CCM/Reebok changeover

CCM/Reebok Hockey  Changeover

CCM/Reebok Hockey Changeover

Keep your eyes peeled this season. You’re going to start seeing more and more CCM products around the rink and on television.

While they never technically left, CCM’s return to the rink just over five years ago was a notable milestone for the manufacturer. Part of the Reebok family (which also took over Koho, Jofa and Titan in the early 2000s), CCM has a strong presence in today’s equipment landscape. Sticks like the RBZ SuperFast and the return of the Tacks skate have elevated CCM to new heights in equipment design and innovation.

Of course, their line offered, in some ways, a direct competition to the equipment being built and sold by Reebok. Instead of having the two companies fight for attention and players, they altered the landscape they operate on. CCM will maintain their status as a brand leader for elite equipment while Reebok will take a step back to focus on youth and junior equipment.

That means that players who previously used Reebok equipment in the NHL will be wearing more CCM just as products like the Ribcor stick will now be sold with CCM branding as opposed to Reebok. The quality certainly won’t change, just the window dressing.

It’s still a cool development, particularly with the strength Bauer has shown in recent years and the obvious push coming from CCM. The RBZ stick line is beyond revolutionary and both the RBZ and Tacks skates are excellent products which offer a true challenge to Bauer.

There is one other front that could see CCM grow even more and that’s in the crease. The Reebok goal line is still being worn by quite a few netminders and exactly what will come of the Reebok goal collection doesn’t seem as clear as the player line. However, the CCM Extreme Flex goal pads are a monster hit and continue to find their way into more and more locker rooms in the NHL and beyond.

The CCM goal mask line was far superior to that of the models released by Reebok a few years prior and the same can be said for many other aspects of CCM’s goal equipment line. Perhaps the only sector Reebok truly had an edge in was skate design. The Reebok skates – both goalie and player – have been quite popular since their inception and while the RBZ and Tacks are phenomenal skates, models like the Ribcore are still elite in their own right.

While many of CCM’s products may be seen as superior to begin with, the company ought to see a boost thanks to the quality in skate design that Reebok has established.

At the end of the day this transition doesn’t change much in terms of the big picture. In fact, based on equipment that I’ve personally used, much of CCM’s elite level gear is superior to begin with. So while there will be more exposure and equipment choices for CCM, the product quality certainly isn’t going to change. Simply put, this is a wise decision to allow a growing industry leader get that much bigger.

As the changeover continues, players will see more and more Reebok products change over to CCM. In the meantime, have fun scavenger hunting for the CCM logo in places you’re not used to seeing it.

CCM Tacks Hockey Gear

CCM Tacks Hockey Gear

CCM RBZ Superfast Hockey Sticks

CCM RBZ Superfast Hockey Sticks 

CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet

CCM Resistance Hockey Helmet

CCM Ribcor Hockey Sticks

CCM Ribcor Hockey Sticks

Reebok Hockey

Reebok Hockey

 

Great Skate Blog NHL: Eastern Conference

Great Skate Blog NHL Preview: Eastern Conference

Great Skate Blog NHL Preview: Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh PenguinsUntil proven otherwise, the Penguins boast the world’s best player and another dynamic superstar who is likely in the top-5. Changes behind the bench and along the blueline defined Pittsburgh’s offseason and as the reigning division winner I expect to see much of the same from the Pens. Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps their biggest question mark but his play was far more stable last year than in 2012-13. The Penguins still sit atop the Metro Division and will be in the President’s Trophy conversation if Fleury plays well.

New York RangersThe Rangers seem to have found a way to improve but stay nearly the exact same team as last year. They unloaded the contract of Brad Richards, re-upped with their key core players and made some interesting signings. They also let a key player walk in Anton Stralman and will not be without Derek Stepan for a number of weeks. They still have the world’s best goaltender and an impressive blue line. The addition of Dan Boyle ought to give their power play a nice jolt and should Stepan return from injury in full form, they’ll be a formidable opponent again this year.

Columbus Blue JacketsA slightly tumultuous offseason followed a very promising 13-14 season for the Jackets. Another serious injury to Nathan Horton is likely to shelve the forward for some time while Ryan Johansen remains unsigned. Sergei Bobrovsky has proven that he wasn’t just a one year wonder and has been dominant at times for Columbus. This is still a team whose parts don’t eclipse the sum of its whole. Johansen is the star in waiting and Horton is perhaps their biggest name and it looks as if they’ll be without each to start the year. However, I still count on the Jackets to improve and finish third in the Metro.

Philadelphia FlyersClaude Giroux could wrap himself in bubble wrap each summer and manage to get injured ahead of camp. This year’s ailment is far less severe than the cut tendon he suffered last year, but he probably won’t be 100% at the start of the year. As is always the case, the Flyers will live and die with their goaltending. Steve Mason, despite his improvement last year, still doesn’t represent a confidence inspiring goaltender and if his play is average the Flyers will be as well. Philadelphia made an interesting decision in parting ways with Scott Hartnell and they could have a little trouble scoring goals in some areas. I still expect to see him in a wild card spot, but they’ll be battling down to the wire for it.

New York IslandersThe stats say that even with average goaltending the Islanders would have been an average team last year. The arrival of Jaroslav Halak should represent the improvement between the pipes that the Isles need to improve in the win column. John Tavares headlines a young, talented forward group who will be able to provide the necessary goal support for their new netminder. There may be a few defensive question marks that remain but the Isles have a lot of youth to be excited about. I’m expecting to see them finish just shy of the wild card.

New Jersey DevilsLike the Islanders, the Devils should have been far better than their record showed last year. However, their inability to win a single shootout cost them a number of wins and a number of precious points in the standings. In fact, those shootout losses accounted for more than enough points to make the playoffs had they found a way to win. Ultimately I think the Devils fall short of a playoff berth this year. Not because they haven’t improved but because they’re in a deep division that will be tough to succeed in.

Washington CapitalsI’m expecting regression for the Capitals this year. They overpaid both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen and I’m not sure they represent the defensive improvement the Capitals need. Niskanen will likely rack up power play points as he feeds one timers to Alex Ovechkin but I still think he was able to cash in on a big year on a great team. The Capitals still have a number of holes to fill and I don’t think they plugged each of them last year.

Carolina HurricanesCarolina wasn’t going to be a great team before Jordan Stall was injured. With Staal on the shelf for upwards of four months, the Hurricanes are closer to the Connor McDavid sweepstakes than they are to competing for a playoff spot. Depth and goaltending are among the biggest question marks they will deal with and with rumors of Eric Staal being available via trade doesn’t help those who are worried about the outlook for the Canes.

Atlantic Division

Boston BruinsMuch in the same way the Penguins will likely earn the Metro Crown, the Bruins enter the year as the prohibitive favorite in the Atlantic. No team has demonstrated that they’re better over the course of a season and I don’t expect that to change this year. While Zdeno Chara is beginning to show signs of aging, the Bruins are far too well constructed for that to be a major issue. The Bruins will have the first seed in the east at the end of the year and will likely be the team who is predicted to represent the East in the Cup Final.

Tampa Bay LightningThe Bolts bolstered their lineup this offseason with some very smart moves. Anton Stralman is a possession driving two-way defenseman and Jason Garrison will add another dynamic to the power play. Ryan Callahan will be on board for a full season and should Steven Stamkos stay healthy he’ll likely lead the league in goal scoring. It’s possible that the Bolts would have knocked off the Canadiens in the playoffs had Ben Bishop been healthy and he’ll be a big part of any success Tampa has this season. They probably don’t have enough to get by Boston in the Atlantic, but I won’t be surprised to see them in the conference finals.

Montreal CanadiensPK Subban is under contract, PA Parentau is in the fold (coming over in a great trade for Marc Bergevin) and Carey Price is still Carey Price. I still wonder about their play at center, but the Habs were impressive down the stretch last year and managed to knock off the Bruins on their way to the conference finals. I think Tampa took more steps forward this offseason, so I don’t see Montreal’s spot in the standings changing at all, but they’ll most certainly be a playoff team.

Detroit Red WingsThere’s a strong possibility that the standings in the Atlantic are the exact same this year. The Red Wings are still a strong club but they’re aging. They have a quality goaltender, one of the game’s most dangerous two-way players and a supporting cast that doesn’t have too many holes. They’re still flimsy on the blueline and it seems that their Eastern Conference rivals have done more to improve in the offseason. They’re still a full head better than Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Florida which means they’ll be in the thick of the wild card race.

Toronto Maple LeafsToronto has been funny to watch the last couple seasons. They overachieved and took Boston to seven games two years ago. Then they couldn’t maintain last season and were on the outside looking in. The Leafs will live and die with Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk. I’m waiting to see if Jake Gardiner has a breakout season or if he’s stuck in the dog house again. There is some quality talent in Toronto and if the chips fall right they could certainly leap frog Detroit for a wild card spot.

Ottawa SenatorsI don’t see the Senators being a very good team this year. In fact, they are going to rely heavily on Craig Anderson to win them games based on their offseason work. Not only do I expect to see them miss the playoffs, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bobby Ryan will head out the door in free agency in the summer. Kyle Turris and Ryan should form a nice duo up front and Erik Karlsson remains one of the elite offensive defensemen in the world. However, there isn’t too much depth on the roster and I see this year as a step back for the Sens.

Florida PanthersDale Tallon still has plenty of work to do in Southern Florida. Aaron Ekblad is a very nice addition. He, along with other lottery picks Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov will help drive the club. The Panthers do have some very impressive talent on their roster but it ultimately feels incomplete in some areas. Roberto Luongo’s presence alone should account for a number of wins and while the Panthers may not make any progress moving up in the Atlantic, I can see them beating out at least two teams from the Metro in the conference standings.

Buffalo SabresThe Sabres were woefully short on goal scoring last year. They also happened to be woefully short on defense, the power play and penalty killing. Before and after Ryan Miller’s departure the goaltending was strong, but that was really one of the few silver linings from last year. The Sabres did a lot of work to bring in more veteran support and skill and that will account for a few things. First, a full year of Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta will help in the locker room and on the scoreboard. Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart are both in contract years and have looked motivated in the preseason. The defense corps is an interesting group as Ted Nolan is going to have some very difficult decisions to make regarding his lineup. The Sabres lone competition this season will be for last place, although the hockey should be a bit more tolerable this time around.

What they’re wearing: Sidney Crosby

What they’re wearing: Sidney Crosby

What they’re wearing: Sidney Crosby

With the NHL season creeping up and team training camps set to begin shortly, the league’s best will be outfitting themselves in some of the newest offerings from hockey’s equipment manufacturers. Sidney Crosby has been Reebok’s poster boy for nearly his entire career and the world’s best will likely continue to sport nothing but Reebok equipment heading into yet another year.  Here’s a look back on what he closed the 2014-15 season with:

Helmet: Reebok 11K – The 11K has been Crosby’s helmet of choice since he entered the league. It’s an incredibly comfortable helmet that features EPP padding with memory foam placed in strategic places for additional comfort and protection. The exterior can be hard to adjust to, but if it’s a design that grows on you, there are few superior helmets on the market.

Gloves: Reebok custom – Crosby wears a specially made pair of Reebok gloves that feature the 11K graphics package but a completely different construction in every other way. They’re long-cuffed and interesting but something is obviously working for the defending Hart Trophy winner.

Stick: Reebok RIBCOR – Reebok’s newest stick with specially tuned ribs is designed to help load up the puck for heavier shots. For a long time Crosby actually used a two-piece stick with wood blades but he finally made the switch to a one-piece a few years ago. Crosby uses a fairly straight blade to aid with faceoffs and his backhand – which happens to be one of the best in the league.

Skates: Reebok RIBCOR – Reebok’s newest skate is designed for explosiveness with strategically reinforced and stiffened areas that respond to a player’s every move whether they’re taking three quick strides to get up to full speed or deftly maneuvering in traffic. As a 200-foot player, Crosby’s needs are certainly addressed with the features of the RIBCOR skate.

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

 

The new CCM Tacks officially hit the shelves this morning as the return of one of hockey’s most storied equipment lines makes its return.

CCM poured a ton of new technology into the new Tacks line, pulling from some of the success they had with the RBZ while introducing new performance features to make the skate a technological and performance-based marvel.

We talked a bit about the coming release earlier this year while a great deal of the features and technology were still under wraps. Although the skates were seen all over the NHL as they were tested by the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and John Tavares, there was still much to learn about the new skates. Tomorrow everyone will get a chance to experience the new features CCM has included on their newest set of wheels.

One of the most important features that CCM added is the Attack Frame that reinforces the area along the eyelets and the upper heel portion of each boot. The Attack Frame is a carbon fiber reinforcement that stiffens those two specific areas to promote quicker, more explosive starts. This is promoted by CCM’s Pro Core, which has various levels of stiffness throughout the boot to work in unison with the Attack Frame.

The Pro Core is stiffest in the areas where the Attack Frame reinforces while adding stiffness through the middle of the boot in the area between the two stiffest portions. Meanwhile, the Speedbalde 4.0 holder and Hyperglide steel gives the Tacks a similar attack angle as the RBZ’s that promotes cornering and agility.

CCM is also introducing a new Tacks stick to their growing product line. The Tacks stick features an Attack Frame reinforced area designed to reduce torsion during shooting. The new stick also sports the sharp black and gold graphics package of the new skate.

CCM set out to create a skate that provides players with the fastest five steps in hockey. They achieved their goal by finding key areas to add stiffness and promote responsiveness so the most elite skaters would feel the difference in their stride. It’s truly a skate that puts you one stride ahead of your competition.

On the Ice: Easton Mako skates

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skate

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skates

Our second installment of On the Ice comes in a different gear category than the initial review of the Warrior Dynasty stick. I’ve been able to try out a pair of Easton’s newest skate, the Mako.

The Mako is a new release from Easton and actually is a standalone product compared to the Stealth skate line which offers a number of different models to select. The focus of this skate is all about speed. From the heat moldable composite upper, the new CXN holder, aggressive pitch angle and the new Extendon feature, the Mako is designed for the sole purpose of speed.

With a composite construction the Mako skate is incredibly light and that feature is something that is noticeable from the first time you take it off the wall. However, the boot design offers more than just weight reduction. Easton’s asymmetrical design is focused to increase side-to-side agility for the player. In addition, the aggressively angle of the boot and holder offer a forward pitch that is not only conducive for straight ahead speed but also cornering and agility.

These features help to promote Easton’s new “Art of Speed” slogan. However, they aren’t just window dressings. The aggressive forward pitch and lightweight construction are complimented by the Extendon guard; built to promote the natural stride of a hockey player. The Extendon is a new take on the typical tendon guard on a normal pair of skates – and it does take a little getting used to. The slightly longer guard is designed to not only promote full extension in loading your stride but also immediate recovery after pushing off. It almost serves like a rubberband in a sense; aiding the skater in each and every stride.

The general look of the skate is somewhat odd, especially if you’re someone who is used to a traditional skate with a black boot and white holder. However, the sharp orange accents the compliment the black and silver on the boot looks pretty great. In fact, for as funky of a design this skate has, it passes the mirror test with flying colors.

It’s also appealing to more and more NHL professionals. Easton athletes like Derek Roy were wearing the Mako throughout this season and it was gaining a strong foothold (no pun intended) with the professional crowd. For a regular guy like myself, if was thoroughly impressed with the skate.

Out of the Box

If there is one thing that needs to be impressed upon anyone considering this skate it is that you cannot judge the fit before you bake it. Not only is the entire boot thermally formed but the tongue is as well. When you first put the skate on it is stiff, narrow and rather unforgiving. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to lace prior to being baked. However, once these are baked they are an entirely different skate. Your foot will slide into the boot like butter and once you’re laced up the skate actually wraps itself around your foot.

The reason I feel it is so important to impress this upon you is because this skate is designed to be fully customized to the wearer’s foot. While other skate models feel better once they’ve been baked, the Mako has to be baked. The result ends up being a ridiculously comfortable skate that is formed around your entire foot.

The Extendon feels a little different when you first get the skates on and it is because it sits a little closer to your leg (as it is designed to move back and forth with your stride) which creates an unusual sensation when you first lace up the skates. However the adjustment period for that is short as there is no discomfort created by the feature.

Another thing that threw me off was the tongue. It is fully heat formed and has a thick plastic insert on the top. Before baking it is somewhat cumbersome and difficult to deal with. Once you’ve baked the skates it is pliable and ends up contouring around the top of your foot and up through the ankle. Like with the initially stiff boot, the tongue is a completely different piece of the puzzle after the skates spend some time in the oven.

On the Ice

While I needed to wait a couple of weeks to get these on the ice, I didn’t have a ton of time to break them in at home. Aside from lacing them up a couple of times while watching TV, the skates didn’t get too much time to be broken in prior to their first ice time. This was a major concern for me at my first game in them.

Yet, after my first game I felt no ill effects. I didn’t have any blisters, my feet weren’t sore and I was amazed that after baking the skate and sporting it for a couple of hours at home that these were game ready. While your experience may differ a bit, I’ve found that most who are using the Mako determined they are all but game ready after getting baked and forming to your feet.

I have to say this was a major relief to me after watching my college teammates suffer through breaking in skates year after year.

The biggest adjustment for me on the ice was the forward pitch of these skates. Coming from CCM Pro Tacks, I was used to a flatter attack angle and a wider boot. The Mako has a much more pronounced forward pitch in addition to a more narrow fit. While the fit itself never became an issue, I found myself a little wobbly when I took my first few spins around on the skates. In fact, I had one moment early in the game in which I took twice the amount of time to turnaround than I usually would because I was still unsure on my feet.

What does all of that mean? Are these that difficult to get used to? The answer is no. By the midpoint of the first period I had fully settled into the skates and I can now say after a few ice times that these are a truly incredible product.

I am by no means a fast skater. In fact I’d contend that while technically sound I am actually brutally slow. Yet I’ve noticed my strides have been more powerful lately and my straight line speed has actually increased. The reason I can say that this is so noticeable is the way the skate feels if you take hard, aggressive strides. The construction of the boot and holder are so conducive to complimenting the motion of skating that you do feel the skate reacting with you as you go up and down the ice.

Easton hit it out of the park with the Mako skate. It is a highly evolved product that gives you noticeable results when you wear them. So long as you understand the difference in fit between the skate out of the box and the skate out of the oven, I’m confident that this would be on top of everyone’s shopping list when they’re looking for new skates.

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.

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.