Among the numerous moves Tim Murray made on July 1, signing Brian Gionta as a free agent was one of the biggest. Gionta, who hails from Rochester, NY is making as close to a homecoming as he possibly could by signing with the Sabres. After five seasons in Montreal, Gionta is back home where he played his junior hockey with the Niagara Scenic hockey club (now the Buffalo Junior Sabres).
Gionta wore an interesting mix of equipment this season and managed to pull from every major manufacturer aside from CCM. Although his Reebok stick technically qualifies as the two companies are virtually one in the same.
Skates: Bauer Vapor APX2 – A skilled, shifty player, Gionta opts for the massively popular Vapor line for his skates and even finishes them off with foot guards in case he catches a shot from the point in the wrong way. The stiff boot construction of the APX2 maximizes acceleration and allows for quick, tight turns. Exactly the type of traits a player of Gionta’s ilk is looking for.
Gloves: Warrior Dynasty AX1 – The next generation of Warrior’s Franchise glove, the AX1 is a traditional four-roll glove with a slightly updated appearance from the original Franchise. These offer a traditional fit that allows for maximum movement and rotation in the wrists. These are a favorite of highly skilled players who need to be able to stickhandle and pass in tight areas. Gionta had previously worn the Easton Pro gloves before making the transition to Warrior.
Stick: Reebok Ribcor – Reebok’s Ribcor is all about giving players the ability to launch heavier shots with a quicker release. The Ribcor’s shaft is “pre-loaded” to allow players to get the puck off their sticks faster with far more force.
Helmet: Easton S9 – Like our last “What They’re Wearing” subject, Gionta is partial to the older Easton S9 helmet. The S9 uses a VN foam liner that is typically considered to be a bit more comfortable than the newer, technologically advanced helmets that utilize EPP foams or even more advanced materials.
Most people probably don’t think about their hockey bag very often. After all, it’s just a vessel to help carry your equipment from point-a to point-b. But there’s actually a bit more to hockey bags today than their utilitarian predecessors of years past.
Bags these days come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be carried like a backpack, some have wheels, some have a spot that will carry a stick, some have fans built into them and some are simple, basic bags that evoke a classic look while still sporting some modern amenities.
Some bags, like Grit’s HT1 Hockey Tower resemble airplane luggage with their vertical construction, wheels, pull handle and compartmentalized interior. These are pretty much the Cadillac of hockey bags that basically shrink a locker stall down to a manageable size. These are ideal for younger players who might have some trouble lugging the weight of their equipment but also appeal to a wide audience who prefer the orderly organization of their gear to the chaotic heap of jerseys, socks and pad that little traditional carry bags.
Backpack bags have also gained popularity in recent years and some of the backpack style hockey bags even come with wheels and a pull handle. These bags, like the Easton Stealth RS bag, feature a similar interior layout to the Grit tower bag as there are specific areas to store each piece of equipment. While it doesn’t feature the storage areas that the Grit bag does, the Easton – along with the Bauer and Reebok models carried by Great Skate – feature dedicated skate pockets and additional areas to store tape and tools.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the back pack bags. I feel as if they don’t maximize the space necessary to store gear. However, I’m also a fan of a traditional, no frills bag that has a pocket or two for tape and my extra accessories (screwdriver, etc.). The next time I go looking for a new bag, the Warrior Pro and Bauer team carry bags will be at the top of my list. They feature a basic construction with a very durable outer and inner materials that help prevent cuts and holes from developing. The Warrior bag is particularly nice as it features internal skate pockets and a vented mesh top to help keep your gear dry. Both also feature a clean, professional look that is low on extra graphics and high on function.
Last, but certainly not least, are goalie bags. Goalie bags can be tough to pick out based on how you pack your gear. Many goalies put their pads in their bag which necessitates even more space. While I’m partial to carrying my pads, I still need a spacious bag to fit all of my equipment. Great Skate offers a number of goalie bags from Reebok, Bauer, Warrior and Vaughn. In fact, Great Skate offers a wheeled and non-wheeled Bauer model along with wheeled versions from Reebok and Warrior. However, for my money, the Vaughn BG 7400 bag takes the cake. This is a spacious, well-designed bag that features reinforcements in all the right areas and a great exterior look. It comes with a removable wash bag and can easily fit a goaltender’s full locker with ease.
Be sure to consider all of your options as you’re searching for a bag for the upcoming season.
As part of the Warrior VIP program, I’ve had the opportunity to get a look at the new Covert QR1 stick ahead of its full release. It’s a very cool opportunity and I have to say the stick has surpassed any of the expectations I had for it.
Out of the Box
The QR1’s graphic package hearkens back to Warrior’s earlier days with bright, aggressive colors that are very similar to what adorned the Dolomite in the mid 2000s. It just so happens that particular version of the Dolomite – with the orange and electric blue graphics – stands as the best stick I’ve ever used.
This is a very attractive stick and the feel prior to being cut down is just what you’d expect. It’s feather-light and well balanced. I chose to go with an 85 flex with a Zetterberg curve and my stick has the grip option as well.
On the Ice
My first impression of the stick was the weight and balance and that didn’t change once I cut it down and got it taped up. Thinking back to the last Warrior stick I had (Dynasty AX1), the blade has a more firm feel to it when stickhandling and passing.
The profile of the stick is great as the dagger tip is both visually appealing and effective in practice. Warrior’s goal with the QR1 was to provide a stick with a quick release and they certainly succeeded in doing so.
Through a handful of icetimes, I’ve noticed an appreciable improvement in the crispness and velocity on my passes. I’ve been able to make hard cross-ice passes in the neutral zone and needle threading saucer passes from the corner when on the attack.
Interestingly, my slap shot is also heavier with the QR1, likely due to the well placed kick point on the stick. Since I’ve been playing on the blueline for the duration of my summer season, I haven’t had too many chances to get a feel for the quick release on a wrist shot, but given the feel the stick has when making passes, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t have the same feel when shooting in a game situation.
Keep an eye out for the Covert QR1 to be hitting the shelves soon, you’re not going to want to miss out on this stick.
After a lengthy vacation from the crease, CCM returned last year with a new entry into the goaltending market. The Extreme Flex pads not only represented CCM’s first official entry into the goaltending world again but it also brought about a pad with some impressive new features.
CCM developed a pad with a soft, flexible boot that allows the pad to sit a bit lower than it’s stiffer Reebok cousins. While the rest of the pad shares many of the same traits as the Reebok pads, the flexible boot and softer face (complete with knee rolls) provides a much more traditional pad than the P4 or current XLT is.
Upon first release, the pad offered a different option for goalies who weren’t as fond of Reebok pads while still providing the option to wear equipment produced by the legendary Lefevre design team. The marriage of Lefevre and Reebok/CCM pads doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, but this and the former Reebok Larceny remain as the only pads constructed by Reebok or CCM in recent years with a different take than the flat faced look that helps to define Reebok.
CCM took things a step further this past year as they provided a new design option for EFlex users. The RetroFlex pad has the same construction as the original EFlex but with a basic, vertical stitch graphics package. The only color options on the pad, outside of the face of the shin, will be the knee rolls, outer roll and the darts between the knee rolls.
Jonathan Bernier wore the RetroFlex all season and looked particularly good in his vintage colored RetroFlex pads at this year’s winter classic.
Outside of the aesthetic differences between the EFlex and the RetroFlex, there are no other changes between the two. They’re both inspired by more flexible products in the boot while still utilizing the modern core design that can be found in pads like the Reebok XLT and others.
If you find yourself stuck deciding between the EFlex or the RetroFlex, it’s likely a simple decision between a true retro look over a slightly more contemporary graphic on the face of the pad. While I prefer the EFlex simply due to the design options available, the RetroFlex is a beautiful pad. Especially for those netminders who prefer a classic look.
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.
As the holiday season approaches, as does the time for the NHL to take their game outdoors. That means all sorts of new uniforms are to be worn by the participating teams. Quite often those new uniforms are of the vintage variety and that vintage look is something that serves to be quite popular amongst fans.
Unfortunately, most players are unable to snag a pair of gloves or some of the other special edition equipment worn by the players and goalies during the Winter or Heritage Classic. Unless you’re willing to shell out major dough on eBay for game worn items, players are typically stuck enjoying the unique gear on television. But that’s no longer the case.
Great Skate is carrying a handful of special edition items this season that offer you an exclusive product much like what will be seen on the ice during the NHL’s outdoor games.
Bauer is offering two separate models of their Supreme TotalOne NXG stick in a vintage finish that’s quite reminiscent of a traditional wood stick. The primary finish is a natural or “vintage white” base with a very traditionally inspired graphic to finish the look. The sticks come in either a blue and red or black and red pattern, with the black and red being ever so slightly more modern due to the lack of the natural finish from the hosel up towards the middle of the stick.
The Vintage TotalOne NXG shares all of the features and benefits of the basic NXG with three different curve patterns available. The blue and red looks particularly good as the vintage white finish really makes the stick pop with the traditional design.
The glove is a basic Bonafide X four-roll build with nothing but nylon as the outer finish. It has the look and feel of a pro glove and the addition of the lightweight nylon adds to that. Both the Toronto and Detroit color ways are just a basic blue and red, respectively. There are no additional stripes or graphics to dress these gloves up. Only the white (vintage white for the Detroit gloves) Warrior logo on the cuff and a custom Detroit and Toronto inscription where a player’s name would go on a pro model.
The Bonafide glove is a great model that shares a number of traits with Warrior’s flagship, the Franchise. It’s a popular model due to the responsiveness and pro look that appeals to a number of players. Adding the basic, vintage look to this popular model makes the Winter Classic Limited Edition gloves that much more of a hot ticket.
Pairing the Bonafide X Winter Classic gloves with one of Bauer’s TotalOne NXG Vintage sticks would give you a great, throwback inspired set up for this season.
With the holiday season upon us, goalies will certainly be filling their lists with all of the gear and accessories they’ve been hoping to get as the season has progressed. As you prepare to begin your shopping this year, keep some of these ideas in mind for the hockey players on your list:
One great gift that can easily be over looked is a safe, comfortable neck guard. Of all the neck guards on the market, it’s hard to beat the Vaughn VPC in that department. It’s a favorite of nearly every NHL goalie and would make a great addition to any goalie’s gift pile.
Goalies also are never lost without a good practice jersey. So often you see netminders sporting old game jerseys during practices. Grab your goalie a proper goalie cut practice jersey that can be used at practice and even at goalie camp in the summertime.
There are also some cool new sticks on the market this season and finding the newest composite to tie up with a bow would make a number of goalies very happy. If you’re going to go big, you can’t go wrong with the Bauer Reactor 6000. It’s the top composite on the market today and offers unparalleled performance in terms of weight and balance. If the goalie you’re shopping for is more of a traditionalist, you can’t go wrong with the CCM 400 or Warrior Swagger. Both are great, durable sticks that slot in at a competitive price point.
If it’s come time to upgrade one of your major equipment categories, Great Skate has a phenomenal selection both in-store and online in terms of pads, blockers and gloves. Our in-store goal crease will allow you to try on and get a feel for any of the gear that you have your eye on this holiday season.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A while back Keith Perera took some time to chat with us about his job with Warrior and a few cool features of their stick line. With the new Covert ST and LT in stores now, Keith took a few more minutes to give an inside look at what makes these two new sticks so fantastic.
GS: Tell us about the new sticks, what remains the same from last year’s Covert line and what has been added?
KP: The Covert is all about speed and quick release. So we set out to make our sticks lighter, load easier and kick back stronger – improving on an already successful line.
Our new product has the “LT” designation for a reason. We wanted to make each stick the lightest we could possibly make it without sacrificing durability, and in some cases, making them more durable.
We have also added a “ST” model stick at the very high-end DT1 model to give Stronger players low kick with added twist resistance which then helps accuracy.
GS: The Covert was a very popular model last year – particularly with the various price point models. What do you think made the entire line so popular with players?
KP: Covert had a very distinct feel and kick. When a player got to try the product, they immediately felt the Dagger Taper load and release the puck with ease and speed. Covert also featured our newest blade designed with durability and weight in mind. We now have the lowest return rate in our history and it’s all due to those new blade features. They are lighter and stronger.
GS: How do you think the new features will add to the Covert’s popularity?
KP: Making the product lighter and increasing the recoil will really get more players to notice the Covert line. The biggest thing for us is weight – players we poll always tell us they want the stick to feel light and swing light. The very next thing they say is they don’t want the stick to break. It’s has always been a hockey paradox in the past (Light & Durable), but with some of our new strategic R&D partners in the Aerospace and Defense fields, it has become a reality.
GS: I know you don’t work with pros too often but did you get an idea of positive feedback those guys were giving on the Covert line last year?
KP: Great question, our momentum is really turning here. This off-season was our best ever! Players were hearing more from other players that our sticks were not breaking and were performing incredibly well. That R&D partner also allowed us to produce our lightest pro stick and it was really durable. Players were amazed! We added 30 new players to our stable and it was purely based on product. We did sign some big new names (Pacioretty, Clarkson) but we would have never had a chance with those guys if our product was not good. Money is fine, but product is KING
GS: How much of that feedback, if any, went into the design of the LT and ST models?
KP: Features like HiFusedST and new blade construction did come from needs from PRO. Pros bring very acute problems to our engineering team. Requests like “Make the stiffest blade ever” to the challenge of “keeping Chara’s blade from opening up” are things they get all the time from our players or our reps in the dressing rooms trying to dial-in a player’s spec. Sometimes these trickle down to our retail product (ex. TwinSpar, StrongArm, HiFusedST), but some features don’t. There aren’t that many “Charas” out there…imagine?!
GS: Should we expect to see a lot of NHLers using these models this season?
KP: You will see some major additions to our player stable. We’ve added players all over the league. Abdelkader, Franzen, Iginla are just to name a few. The other thing you’ll notice is that most of our players will be using our LT or ST graphic. This will also make the impression of our players larger since they are using one of 3 graphics available. In the past, we would have up to 5 graphics available to our pros and it really diluted our product presence in the NHL.
GS: When was the decision made to offer two different models (ST and LT) for this year?
KP: The decision was a tough one but came out of utility. We were finding our AAA testers loving the LT quick release Dagger construction but they were complaining that it was too “whippy or active” down low. We got that from pros too and we tested the HiFusedST construction with the same AAA players and they loved the quick release + Accuracy. We found that some players did not need all the Dagger Taper extra flex since they generated enough power and force themselves. What those stronger players needed was added twist resistance. That’s exactly what HiFusedST does, since the fuse point of the stick is near the player’s lower hand. It resists twist, thus giving the player low kick with more accuracy. Many players told us it felt like the old Easton SE16, which was very popular with better players a few years ago.
GS: Can you talk about a few more benefits of the LT?
KP: LT is all about making our sticks LighT. Since we were building “smarter sticks” (better engineered, more durable) we found new ways to pull excess weight out without affecting durability. It was an amazing discovery. Our lower priced models are incredibly light for the price. As a quick example, our $99 DT4LT weighed 40g lighter than a major competitors’ $110 stick… and is lighter than everyone’s $99 stick, by quite a bit.
GS: Can you give a more detailed breakdown of the Dagger technology and specifically the upgrades made with the Dagger T2?
KP: Dagger Taper is a wonderfully simple and effective technology for a hockey stick. The stick tapers to a point down very low in the stick and, in turn, that’s where the stick flexes. Pretty simple. This simple notion has resonated with players and they are feeling the benefits of this super low kick point. With this new line, we wanted to improve on the RECOIL of Dagger. Dagger loads and flexes very easily, but we wanted it to recoil back and return energy back to the puck. So we placed Uni-Directional fibers in the taper to help promote that kick-back effect. We also extended the internal structures from our blades into the taper area to help provide a more “connected” feel for the blade and taper to work together. Those two enhancements helped push Dagger Taper to the next level.
GS: A number of NHLers were using custom colored Coverts throughout the year last season. Is there an opportunity that various colors will be made available to the public with the new models or even the former Covert line?
KP: We are playing with the idea of offering these “Pro Graphic” build ability on our customizer, but nothing has been finalized as yet. Sorry!
GS: Should we expect to see a similar evolution to the Dynasty AX1 line? If so, can you provide any hints?
KP: I can’t speak to the Dynasty line as yet, but I can in a couple months. We just presented all the info on the new line to our sales force and after all our dealers have had a chance to see it and write orders for it we can talk about it.
GS: The Covert gloves were finally released and feel phenomenal (I’m a fan of a more snug fit glove). What has the reaction been to them – both from pros and amatuers?
KP: I’m not really close to our glove product (Chris J is our PM for protective) but from 3rd hand I know that people love the feel of them. I’m also a fan of the Covert…
GS: Last time you couldn’t offer much in terms of what we can expect next from Warrior. Are you able to offer any hints as to what we may see in the coming months?
KP: I wish I could, but I can’t get in to too much detail. All I can say is – 2014 is going to blow the doors off. We consciously took a step back 2yrs ago, refocused, reorganized and made our product better performing with durability. Now it’s time for us to really fly our brand flag…and if you saw how we did it when we started, you get the idea. So I’ll leave it at that.