Warrior protective makes strides with new features

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Shoulder Pad

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Hockey Shoulder Pad

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the market for new protective gear – both in net or playing forward. On a recent trip to Great Skate I was trying on some different elbow pads an noticed one common theme; elbow pads have become incredibly bulky.

The whole host of offerings from Bauer down to Warrior just didn’t feel perfect on my arm. I noticed a relatively similar pattern with some of the back leg designs on shin pads and all over the shoulder pads each company has out currently. Warrior, however, had some nice anatomic features on their protective line which I took as a major benefit when perusing their Dynasty protective line.

Warrior’s Axysym technology is something that has been integrated throughout their equipment for 2013. From sticks to goaltender chest pads, it is a fit system designed to maximize mobility without sacrificing protection. The primary areas affected by the Axysym design on the protective line is the forearm and bicep wrap (elbow pad), the shin and calve area (shin pad) and the chest (shoulder pad).

The way Warrior worked the Axysym into each piece of equipment managed to focus the fit of the equipment on the portion of the body that needed the most freedom of movement. In addition, Warrior’s Sling Wrap (elbow pad and shin pads) and 2-Timer straps allow for a snug, fully adjustable fit for the wearer.

Specifically with the Sling Wrap, the strap focuses on the one area which can use the most additional support. The Sling Wrap will keep you from doing the raised arm elbow pad pull 200 times per game. Add in the 2-Timer strapping which appear to be a more heavy duty Velcro strap system designed to fit you well and not move during the course of a game.

The shin pads look particularly snug as the Sling Wrap strap ends just below the knee on the front but actually comes up and around the calve at a 45-degree angle (as opposed to just wrapping straight around). In addition the primary strap keeps the protective calf wrap fully secured.

Perhaps the single most impressive feature on Warrior’s protective line is the 2-Way Smart Cap system. The knee and shin areas, elbow and shoulder caps are all built with a multi-layer cap that includes compressed plastic along with HD foam as well. The shoulder and elbow caps actually have a four-layer build that includes the 2-Way foam cap (meets NHL standards) along with the compressed plastic and HD foam. The shin pad is more of a traditional build with the hard plastic shell and HD foam over the comfort liner.

All of the Warrior protective gear uses the yellow War-Tech liner system with Polygiene bacteria and odor fighter built in. This is an impressive line from top to bottom that builds nicely on the reputation Warrior already carries in their stick and glove construction.

When the time finally comes to ditch my current gear, the Dynasty line will be one of the first sets that I strap on in the store.

Industry Q&A: Keith Perera – Warrior Hockey

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.

Great Skate:  Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.

Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey.  He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card!  I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it.  My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction.  PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market.  Making better products to make players better is our main objective.

 

GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?

 

KP: I have a very unique hockey background.  I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed.  I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey.  I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college.  Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie.  It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way.  Our industry is a great one.

GS: Lefty or righty?

KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.

GS: Pattern?

KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby.  When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks :)

GS: Flex?

KP: 85

GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?

KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel.  But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).

GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.

KP: I do work with Pros sometimes.  Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks.  Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season.  Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.

GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?

KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates.  Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class.  Toughest…no comment.

GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?

KP: Great question.  The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”.  We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history.  After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd.  In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer.  Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance.  Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks.  I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.

GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?

KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons:  The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league.  I love the feel of the True1 construction.  I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate.  In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing.  Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!

GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?

KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most.  It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player.  True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be.  We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need.  Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented.  The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar.  Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.

GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?

KP: The Covert has been a joy.  The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5.  The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me.  I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release.  It’s really a great time at Warrior.

GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?

KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later).  Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.

GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?

KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac.  He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force.  We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past.  Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example).  We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.

GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?

KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior.  We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty.  We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that.  Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”.  He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.

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 helmets boom in popularity

CCM Hockey Helmets

This shot of the Maple Leafs’ bench shows all but three players wearing a CCM model helmet

Laying claim to the most popular piece of equipment in the NHL is no easy feat. With players using custom models – and even some prototypes – determining the most widely used piece of equipment might not be the easiest task.

However, just look up and down any NHL bench and you’ll see one obvious trend; more players in the world’s best league are using CCM helmets. In fact, I reached out to CCM on Twitter and found out the V08 model is the one that has become the most popular helmet in the NHL

The CCM shell design meets all the requirements that players look for. It has a narrow, low-profile look with plenty of ventilation and an overall design that passes the ever important mirror test. All of CCM’s helmets have a similar shell design, but only the VECT and V08 models use the same ventilation layout and on-the-fly adjustment tabs.

In fact, CCM’s helmets sport 19 total vents in various areas of the helmets to ensure maximum airflow for the wearer. The vent layout on the front of the helmet has a somewhat futuristic look to it that adds some attitude to the look of the shell.

What might be interesting to hear is the fact that the V08 has more popularity amongst professionals than the VECT model. However, the liner foam in the V08 is made up of dual-density VN foam that has long been wildly popular at the pro ranks. This type of liner is used by all manufacturers and although it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the liners used in each company’s top helmet model, it is extremely comfortable despite some of the technical shortcomings

CCM’s VECT model uses EPP foam with memory foam padding at strategic points in the liner. This combination provides excellent protection and actually offers some improvements over the traditional VN foam liner in the V08 model (CCM’s V06 model also uses the EPP and memory foam combo). When it comes down to choosing one model over the other the determination comes down to comfort.

What shouldn’t be ignored are the safety and comfort of the EPP and memory foam found on the VECT model. As someone who has used helmets that utilize both a traditional VN foam liner and the more advanced EPP with memory foam pads, I’m not sure if there is a clear favorite.

Amongst the numerous helmets I’ve donned are a Bauer 4500 and 5100 (current) along with a RBK 8K which, at the time, was their top model.

The 8K had the EPP and memory foam combo and was extremely comfortable to wear. The specific design of that helmet allowed for a lot of airflow and the memory foam pads were strategically positioned for maximum comfort. Much like my old 8K, I’m certain that the VECT liner construction will offer the same comfort if you should choose to make it your next purchase.

The main issue many have is that the EPP and memory foam combination doesn’t always feel as comfortable for all wearers. That is the beauty of the VN foam liner. It is a generic liner that cushions your head no matter what comfort level you’re seeking. While the foam doesn’t have the same properties as memory foam, the sweat and heat produced during play will help to break in the foam and it will end up molding to your head over time.

I’d have to say that if tasked with choosing a new helmet that a model with VN foam would be what I’d purchase. However, that shouldn’t direct you or anyone else from the protective qualities that a model, like the VECT, with EPP foam has. Ultimately it is all about finding the delicate balance between comfort and

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.

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

If you were one of many hockey fans across North America glued to a TV set or phone waiting for trades
to break, today might have dragged. A flurry of action over the past five days dried up a significant
amount of the presumed trade targets entering the deadline. However, a few GMs managed to not
disappoint.

A handful of minor trades in the early afternoon did little to set the market before Tampa Bay sent Cory
Conacher and a draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. While this wouldn’t end up as one of
the day’s biggest trades it was significant enough to get the ball rolling.

The flurry of trades that came down prior to the 3:00 deadline were punctuated by deals that saw
established scorers Marian Gaborik and Jason Pominville moved along with a list of role and depth
acquisitions. What was most surprising was seeing the surging Columbus Blue Jackets come away as the
day’s most active team.

Columbus made four separate moves that included the day’s biggest blockbuster in which they acquired
sniper Marian Gaborik. The Jackets sent a handful of pieces to the Rangers in exchange for Gaborik in a
move that gives them a lethal weapon on the wing less than a year removed from trading Rick Nash to
the Rangers.

Columbus’ deal is the most earth shattering for a few reasons. First, Gaborik had been mentioned here
and there in rumors but wasn’t truly expected to move, especially compared to a player like Ryane
Clowe (who also ended up in New York). The second reason this is so surprising is that the Blue Jackets
entered the year with a new makeup after trading Nash and with every expectation to continue their
rebuild, their recent success turned them to a buyer and they went out and bought one of the most
expensive options on the market.

What shouldn’t be ignored with this deal is what the Rangers got in return. After not re-signing Brandon
Prust and trading two key depth forwards to Columbus in the Nash deal (Dubinsky and Anisimov) the
Blueshirts managed to gain a skilled depth forward (Derick Brassard) and a gritty winger (Derek Dorsett)
to go along with a late draft pick and a highly touted defensive prospect (John Moore). Add those three
to Clowe and the Rangers managed to get a little tougher despite losing a major offensive weapon.
While they gave up the most talent, they may not have lost the trade.

The next biggest deal of the day came out of Minnesota, where the Wild brought in a skilled scoring
winger in Jason Pominville. A solid two-way player, Pominville is effective in all situations (including the
PK) and is signed through next season at a relatively affordable $5.3M cap hit. Going back to Buffalo was
a plethora of pieces that includes two draft picks and two prospects.

The Wild get a lot more skill for their top six and Pominville should offer plenty of support to at roster
that already boasts Parise, Heatley, Koivu and PM Bouchard. The added bonus that Pominville doesn’t
hit free agency until next summer means that they can hopefully stretch this talent beyond this year’s

playoff push. Despite mortgaging quite a bit of talent, this was a strong move for the Wild as they look
to win now.

Buffalo is going all-in with their rebuilding mode, acquiring Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett with
Minnesota’s first round pick this year and a second round pick next year. The picks will be extremely
valuable for Darcy Regier as he holds 11 total picks in the first two rounds of the 2013, 2014 and 2015
drafts combined. Whether or not he uses those picks remains to be seen, but that is plenty of currency
for a GM who will most certainly be looking to wheel and deal in the offseason.

One interesting trade was the Bishop for Conacher deal. The Lightning spent a few assets to acquire
Anders Lindback over the summer before realizing that he may not be the answer long-term. All the
while, they went and gave the Senators an even better return for Bishop than what Ottawa paid for
him at least year’s deadline. While Steve Yzerman did good work to address his troubled goaltending
situation, he gave up quite a bit for two different pieces at the same position.

Meanwhile, Bryan Murray is probably laughing his way to the bank as he effectively traded a second
round pick for Cory Conacher and an additional fourth round pick. Conacher is going to have an impact
on the Senators roster for the foreseeable future (unless he regresses from this hot rookie year) all while
not costing Murray much of anything – as he still has Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to protect the
net.

The majority of the major moves at this deadline came in the days prior to April 3. The acquistions of
Iginla, Morrow and Murray makes the Penguins the immediate winners based on their return and the
fact that they sacrificed very little to acquire those three players. Of course, if the Pens don’t hoist the
Cup, they won’t be the long-term winners of this deadline.

Still, Ray Shero put his team in the best position to succeed by acquiring the three players he did. While
his top defensive prospect and a first round pick went out the door, not all that much went along with it.
Credit is due to Shero for the way he maneuvered prior to the deadline and for the roster the Penguins
will enter the playoffs with.

Overall I’d have to say the Penguins come away as the big winner while the Rangers (surprised?) aren’t
far behind. If New York can get Clowe re-signed with the money they saved from Gaborik they will have
a bevvy of talented players to fill out the lines below the Nash-Richards power line.

I’m not sure if I can count the Bruins as winners for snagging Jaromir Jagr, but 68 should give Boston
a nice boost entering the playoffs. That type of savvy veteran can’t be overlooked on a team that is
already so incredibly talented.

If there are any losers at this deadline I’d be so bold to say that it is the Blues. While St. Louis did a great
job bringing in two solid veteran defensemen, they didn’t address their questionable goaltending (even
though they only allow 20 shots per game). While Leopold and Bouwmeester are great talents, the Blues
already boasted an impressive defensive corps. I wonder if these two trades will be enough to vault the
Blues into a playoff spot.

The one thing that does need to be remembered with the deadline is that you can’t truly declare a
winner until the Stanley Cup has been raised. In addition, many of these trades full value won’t be
realized until the draft picks have been used. When you take that into account, some of these moves
won’t have full value for at least two years. However, the Kings made some waves last year and went on
to win the Cup, with that in mind be sure to look back at what moves this year’s Cup winner made at the
deadline.

Goalie Equipment Topic

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

With some interesting topics being discussed at the GM meeting (coach’s challenge) there have also been a number of no brainer topics floated by the league’s general managers. One in particular, goalie equipment, is something they should seriously consider.

Based on reports, adjusting the size of goaltending equipment appears to be the second most likely topic to move forward beyond cocktail napkins and off-hand conversations. Compared to the debate over grandfathering visors, the rules behind adjusting goalie equipment would be more difficult to fight.

Although there isn’t much room for sweeping change, I think adjustments to what goaltenders can wear could be made. More importantly, these changes can be made without sacrificing the safety of those in net.

After the last lockout, goaltender’s pads were reduced from 12 to 11 inches in length to go along with restrictions to the size of the glove and blocker. Additional restrictions cover internal portions of the pads (knee and calf wings) along with chest protectors. One recent development with chest protectors addressed the build of certain units. The rule states that the chest guard must be anatomically proportional to the goaltender wearing it.

Anatomical restrictions are where I think the league has some room to work when considering new rules to enact.

As it stands now, the league has a rule that stipulates a Limiting Distance Size for each goaltender based on specific measurements that determine the size of goal pads. This requirement ultimately determines the specific height that determines what size pad a goaltender can wear. This basically prevents goaltenders from wearing the largest pad manufactured to maximize blocking area.

While you can’t get much more anatomically correct than that, the rule doesn’t necessarily prevent goaltenders from adding length to the top of their pads. Ironically that is the specific area Kay Whitmore said they could target.

Not all humans are made equal. One 6’1” individual may be top tall and have shorter legs than another person of the same height. Because of this, different goalies wear different sized pads. For example, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’ and 6’1” and I fit quite well into a 36 inch pad.

Specifically, the pads I wear now are 36+2 – an extra two inches on the standard thigh rise – and they fit quite well. However, that actually makes my pad 38 inches in total. If I tried to wear a traditional 38 inch pad I would swim in it. However, the advent of the thigh rise extension allows my pad to fit me perfectly while still offering the coverage of a longer piece of equipment.

Without getting into the tangled history of goal pad design, the thigh rise extension began picking up steam in the professional and retail world about seven or eight years ago. Adding length to the thigh rise of a pad adds additional five-hole coverage without affecting the overall performance of the goaltender. If the NHL were to limit the size of a goaltender’s thigh rise, I think you would see a number of goalies with significantly different equipment next season.

A couple of goalies who immediately come to mind are Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury. Both are phenomenal goaltenders who also happen to use a fairly significant thigh rise on their pads. While the rise they use on their respective Bauer and Reebok pads wouldn’t completely disappear, it could be limited by a new rule. This wouldn’t affect how their pads fit in anyway, it would only alter the amount of net the pads cover when each goaltender is in the butterfly.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either would see their play altered by this change, but if they were reliant on the coverage provided by the thigh rise on their pad, there could be a slight adjustment period.

Luckily this isn’t a change that will be felt by amateurs playing travel or in local adult leagues. Unlike the sweeping change to 11 inch wide pads, there will be little change (if any) to the pads you will be purchasing. Retail models of pads would never be affected by such a rule (even if it is reflected in lower levels) which means that the only difference you will see is from the masked men you watch each night in the NHL.

What needs to be determined is if this will actually result in any sort of change in goals scored. I doubt there will end up being any sort of significant change. There will be a few more pucks that find a way through the five hole, but ultimately you’re still talking about the exact same butterfly goalie getting his pads on the ice.

Ultimately I very much doubt that this change would bring about a change in goal scoring, which would be the prime motivation for enacting such a rule. However, when you talk about providing goalies with even a little less room to stop the puck, some change could come about.

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.

Show your style off the ice

Over the past few years equipment manufacturers have begun to introduce a growing line of performance and casual apparel for hockey players and fans to sport whether they’re at or away from the rink.

This growing line of apparel has allowed hockey players to wear a banner, so to speak, that identifies them as the unique and talented athletes that they are. Companies like Gongshow Gear and Sauce Hockey have carved a niche in the lifestyle side of things whereas equipment companies like Bauer, CCM, Easton and Reebok have their own unique line of apparel for fans and players to choose from.

This apparel covers the gamut of style and performance categories as each company has their own base layer collections to be worn during games and practice along with casual wear for after the game or away from the rink.

Each manufacturer has their own approach for these lines that provides players the choice to go with a more traditional look or maybe something a little more modern.

Bauer’s bread and butter comes with their vintage collection that highlights a number of interesting throwback designs. Where they really hit a homerun, however is with their headwear. Bauer has partnered with New Era as their headwear manufacturer and it has yielded a large collection of different hats that eclipses all other manufacturers. My personal favorite is the 39Thirty mesh back cap with the simple Bauer script on the front. It is a perfect hat for everyday and locker room use and comes in a number of different colors (eight to be exact). There are well over a dozen cap styles from New Era and Bauer to choose from.

Warrior has a slightly different approach than the other companies. Their apparel line is a bit closer to the graphic tee look that has become quite popular. They also offer other items such as shorts which isn’t something you can find with many other companies.

Reebok’s line is far less creative than that of Bauer or ever Warrior, but there are still some solid choices for the locker room based on the hats they make. In addition, their shower sandals have been mainstays in many locker rooms for quite some time. The same can be said about CCM’s new line of headwear. While the company doesn’t offer much along the lines of shirts, they have plenty of hats to choose from.

Gongshow, which is a new addition at Great Skate, has a wide variety of unique lifestyle hats, t-shirts and sweats. Gongshow’s apparel does target a specific style when compared to some of the other apparel options out there. However, there is nothing that will say “I’m a hockey player” the way that a Gongshow hat or shirt will. The Gongshow Benchwarmer is a great looking hat that is perfect for the backyard rink or on the way to a game. One cool new product from Gongshow are team designed slippers. They’re made out of hockey sock material and match your favorite team’s sock pattern as well. These are incredibly unique and are equally comfortable.

Great Skate carries each manufacturers collection of off-ice apparel and the wide variety can be found at our store or online. Keep that in mind the next time you’re looking for a hat or shirt to show off your hockey pride.

Warrior breaking tradition with goal line

WarriorWarrior’s introduction to the hockey world has been far from ordinary. After building a strong niche with their stick and glove designs; the company recently ventured into the realm of goal equipment. Warrior pulled pad guru Pete Smith to head the design group building their goal equipment.

This isn’t a new strategy for Warrior, as they also pulled experts from other companies such and Innovative and MIA for their stick and glove departments in the past. For goaltending the company has really begun to push the envelope with their new line of chest protectors.

The new Ritual line has unveiled a number of new features that will easily set their equipment apart from traditional powers. For 2013, the Ritual Pro will have all of the new bells and whistles that include a few additions that haven’t been considered in chest pad design.

The most obvious of these changes is the Shockshield feature on the arms of the unit. This is a hard plastic cap that is designed to disperse the impact of the puck while increasing protection over the typical soft pad. The Shockshield is designed to float just above the rest of the arm guard to offer additional protection.

While this certainly seems like an interesting addition that will surely increase protection, one worry has to be the chance of rebounds coming off the arms harder than they usually would with a softer design. Even though the number of pucks bound to hit your arms on a game-to-game basis might be low, the difficulty of trapping a puck between your arm and chest could certainly be difficult should the plastic Shockshield kick pucks out.

Warrior also built the Shockshield to function in unison with the Axyflex system that is designed to maintain maximum protection while increasing comfort and flexibility of a goaltender’s arm. Much like a sliding toe bridge allows for your skate to be at a better angle of attack, the Axyflex has a similar feature on the outside of the elbow that slides in and out with the arm guard as you bend your elbow. Quite literally, the Axyflex is a mechanical hinge that will increase flexibility at what has traditionally been an awkward and bulky area of a chest protector.

Introducing the Axyflex and Shockshield designs are two very interesting steps for Warrior to take simply because they are truly groundbreaking additions. While the Ritual Pro has many features found with other manufacturers units, these two additions set the equipment apart for a very good reason.

The rest of the build is fairly traditional. The Ritual has more of a tapered fit as opposed to a bulky, boxy fit that should maximize mobility for the wearer. This is a design feature that is reflected throughout the line with the Ritual senior, intermediate and junior models.

The remainder of the line reflects many of the major design features seen on the pro model just without the two new innovations – Shockshield and Axyflex. This means that the rest of the line is a far more traditional looking and feeling chest protector that maintains the protective and mobility that Warrior has built in the past and has improved upon this year.

One feature that the entire line does have is the Adjustable Chest Height system. This is nothing more than a Velcro strapping system that will tighten or loosen the fit of the chest pad depending on how high a goaltender wishes to wear the unit. What is so interesting about this is that it eliminates the annoying nylon straps adjusted with various plastic pulleys that are the norm on nearly every other chest protector ever manufactured. The Ritual’s system makes adjustments incredibly quick, easy and comfortable as there is little guess work as to where the most comfortable setting will be found.

Warrior’s new Ritual chest protector line will be hitting stores soon and the impressive new designs will be available to the public before you know it. For those considering a new chest pad purchase this year, be sure to consult with a Great Skate associate once the Ritual is in stores.