What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing will be a new feature for the Great Skate Blog which will focus in on the gear being worn by players from around the NHL. These posts will focus on both skaters and goaltenders so both groups of players are well represented. Hopefully this series not only gives you a better idea of what your favorite players are wearing, but clue you in to which gear you may be looking to pick up the next time you’re at Great Skate.

My first target for WTW is Mikhail Grigorenko, the top prospect in the Sabres system. He was up and down with the big blub this year but managed to wear quite a bit of gear during his time. This breakdown is based on his final game of the year against the Islanders, but I will reference a few other games too.

Skates: Bauer Supreme TotalOne

One of the few pieces of gear he didn’t change at any point during his time with the Sabres. A solid skate with a tough, rigid construction, the TotalOne is immensely popular at the NHL level and there are a number of models in the Supreme line available at Great Skate.

Gloves: Bauer 4-Roll

Grigorenko was quite loyal to the Bauer Supreme TotalOne glove for most of the season but was sporting the 4-Roll for the season finale on April 26 (see entry image). Both gloves are great choices. The 4-roll is a classic fit that is more or less the go-to for most professionals. It is a clean, traditional look with a clean, traditional fit. The Supreme is design for maximum ergonomic feel and responsiveness and moves beautifully with your hand when playing. For a gifted playmaker like Grigorenko, the TotalOne makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, you can never go wrong with the 4-roll.

Helmet: CCM Vector 08 with Oakley Pro Straight visor

Grigroenko sports the wildly popular CCM Vector shell with a Oakley Pro Straight visor. The Pro Straight is used by just about every NHLer who wears a visor and provides excellent clarity to the wearer. Grigorenko uses the 08 Vector with a more traditional foam liner rather than the EPP foam with the heat molded pad liner that is found on the Vector 10 model. Either way, it is a good looking helmet and one that I’ve been seriously contemplating for a purchase for some time.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (white)

This is the reason I wanted to choose Grigorenko for this first installment. He has used a number of sticks throughout the season. While I can’t be sure, he may have been trying out an RBZ at one point as well. However, there is proof of him using the Covert throughout the year and in the final game. What is very interesting is that he’s switched sticks in the middle of games at times. Against the Rangers he went from the Covert to an APX and it wasn’t the first time I picked up on it. He also used a TotalOne early in the year.

While I’m fascinated by his choice to just rotate sticks whenever he wanted (he is a pro after all) I think the all-white Covert looks awesome. The Dagger Taper on the Covert is an awesome feature and I’m a sucker for all-white sticks. Great choice if you ask me.

Feel free to leave your recommendation for the next edition of WTW in the comments.

Bauer Supreme line offers anatomic perfection

Bauer Supreme TotalONE NXG Sr. Shoulder Pads

Bauer Supreme TotalONE NXG Sr. Shoulder Pads

Bauer’s collection of gear for 2013 introduced a plethora of new technology and features that was introduced across three different families of equipment. The Nexus line came aboard with the well-established Vapor and Supreme lines.

Bauer has always been a personal favorite of mine, particularly when it came to protective equipment. I haven’t upgraded my protective gear in a while, but there hasn’t been much need to do so. I’ve been very pleased with my shoulder pads and pants which are both from the Supreme line.

The new Supreme NXG line leads Bauer’s collection of gear designed to provided maximum coverage with a full anatomic fit. Bauer’s basic approach for their most recent collection was to provide a full anatomic line (Supreme), tapered or gradually anatomic collection (Vapor) and a line with a more traditional fit (Nexus).

With the Supreme NXG line, Bauer has built their deepest line (four models to choose from) with many of the design features that stand out to me when I’m shopping for new equipment. For me, protective equipment like shoulder pads and shin guards are more comfortable when they provide a slim, snug fit. This attracts me to anatomically designed gear that moves in unison with your body.

The Supreme shoulder pads come complete with a soft-shell shoulder cap (as is the mandate in the NHL) constructed with Bauer’s Vent Armor Foam. This is a design feature that actually softens impacts by 25% when compared to the former TotalOne model.

Vent Armor Foam is actually prevalent throughout the Supreme line – it is used on the One.8 line as well – and is a feature developed to keep a player cool while adding a firm layer of padding in vital locations. Bauer has also made sure to place Poron XRD padding in vital areas on each piece of equipment in the line.

The Poron XRD is the revolutionary padding that has made the RE-AKT helmet such a revolutionary model. While the Poron XRD padding can only be found on the NXG models, it adds high-impact protection and energy absorption in vital areas like the elbow, knee and sternum.

Looking at the entire line it is clear that the key design features weren’t left off any of the models – including the One.8, One.6  and One.4. The elbow pads and shin guards aren’t as revolutionary to me as the shoulder pads appear to be.

While the shin pads anatomical design offer a terrific mix of protection and comfort, the change isn’t as significant as in the shoulder pad unit. With fully adjustable bicep guards (which can be a pain if they don’t fit properly) and integrated Vent Armor padding in a number of areas, the Supreme NXG shoulder pad is truly the elite piece of gear in this line.

Even going beyond the NXG collection, the “price point” models are also brimming with new technology. The main absentees in the rest of the line is the Poron XRD and Vent Armor Foam. Outside of those main two, the rest of the .8 gear and beyond is right on par with the anatomical protection built for the NXG pads.

As someone who is in the line for a new pair of shin guards and potentially some elbow pads, I think the NXG line may be my first stop when I go into Great Skate this summer.

Round Two Predictions

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

As round two begins I’d like to offer my prognosticating skills up to you all once again for the four series that will set the stage for the Conference Finals. After missing only two series in the first round (ignore that I lost both of my Cup predicted teams) I fully expect to go 0-for-4 with my second round predictions.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

The Penguins sudden issues in goal have made them quite vulnerable. Their six-game triumph over the Islanders only lasted that long thanks to the stumbling play of Marc-Andre Fleury. While Tomas Vokoun provided enough stability to close out the series, he can’t be instill all that much confidence in Penguins fans.

Ottawa rolls in off a five game drubbing of the Canadiens in which they received brilliant goaltending and timely scoring from all over their lineup. They face a scary, deep, talented Penguins team which creates matchup nightmares on both sides of the puck. I don’t expect the Alfredsson line to be nearly as effective as they were against Montreal, nor do I expect the Senators to be able to effectively shutdown Pittsburgh’s scorers. However, Craig Anderson provides a decided advantage in net. Penguins in 6

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

Fresh off a pair of grueling six-game series, both of these teams will be fighting some major fatigue in the second round. One interesting thing to watch will be the durability of each team’s top defensemen. Zdeno Chara was run well over 60 minutes over the past two games out of necessity while the Rangers trot Dan Girardi (and Ryan McDonagh) out for a million minutes by choice.

This series will be all about who is conditioned better and who is capable of surviving beyond another physically grueling series. Goaltending will play a major role here and I like Henrik Lundqvist better than Tuukka Rask. However, I think the Bruins have more firepower than the Rangers and that might just give them the edge. Bruins in 7

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

The second Original Six showdown of the second round pits a pair of heated rivals against one another. This is a nice treat for hockey purists as the Wings will be heading east next season and severing many of their former divisional rivalries.

To be Frank, the Blackhawks are nearly impossible to matchup against and they’ve been getting steady goaltending along the way. While the Wings have been riding a nice wave of positive momentum, the Blackhawks are a much different beast than the Ducks were. While Jimmy Howard has been sensational, I’m not sure the Wings will be able to insulate him the way they did against Anaheim. Blackhawks in 6

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

A nice little regional matchup that pits a perennial playoff disappointment against last year’s Cup champs. The Sharks have flown under the radar this year but have opened plenty of eyes after sweeping the Canucks. While they have plenty of question marks around them, San Jose has two solid scoring lines and have gotten great goaltending from Antti Niemi.

The Kings scrapped their way through the first round and will need to find some more offense if they hope to get back to the Conference Finals. Jonathan Quick has been stellar yet again and Los Angeles did a great job stifling the Blues. I wonder how they’ll deal with an impressive offensive lineup like the Sharks boast, however. Sharks in seven

New Supreme and Nexus skates give Bauer variety

Bauer Nexus 1000 Sr. Ice Hockey Skates

Bauer Nexus 1000 Sr. Ice Hockey Skates

Bauer’s impressive line of gear for 2013 is like a good Stanley Cup playoff team, deep. There is elite talent, impressive depth and quality across the lineup.

The release of the APX 2 skates has come with plenty of fanfare. The next step in the incredibly popular Vapor line was expected to get plenty of attention but Bauer has two more sets of wheels that should be equally interesting to players.

2013 will see the TotalOne NXG line evolve further along with the introduction of the Nexus skate. Both skate lines offer impressive features that will appeal to a wide range of players. The TotalOne in particular, as Bauer continues to build on a skate line with many equally impressive features to that of the Vapor line.

The newest TotalOne doesn’t come stock with the new Lightspeed 3 TUUK, but it does utilize the TUUK LS Fusion blade. That is the same blade that is sported on the Vapor and is 27% lighter than previous Bauer runners.

Both the TotalOne and Vapor APX also share the same type of Curv composite upper construction. That, when baked, provide a true custom fit around your foot. This isn’t much difference than previous models in the Supreme line which were built with a strong, rigid boot that molded to a comfortable, custom fit after some time in the skate oven.

The key with the Curv composite upper is to eliminate dead space between the heel and ankle area and the boot, thus improving the overall fit. Another addition on the new TotalOne is the flexible tendon guard which combines with Total Edge Comfort to increase range of motion and decrease abrasions and discomfort at the top of the skate.

Perhaps the coolest feature on the new TotalOne is the 3Flex Tongue. Bauer, along with Curv, developed composite inserts that will allow players to customize the flex of the tongue on their skates. As Bauer explains, the inserts are supposed to act like spring boards that react as you flex forward in your skating motion.

Unfortunately the 3Flex tongue can only be found on the TotalOne model although the Curv Composite upper is featured on the One.9 and the One.8 and One.7 each have thermoformable uppers as well.

The skate that I’m most interested in, however is neither the Supreme nor the Vapor but the Nexus line. One the surface it looks like a reincarnation of the legendary Supreme 8000 skates that were the bread and butter for Bauer wearers for the longest time.

Bauer rolled out the Nexus this year as the newest line of gear in their collection and it is quickly becoming the most impressive of the bunch from the skates right up through the elbow pads.

The upper is constructed differently than that of the Vapor or Supreme. Instead of the more rigid composite construction, the Nexus focuses on weight with a fully stitched “tech mesh” quarter package build. I looks just about identical to the durable nylon stitched quarter package builds from the pre-Vapor days and just in terms of a mirror test, really hits home for me.

The Nexus also uses a traditional (in look) retro tan liner. Again, one of those features that ranks high for me in look and set up. The liner itself is hydrophobic. So it is afraid of moisture. This is a great addition as Bauer’s hydrophobic technology is designed to repel moisture and keep your feet, and the skate, dry.

Add in a super thick, traditional felt tongue (perfect for sniper tongues) and Bauer managed to build a very traditional looking skate. When you consider the new features they built into the skate – particularly the unique Deep-V heel fit and this is quite the advanced skate.

From the 800 on down, the Nexus line is quite consistent as well; which means you’re getting more bang for your buck depending on your target price point.

What’s tough about the equipment that Bauer is producing is which line you want to choose. Each one offers so many awesome features and hit on various price points that virtually every player has the ability to use the various advances in the gear tech.

Whether you find one specific line to fit your game or if you like each one, be sure to take a look at the Vapor, Nexus and Supreme gear lines the next time you’re heading out to shop.

Composite Mini Sticks

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

 

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

Knee hockey is one of the numerous things that makes hockey what it is. Not many sports have a portable, miniature version that can be played just about anywhere.

Just think back to travel tournaments and the countless hotel hallways you were expelled from when playing knee hockey. Knee hockey just happens to be a portion of hockey culture that makes our sport so incredibly unique.

Not unlike the full size version of the sport, knee hockey has seen a number of advances in recent years. Manufacturers now make miniature nets (not necessarily a new development) which inevitably saves desks, tables, chairs and hallway radiators from the beating that comes along with the game. In addition, the days of dipping your straight-blade plastic stick in boiling water to create a curve are over. Now you can choose a mini stick from a plethora of choices that are near mirror images to the full size sticks made by hockey’s biggest manufacturers.

Warrior, Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Sher-Wood all have created their own composite mini sticks complete with curves and identical design patterns to that of the full size retail sticks you use on the ice. What these sticks do is add a little style and extra performance to a rec-room or travel tournament classic.

Reebok not only has a mini composite version of their new 20K stick, they also introduced a composite goal stick that is patterned after the 11K composite goal stick that is being used throughout the NHL – this follows previous miniature versions of the O-Stick and A.I.9. CCM also produced a mini composite of their premier stick with a mini RBZ. Like the 20K, the mini RBZ also sports the same markings and art that the top model does – although it doesn’t provide some of the technological advances that the full size stick does.

Both CCM and Reebok have their own net models as well which can be set up in your basement or rec room to add even more of an ice element to each knee game.

Bauer actually has a Vapor APX and TotalOne NXG for you to choose from while Sher-Wood’s collection spans the entire NHL. So, for those of you who are nostalgic for the straight plastic, team-branded sticks of the past, perhaps the Sher-Wood team models would provide a nice transition.

While I can’t attest if the composite mini sticks can add performance to your knee hockey game as their full-size cousins do for ice hockey, I can say they bring a cool wrinkle to a game that you should never need an excuse to play.

I, for one, am seriously considering setting up a knee hockey rink as part of my man cave in the very near future.

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

On the Ice: Warrior Dynasty AX1

On The Ice will be a recurring series that will focus on the on-ice performance of new equipment. I will take you through my thoughts and impressions of this equipment from taking it “out of the box” and after the first few ice times of use.

Warrior’s newest stick to hit the market is the Dynasty AX1. The Dynasty line actually features five different models at varying price points (AX1 through AX5) with the AX1 serving as the top professional model used by professionals and other top talents.

The Dynasty line is the first to feature Warrior’s new, groundbreaking AXYSYM technology in a stick. This system focuses high-compression fibers on the back and bottom of their sticks in order to increase the benefits of the stick’s flex. Combining with the natural flex and kick of the stick, the AXYSYM fibers stretch and compress as you shoot and are designed to put more power behind each shot.

The AX1 also utilizes the countless blade innovations that Warrior has created. The Aramid Sole and Carbonized finish add ridged strength to vital portions of the blade to ensure longevity and performance for the user. Warrior’s Twin Spar support system provides additional internal structure to the blade to resist bending while the Hardcore X maintains overall strength while reducing weight.

While the entire Dynasty line is designed with a mid kickpoint, the AX1 features a number of other features that aren’t found in each and every model. The AX1 is built with a high fusion point that moves the primary fusion point away from the blade and further up the shaft of the stick. In addition, Warrior has introduced the Strong Arm reinforcement that adds additional structure on the lower portion of the shaft.

As someone who has lost a majority of my sticks to breaks at or near the fuse point at the bottom of the shaft, I can say the HiFused and Strong Arm features are a welcome addition. Both aren’t noticeable the first time you pull a stick off the rack but one your stick starts taking the beating it incurs on a game-to-game basis.

Out of the Box

The first “out of the box” impression this stick makes is with the eye test. The AX1 has a sleek black and sliver finish that has a very professional look with a clear, uncluttered design. The basic design is amplified by the Slick Grip and Velvet Touch finish that my particular twig has. This finish is a two-fold feature that is the exact opposite of the typical grip finishes you get with other manufaturers.

What really stands out is the Velvet Touch. Quite literally the stick feels like velvet in your hands. An almost grimy feel at first, after you adjust the Velvet Touch is not only appealing but preferable –this is coming from a guy who likes a traditional grip finish, too. The velvet touch isn’t as noticeable with gloves on but the overall feel was solid when I did some stickhandling with gloves on.

Other immediate impressions that I found were with the mid kickpoint and the weight of the stick. I have previously used the Stealth RS, Total One, S19 and other extremely light one-piece sticks and this is right up there in terms of weight. The balance is also impressive as it maintained the same feel with tape as it did before I cut it down. Credit that to the HiFused fuse point and the mid kickpoint keeping the center of gravity in the center of the shaft.

My particular model is a 85 flex Zetterberg pattern. It is a nice mid curve with a slightly open toe and rounded toe. It’s the type of curve I prefer, but as you’re well aware, picking a curve and flex is up to the player and what they’re comfortable with.

Bottom Line: This is one of those sticks that makes you want to pull three off the rack, tape them up and hit the ice. It looks great and feels phenomenal the first time you hold it. The AX2 has a number of the features found on the AX1 at a slightly lower price point while the AX3, AX4 and AX5 models are all great sticks that offer terrific value while. However, the AX1 is truly the gem of the Dynasty line and it shows that at every turn.

On the Ice

An unfortunate scheduling situation forced me to wait nearly 14 full days before getting this stick on the ice. It was well worth the wait, in the end.

The first thing you notice about the stick is the Velvet Grip. Just like when pulling it off the rack, the Velvet Grip feels interesting when wearing your gloves. Personally I thought it was nothing short of perfect. It provides a tacky finish but isn’t even close to what a traditional grip finish feels like. A good way to describe it would be to say that it provides friction but not grip when you’re playing.

My biggest adjustment to the twig wasn’t the grip nor the incredible balance, but the blade. The past few sticks I’ve used have had a far thicker blade than the Dynasty and the feel for the puck with this blade was much different than the pro stock Total One I had been using previously. This isn’t necessarily a detraction so much as something I’ll need to adjust to.

All of the technology that Warrior poured into the blade is evident when you’re stickhandling, passing and shooting. The Twin Spar and Hardcore X features do their job well in allowing Warrior to pare down the profile of the blade while maintaining strength and rigidity. I noticed that my passing – particularly on the backhand – was much more crisp and my control of the puck was equally improved. Firing shots is where the thin blade threw me off as I spent most of the warm up adjusting to the feel of shooting with the stick.

Once the game started I was able to settle in and play my game. Shooting still wasn’t fully comfortable, but I was able to get off two acceptable attempts on net. My passing was great though. Aside from one that rolled off my blade, I saw marked improvement in moving the puck that I’m confident will translate to shooting the puck after another ice time or two.

This stick gets full marks from me. Any new piece of equipment comes with an adjustment period and sticks are no different. This is an incredibly light, responsive twig that feels great when you take it off the rack and once you get it on the ice. Four-and-a-half out of five stars for me.