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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.


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.

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.

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards
Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Forwards

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

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

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




Patrick Kane

Joe Pavelski

Dustin Brown

Zach Parise

James VanRiemsdyk

Phil Kessel

Max Pacioretty

Paul Stastny

Bobby Ryan

David Backes (A)

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Callahan (C)

Derek Stepan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next, the defensemen and goalies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CCM/Reebok Demo Day: Testing the RBZ Skate and Stick

Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick
Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

The day is nearing in which the hockey world will be graced with the RBZ Stage 2 stick and the new RBZ skates. As the company prepares to launch the next step in a line that has boomed with popularity, Great Skate had a chance to take an inside look at both the RBZ Stage 2 stick and RBZ skate.

A small group of guys got the full treatment from our CCM reps as they had a full lineup of the RBZ skate to choose from and about two-dozen RBZ Stage 2 sticks to choose from. The skate was quite informal, just shooting and passing in warm up suits and eventually things morphed into a center ice three-on-three scrimmage. What I did notice from spinning around the ice is that the RBZ skate is the real deal.

We got a brief rundown of some of the changes and improvements to the RBZ skate as compared to the U+ line that came before it. The RBZ has a full composite boot and is built with a little more pitch for a better angle of attack and increased agility. The skate is also built 4mm higher than previous skates. This factors with the aggressive pitch to give the skater a better radius for tighter turns and cuts.

The composite boot allows for a lighter build that increases your power on the ice. They also run a little larger than you might expect. I’m a size 12 shoe and typically wear a 10 or 10.5 in a skate. The pair of RBZs that I had on yesterday were 9.5 and fit quite well. As a side note, the skates I had were EE width which gave them a little play in the ankle and arch but it wasn’t too noticeable on the ice. There’s no doubt that a slightly more narrow boot would give a more snug fit.

On the ice the skate is light and responsive. I found myself making effortless cuts and I felt that my stride was powerful. I took a few hard laps and in-zone skates during the ice time to see how the skate felt in more of an in-game setting and they were great. Bear in mind that these were basically out of the box and right onto the ice. The wider boot may have factored into this, but I didn’t feel any ill effects from wearing a brand new skate without any sort of break in period.

As for the sticks, I have to say the Stage 2 stole the show. I’ve used an RBZ and I loved the pop that you get off the blade. The Speed Channels aren’t a gimmick and the hot blade they’ve created is something you feel on the ice. The original RBZ did have one drawback and that was the balance. It was a blade heavy stick and there was a strange sensation when using it because of the center of gravity.

With the Stage 2 this isn’t an issue. In addition to a new graphic scheme, CCM worked out the weighting issues so that this already incredibly light stick has the balance and feel you would expect.

I was fairly accurate – or as accurate as I could be – when shooting and the upgraded speed channels gave my slap shot a noticeable pop. When you consider the few shortcomings the original RBZ and factor in the changes made for the Stage 2, the word upgrade almost doesn’t do it justice.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new RBZ skate, Stage 2 stick and the Reebok Ribcor to hit the shelves at Great Skate later this summer. You won’t want to miss out on picking up these new models.

CCM RBZ skates coming this July

CCM RBZ skates coming this July
Florida’s Jonathon Huberdeau using CCM’s new RBZ stick and skates this season

CCM’s next great introduction into the line of skates is coming in July 2013. After strapping a rocket to the puck with the RBZ stick, CCM looks to strap rockets on your feet when they introduce the RBZ skate this summer.

The RBZ has a number of new features and advancements designed to set it apart from other skates on the market now and those that will be coming into this summer and into the winter. CCM has introduced a brand new holder for the RBZ line. The SpeedBlade 4.0 holder is the highest holder in hockey, providing an unparalleled angle of attack. The higher holder is designed to increase turning radius by 10% and the entire construction of the holder – including a design feature called Speed Ribs – offers a stronger and more stable set up.

Specifically, the SpeedBlade 4.0 is designed to limit rotational torsion along with increasing vertical and horizontal rigidity throughout the holder. CCM also has rolled out a new steel runner (blade) for the skate. The polished steel SB Hyperglide runner is designed to increase glide and edge work while limiting friction. The SpeedBlade is featured on three different RBZ models (Pro, 100, 90 and 80) but the SB Hyperglide can only be found on the RBZ pro skate.

The RBZ’s boot is really what stands out to me. While I appreciate the increased attack angle that many new skates are rolling out, the boot is always the x-factor for me. Since that is where your foot will spend each ice time, it’s important to me to have a boot that will offer supreme comfort and protection.

The boot itself is a composite construction that implements Speedcore technology. This is a design feature that maximizes stiffness to increase how the skate reacts with your foot. As a big fan of CCM’s skates, I can attest that stiffness shouldn’t be confused as a sacrifice to comfort. Think of it as trying to play football with your shoes untied as compared to lacing them up tight. The Speedcore carbon composite design allows the quarter package of the skate to remain stiff and responsive during play.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking feature of the skates is CCM’s new Custom Support Insoles. This is a brand new feature that offers three levels for a player to choose from. CCM and currexSole teamed up to create a hockey-specific footbed system that will work with high, medium and low-arch feet. By determining which level or arch support you need, the insole you choose will improve contact between the sole of your foot and the skate, thus allowing for greater reaction and responsiveness when skating.

Much like the custom insoles offered at Great Skate, the CCM Custom Support Insole feature is built to react to your specific anatomical needs as opposed to the thin, unsupportive insoles typically provided in hockey skates.

An added bonus with these skates is the pro felt tongue with lace bite protection. It isn’t long enough to fold over for a proper “sniper tongue”, but it will offer the comfort and protection of a traditional felt tongue.

As someone who is in the market for a new pair of skates, the RBZ is a model that is worth waiting for. Come July I may just be strapping a rocket to my feet.