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I'm usually a cheap b*stard (deep pockets & alligator arms) but last spring I broke down and bought a high-end one piece composite stick. The puck zips off that thing like I'm twenty years younger when I shoot, which is great, but it also bounces off the blade like I'm twenty years older when I'm catching a pass. This makes me wonder what kind of impact it might be having on our players skill development, especially when I see kids leaving their sticks WAY too long because they will "grow into it." I know they like seeing those shots fly when they have all the time in the world (stick & pucks, free time), but they don't see the opportunities they miss because of lost passes and pucks at their feet they can't retrieve.

The stick length I can & do take care of, but what about the passing? Will players develop better hands eventually using these things, or will it be a limiting factor only for a few? Has anyone talked to parents about these issues? I bet some would really like to hear that they might not need to be buying $180 sticks. What are your thoughts?

Thanks,
Dave

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Ah Dave... you had to get me going on this, didn't you!

I too am a cheap ba$tard! I use wood sticks. I buy them for myself (at Canadian Tire for under $30 each... or I go to Sport Chek where a friend works, so I can get the same Sherwood 5030 for $18 with staff discount!) Companies give me composite sticks, I politely accept as I then have a supply of gifts - this helps minimize my Christmas shopping! (Like I said, I am cheap!)

I have used wood (the red Titan TPM 3020's were my absolute favourite! When I played in Finland, I went to the stick factory and brought back a dozen with me!); then I tried aluminum shafts with wood blades coming up in junior, but switched back to wood. The aluminum sticks were too stiff and vibrated like Hell when I did a slapshot or received a hard pass. They also broke in half quite regularly. Hmmm... kind of like today's composites?! How many times do we see them break during NHL games? LOTS! And it isn't always from the shooting - a slash can shatter them. Anecdotally, I don't think the wood sticks seemed to break as often from incidental contact.

I tried composite sticks again recently (last year) for two months to be fair to the process (didn't allow myself to use my Sherwood), try the new technology, etc. to give them an honest chance. I didn't think I could shoot that much harder but I couldn't couldn't handle the puck as well; nor could I pass and receive as well. I tried different flexes, brands, etc. but never found that same 'feel' as I do with wood. It was a happy day when I parked the composite and dusted off the Sherwood!

When I did some development work for the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association in the early 2000's, I spoke with Pat Conacher, who was an A/C with the Coyotes at the time. Patty played in the league and knows his stuff. In his estimation, he felt that each NHL team had 1-2 players AT MOST who benefited from composite sticks. They were pure "shooters" of the highest order (I.E. goal scorers) - BUT they also had unreal hands, so they could pass and receive without any apparent negative consequences. The rest of the players were fooling themselves... falling into the marketing machine trap and / or seduced by sponsorship $.

Yes, composites can help some people to shoot slightly harder. BUT 99% of ALL NHL PLAYERS CANNOT PROPERLY GIVE AND RECEIVE THE PUCK properly or as well as they could with wood. They suffer a loss in 'touch' due to the stiffness of the material. Today I watched the Calgary Flames practice, then the Washington Capitals, then the Calgary Hitmen. I was amazed at how badly the players beat the puck up. It bounces off the blade moreso than wood. The technique kids use today is to let the puck smack the stick and bounce ahead and then they skate into it / collect it. When I played, it was to provide a target such that you could absorb / cushion the puck.

Or to put it another way, 99% of all NHL players would benefit more by using a wood stick. Players give and receive way more passes in a game / practice contrasted to the number of shots they take (check the stats)... so if I am not an elite NHL'er (top 1%), it would be more helpful to me to use wood. Better to be able to give and receive a pass to put me into a scoring area (even if I can't shoot as hard... but I am more accurate)... then have it bounce off my stick and never even get a chance to shoot!

So why do our junior, college and minor hockey players use them? Because the public blindly follows whatever the 'experts' say and what their favourite player uses / endorses. At junior, the stick suppliers dictate which models they will supply based on the league deals. Also, the marketing info put out makes it seem like if you AREN'T using them, you are giving up some degree of advantage to those that do. Many advertisers use fear as part of their ad campaign if you think about it... insurance companies, tire companies, etc.

I believe it's bunk. Just because some talking head says it's true, doesn't mean it is.

Red Deer College did a study with their men's and women's hockey team in the early 2000's and allegedly found that the composite sticks might have made for a very slight increase in velocity (1-2%) in some of the guys, but they didn't help the women (the sticks didn't have enough flex for the women.) In fact, if memory serves me correctly, the women actually shot slower with composite. And, the accuracy was off in both genders by a significant amount; which means some people can shoot the puck harder, but they can't control the placement. Which means you can't pick the corner / spot as well, which means you don't score... you might even miss the net more often, thus less secondary scoring chances generated! This lack of control showed up in the passing and receiving results too... players (both genders) were less accurate in passing; plus they couldn't control the puck as well when receiving. So now you can't even advance the puck into a scoring chance... thanks for that, composite stick manufacturers!

I am a professional coach who is in the skill development business. In my line of work, I am on the ice every day and I make a lot of passes. I pass far more than I shoot; and when I do, it isn't to score - it's to dump a puck in, or to create rebounds, or to warm up a goalie. I usually get THREE+ YEARS out of ONE WOOD STICK - so long as I take care of the tape and wax it regularly. I don't play hockey anymore, so I basically need a twig to prop me up on the ice and to gather pucks. In my professional opinion, parents (and beer league players) are throwing their money away to 'keep up with the Joneses!' My own kids will never have them unless (1) they waste their own money on them; (2) nobody makes wood sticks any more. Unfortunately, it looks like (2) is starting to become a reality.

I encourage everyone I work with to only buy wood sticks - especially minor hockey players.


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
grumpy
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2063
Location: Calgary AB Canada
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Dean,

Glad to hear it's not just me that can't catch passes with the new sticks. Can you still get TPM 3020's or something similar? I remember playing street hockey with them and still being able to keep them as back-ups the following year. They were incredible. They never broke, just got a little "whippier" over time. I seem to remember some guy named Gretzky doing a few things with one too before aluminum came around.

Here's an older but interesting article on how this dilemma affects college teams:
http://www.uscho.com/2006/12/28/a-high-price-to-pay/

So how do we convince parents not to throw their money away? Most of my players parents have never played the game and simply listen to their kids. I'm shocked when I see how much they fork out for these sticks (and plastic skates.)

Thanks again for the good discussions...

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I play 4 times a week and use a one piece that is a lower end model a little heavier at the bottom. I broke my good one piece a few weeks ago while taking a snap shot. I think that happened because it got hacked pretty hard once the game before and probably was weakened. I find that sticking on the rubber blade pads instead of tape dampens the bounciness of the blade a little.

To me the wooden stick became much too unpredictable. I used to be able to get 6 Sherwood pmp sticks and they would feel the same. Now each stick has too much of a different feel and that is a big reason I like the one piece. The same make and model feels the same.

I wish I could get the http://www.isacsport.com model from Sweden. I was shown cut outs of it and some other models and the Swedish one is reinforced on the edges and a little thinner on the sides. The blade is also reinforced. The cutout of the most popular brand shows a hollow stick and the expensive model has some foam rubber in it to deaden the puck a little. It costs the manufacturer about $18 to make a top end one piece (which is really a two piece with the connection covered)

The NHL son of one of my friends took him and his other son to the plant in Mexico where they make the $300 sticks. The workers get paid something like $21 a week.

My concern is that the stick manufacturers are pricing many families out of hockey. It is hard for a kid to show up with a wooden stick when his teammates all have the one piece. I think Acoin was the last NHLer still using a wood stick and now he has gone one piece. So I think the one piece is here to stay but if the prices don't drop for the top models there won't be enough kid's still left in the game for the stick companies to make over $300 for the top end and at least 500% for the lower end models.

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Thanks Coachy,

I'm glad to hear there's some middle ground with the composite sticks. I did pick up the cheapest ($65) one available here a while back, and I found that it was bottom heavy and there was less feel than with a wood stick. I haven't tried any mid-range one piece composites, but I did use composite shafts for a while before they started making them tapered. They had great feel and there was the option of a wood blade or a composite blade depending upon your preference. It was a relatively affordable situation but they are pretty hard to come by these days. Plus, the blades are up to $65 a piece.

It really is unfortunate that the stick companies are taking it to the players / families. A 10-12 year old's stick should not cost $130. I just wish the kids knew that the equipment doesn't make the player. If the parents knew more they might be able to help put the brakes on this trend.

Dave

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DMan,

Excellent article - thanks for sharing. I have not seen it before, but I will keep a copy to help me in my crusade to equip kids (and educate parents) with wooden sticks!

Titan is no more. Sadly, my mom took the last of my sticks several years ago and made them into various hockey furniture. Kinda cool; but my last remaining TPM 3020 circa 1984 (and a white 2020) gave their blades to become a bench. Too bad because I bet that even if the 3020 was 26 years old, it would have still been a gem!!!


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
sad
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2063
Location: Calgary AB Canada
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Went out today and purchased a $30 Easton wood beauty.....Zetterberg pattern, nice feel to it.....going to try converting a kid who struggles with the puck and doesn't have a lot of $....will keep you posted.

Dave

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That's my man! Convert him Dave!


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
cheerful
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2063
Location: Calgary AB Canada
8 posts :: Page 1 of 1