been worn. His tiger helmet looks strange compared to the solid white-based lid he sported early on. His Winter Classic mask is busy, but an ode to Philly sports history. It looks great and is well executed, especially considering how much is going on the helmet. Add in his vintage Vaughn pads (and sick gloves) and you have a winner.
  8. Ryan Miller’s pads matched the uniforms the Sabres chose to utilize in 2008, so he didn’t need to make a change in that regard. His paint job looked cool, despite being partially covered. He gets points here for the paintjob and the use of the hockey sock hat. Those two combined sneak him into the top ten.
  9. I’ll give the overall edge on Toronto Winter Classic masks to James Reimer. Despite some cool features on Bernier’s mask, the blue cage just doesn’t do it for me. I love the sock stripes on the background of Reimer’s mask and the overall design looks great.
  10. Martin Biron chose to honor Gilles Gratton with his design for the 2012 classic. His brown Bauer pads will look great with the vintage uniform and the helmet. It’s a classic design that unfortunately wasn’t seen on the ice.
  11. A very basic design for Jonas Gustavsson’s Classic Mask. I like the use of the vintage white and the lines are all clean. No complaints in any sense for this mask but his pads are kind of average for a vintage colored set. Credit for Petr Mrazek’s wintry pads even if they don’t see any action in the NHL game.
  12. Michal Neuvirth had the better of the two helmets in the Washington Capitals locker room too. The white based design looked great and had all the right elements. A well done design for sure.
  13. Jonathan Bernier’s Maple Leafs Mask is pretty solid. DaveArt rarely misses the mark with his work. The overall look of the mask is cool, although I’m not fond of the painted cage one bit. It looks out of place and I could’ve done without it.
  14. If Marc Andre Fleury wore his most recent alternate mask and pads in 2011, he would be the runaway winner.  Sadly, he didn’t have those at his disposal then. The mask design looked good, but didn’t come close to matching the jerseys they wore at Heinz Field.
  15. Ty Conklin went with a special design on his helmet in 2008, he chose against it in 2009. However, the paintjob looked pretty good for the original classic. He would have been higher had he scored bonus points for matching gear.
  16. Semyon Varlamov’s helmet design was painted by Dave Gunnarson, the same artist who did the work on many masks on this list. The design isn’t bad, but it looks like a helmet you would find in Dick’s. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Neuvirth’s.
  17. Sergei Bobrovsky’s mask for the 2012 Winter Classic was somewhat similar to Lundqvist’s but didn’t offer the same wow factor.
  18. Michael Leighton had a simple, but solid design for his 2010 mask. It looked cool from a distance and the skyline was just as cool up close. It doubled as his mask the rest of the season, but it was a solid design for the Winter Classic.
  19. Marc-Andre Fleury is the only goalie to appear on the list twice. Again, his gear from last year was great and the helmet was pretty well done, just not great. However, his helmet from 2008 looked silly. The enormous 29 on the right side looked out of place while the Pens logo on the left just couldn’t make up for the number. An average design, at least no one needed to see it during the game.
  20. Carey Price’s mask for the 2011 Heritage Classic was all sorts of creepy and awful. I understand the look he was going for, but it just failed on so many levels. I blame the eyes. Price, however, was the only goalie in that game to don any sort of special equipment. So good on him for that.

Bauer OD1N Ice Hockey Gear

Bauer OD1N Hockey Gear

Bauer OD1N Hockey Gear

Never before has there been a public display of the technological capabilities of a hockey company like Bauer displayed on December 19.

Bauer unveiled the OD1N equipment line that is going to officially be put on display during the 2014 Winter Olympics by some of the world’s best players. Nicklas Backstrom, Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Toews will each wear the OD1N gear during the games in a public display of Bauer’s technological prowess.

The line of thinking in developing the OD1N line was inspired by the concept cars introduced at auto shows on a yearly basis. Just as a concept car shows the features a car company hopes to bring to market in coming years, Bauer is using OD1N to introduce technological advances they hope to bring to market in the coming years.

That’s the most interesting part of this entire line of equipment. There’s a chance that none of this gear ever goes on sale to the general public. For now, it will just be for the world’s elite.

It’s more than likely that some of the features begin to be seen in stores sooner rather than later. But some of the design features in the line seem to be something that will only ever be found in an NHL locker room.

For example, the OD1N protective gear is mapped to each player’s body using a special scanning suit and a 3D scanning tool. It provides for a fully accurate, 3D map of each player’s body which then allows Bauer to build each shoulder pad, elbow pad and shin pad to the exact measurements of each player’s body.

Bauer also developed a base layer that has high-tech foam reinforcing specific areas throughout the body. For example, the small of the back or the neck. By putting this foam on the player’s base layer, the shoulder, elbow and shin pads can have foam and plastic removed since the base layer is already providing that protection.

The though process is to eliminate redundancies in each piece of equipment to ultimately save weight between the shoulders and legs. Ultimately, Bauer eliminated four pounds of weight by combining high-tech foam and carbon along with the scaled back layers of foam.

By eliminating that much weight, Bauer has determined that this equipment will make a player a full foot faster than a competitor in a 50-sprint. That means someone wearing this gear could conceivably beat an opponent to a puck by a full foot. Which is a significant difference.

Weight reduction is the key to the entire line of equipment as the inspiration is that those four missing pounds translated over each and every shift over the course of the game equates to hundreds of pounds of weight savings that was previously sitting on the shoulders and legs of each player. Therefore, by saving each player that much weight, Bauer expects each player to not only be more explosive shift-to-shift, but have more endurance at the end of each game as the stress exerted by their bodies will be that much less.

This is reflected in the radical new OD1N skate in the form of a brand new carbon-composite blade holder that doesn’t conform to any traditional design standards. Instead of a hole in the middle of the foot, the OD1N has two large holes below the toes and heel with a small, rigid stabilizer in the middle.

Combined with the high-tech carbon boot, Bauer has managed to save a full half-pound in each skate with the new design. They equate that to over 1000 pounds of weight that doesn’t need to be lifted over the course of an entire game.

They didn’t forget about the goaltenders either. Bauer’s OD1N goal pad is 1/3 the weight of a traditional goal pad which is a drastic difference in weight which, like with the skate and protective gear, is built to take away hundreds of pounds worth of lifting that is typically done by a goalie in a game.

Bauer also claims that the OD1N pad can be tuned to the specific rebound control preferences of each goalie. That caught me by surprise because the build of the pad has only so many layers of foam (due to weight savings) that there are only so many spots where some sort of change could be made.

What is interesting to me, about this whole line, is the fact that there is no indication that any of this will ever be on the shelves in any store. Clearly the build of the skate and the weight reduction in the goal pads can be easily introduced to a retail model. However, the fine-tuned carbon-composite blade holder (which is said to only hold a certain number of sharpenings in each blade) may never see the light of day. The same could be said of the 3D mapping of the protective gear. However, selling the protective equipment in unison with the base layer would allow anyone to benefit from the weight and design features of the equipment.

Regardless if this equipment is five months or five years away from hitting the shelves, it will be cool to see Henrik Lundqvist in a funky new set of pads and the stars of Team Canada, Russia, Sweden and USA sporting some very interesting, new equipment.

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.

Holiday Gift Guide for skaters

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

With the holiday season upon us, hockey players are going to be filling their lists with all sorts of gift ideas. Some may be in need of an upgrade of a certain piece of equipment while others may be hoping to get the newest technology in their hands.

As you prepare to begin your shopping this year, keep some of these ideas in mind for the hockey players on your list:

Sticks: There are some awesome deals on sticks out there currently along with some very cool new technology that has really set a number of manufacturers apart from the others. One very cool idea, especially for the holidays is the MyBauer program. It is a feature that Bauer offers which will allow you to fully customize a stick just like the pros do. From flex and pattern right down to your own name and number, it is a very cool, personal gift idea. The new Easton VSeries is a brand new line from Easton with some incredible features and a lightweight profile across the entire line. The V5E comes at a great price point and offers many of the benefits that the VSeries has introduced. There are also a ton of great deals on Warrior’s full collection, including the Dynasty AX3. The Dynasty line is a tremendous collection with some groundbreaking technology from a company that is making huge strides with their impressive stick technology.

Gloves: Of all the gloves on the shelves nowadays, there isn’t anything cooler than the exclusive Warrior Bonafide Winter Classic gloves. These are a special edition glove designed by Warrior to compliment the uniforms that will be worn by Detroit and Toronto in this year’s Winter Classic. Both gloves come in 13 and 14-inch models and are very basic, but classic in their look. These will be huge favorites this winter. The Warrior Covert DT2 gloves also slot in at a phenomenal price point along with the incredibly comfy CCM CL400 gloves. If you’re looking for more color options than Toronto or Detroit, those two models would be a great place to start.

One last piece to keep in mind is the Youth Hockey Package. If a family member is hoping to, or has already started playing hockey, this is a wonderful gift to give. It features every piece of equipment that you need to get started; including a helmet, pants, shoulder pads, skates, gloves, shin guards and elbow pads. All that’s needed is a stick, a skater and a rink and your new player is good to go.

Stocking Stuffers: Laces, tape and hockey apparel are always welcome presents for hockey players of all ages.

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

25% off all Hockey Gear (13-Hour) Black Friday Sale

Starting on Friday November 29, 2013 for 13-hours, receive 25% off your purchase at both Great Skate and Greatskate.com. If you are going to be shopping online you can take advantage of early shopping and In-Store pickup. When shopping online please use Promotional Code GS2013 (Please note that your discount will be deducted at the time of shipping)

Great Skate will be opening a bit early on Friday morning starting at 8am, so if you or someone you know is out shopping at Best Buy, Target, and Kohl’s tell them to stop by and check out our great deals. Choose from all major manufacturers such as Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok, Warrior, & Vaughn. If a Bauer APX stick is on your list this year you won’t find a better deal than at Great Skate!

Don’t forget to ask about our door buster deals such as 50% off Bauer TotalONE Colored LE Composite Sticks, Easton Mako, & Easton Stealth RS II Sticks. How can you beat these deals? 

When it comes down to Fit, Feel, Performance, Dedication look no further than Great Skate. Stop by Friday morning at 3395 Sheridan Drive / Amherst / NY / 14226. If you aren’t from WNY give us a call at 1-800-828-7496. As always some restrictions may apply (MAP) click here or call for details.

Take advantage of this sale today. It wont last long. GAME ON!

Happy Thanksgiving

 

Great Skate Staff

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. 

LaFontaine and Nolan return amidst Sabres shakeup

LaFontaine and Nolan return amidst Sabres shakeup

LaFontaine and Nolan return amidst Sabres shakeup

A pair of very familiar faces are back in prominent positions with the Sabres organization as Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan were brought back in the fold after a massive shake up at First Niagara Center.

LaFontaine takes over as the team’s President of Hockey Operations with Ted Nolan stepping in as the interim head coach. Both Ron Rolston and Darcy Regier were relieved of their duties prior to LaFontaine and Nolan stepping in.

Ousting Rolston seemed like an inevitable choice given Buffalo’s woeful record and the ugly way they went about earning it. Exactly when the axe was to fall on Rolston was left to guesswork due to Buffalo’s current campaign for the first overall pick. The heat was rising fast, however, as Buffalo’s string of first period flops and ugly losses was punctuated by an inability to draw any sort of redemption from the progression of the team’s young players. When a coach lauded for his ability to develop players isn’t even doing that, obviously there is a problem.

Regier’s departure is only shocking when you consider the scope of this shakeup. The construction of the roster left plenty to be desired and his quest to mimic the toughness of the Bruins ended up sacrificing the overall skill level of Buffalo’s forward group. Like Rolston, Regier’s departure was something that was expected at some point in the coming calendar year, the timing is what comes as something of a shock, as were his replacements.

Pat LaFontaine strikes me as a solid, sound choice as the team’s new President of Hockey Operations. His lack of front office experience doesn’t make him a glowing candidate for the position of GM and he said as much during today’s press conference. What LaFontaine brings is a fresh set of eyes to evaluate and hire the general manager who will guide the team through this rebuilding process.

His choice on the new GM will have a trickle-down effect on the team’s current interim head coach, Ted Nolan. The interim tag given to Nolan indicates that the new GM will have the ability to make the final choice on the coach and should the two not see eye-to-eye, the GM will be able to replace him. Given that the chain of command has yet to be completed, this makes a lot of sense.

Nolan’s success could certainly dictate whether or not he drops the interim tag, but there is no doubt that the new GM will have final say on his tenure this time around. Given that LaFontaine is ensuring the new chain of command falls as it should, I’m not reading too much into Nolan’s hiring at this point. In fact, I’m willing to wait to not only see who the new GM will be, but what his choice of head coach will wind up being. At that point it will be slightly easier to pass judgement. Nolan will simply be keeping the seat warm for the time being with the opportunity to earn a full time role should he prove capable.

This decision also allows the Sabres to continue forward with a clean slate. There was a growing trend of negative comments made about the culture in Buffalo – namely from Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera and even Jason Pominville. What they were specifically referencing can’t be confirmed as they could just as easily have been referring to the entire hockey department or just the attitudes in the locker room.

No matter where it stemmed from, there certainly seemed as if there was a recruiting problem at First Niagara Center; starting fresh in the hockey department should aid in erasing that stigma. By cleaning house, Terry Pegula and his staff are taking strides to eliminate any sort of negative perception that had become attached to the organization under the Regier’s regime. That may serve as the most important aspect of this decision.

Not only is LaFontaine a familiar face and Sabres legend, he has no connection to Regier’s management team. In fact, there are indications that LaFointaine (and Nolan to an extent) wouldn’t have returned has Regier stuck around. So clearly there was some disconnect between how Regier operated and how it was embraced league-wide. With LaFontaine clearly separated from that modus operandi, there should be some positive results when recruiting a new general manager, coach and perhaps even free agents.

That’s not to say that hiring LaFontaine will magically make every free agent want to play in Buffalo, but I have to think it will give them more confidence than they may have had in a GM who held his post for nearly two decades.

The long term results of this hiring won’t even begin to bear results for some time. But the time for a drastic change at the top of the Sabres hockey department seemed to be long overdue. Today marked a big first step forward with the next step hopefully to come soon in the form of a new GM.