The state of stick feel today
Since no two players are exactly alike mentally or physically, no stick will feel the same for every single player. A stick could be marketed as a “shooter’s stick” with a super-stiff blade and an engineered kickpoint designed to maximize a particular type of shot. Yet, when you get it out on the ice, you could be firing muffins instead of rockets. Another could be marketed as a “playmaker’s stick” with a more “dampened” blade and an “adaptive” flex profile, but the puck might feel totally dead with that stick in your hands. If players react to similar features in different ways depending on their body type, shooting mechanics, and personal preferences (among other factors), why do manufacturers market a certain stick for a certain type of player?
Watch: Evgeni Malkin tries out a BASE stick during a fitting session
Unfortunately for players, the relationship between hockey equipment manufacturers and retailers is forcing manufacturers to simplify their stick offerings and reduce the number of different products that a retailer has to stock and inventory. Whereas hockey players are becoming more knowledgeable and discerning, and thus expect a higher level of choice and customization, manufacturers are trying to pigeonhole players into a few neat categories which make sales simpler and more lucrative. That’s why manufacturers usually offer a limited number of blade patterns (think P92, P88, and P28 clones) and flexes (usually 75, 85, and 95 in Senior). Even getting a non-grip stick is more difficult these days, as the popularity of grip coatings has driven some manufacturers to ditch the non-grip option altogether to simplify production and sales. The result? Players have less choice in stick feel than ever before.
Customizing your feel – Blade Flex!
Not to worry, because BASE Hockey is the only manufacturer that is actively bucking this trend by giving players more and more choices. BASE is always looking to push the boundaries of player choice by introducing new features to its customizable sticks. Now, with the introduction of the new Blade Flex feature, players can independently tune their blade and shaft flexes to achieve the feel and performance they need.
Watch: BASE Hockey’s new Blade Flex feature in action!
Each of BASE’s 4 sticks – the Nasty R, Nasty, SuperNatural, and Savoy Special – is now available with one of three blade stiffness options: Extra Stiff (XS), Stiff (S), and Regular (R). Unlike other manufacturers, BASE no longer ties blade construction to shaft construction. Want a low-kick stick with a soft, dampened blade to maximize your toe shooting and pass reception? How about a mid-kick stick with a stiff, crisp blade to get livelier feedback when puckhandling? No problem. That choice is now literally in your hands.
The art (and science) of designing a good-feeling stick
Hockey stick design is a precarious balancing act. The blade needs to be durable and stiff enough to smash into the ice and propel a puck at over 100MPH, yet still be sensitive enough to vibrations to allow a player to tell where the puck is on the blade without looking down. The release needs to be quick and explosive, but it can’t be harsh. Achieving the ideal balance of these attributes can only come with time and experience.
BASE’s manufacturing formula is the result of over 20 years of innovation, player feedback, and fine-tuning, from the first Innovative composite shafts and blades to the four custom BASE sticks and three blade flexes available today. Every detail of BASE’s sticks has been painstakingly engineered to provide the best feel for a wide variety of players through customization and technology. For example, the resin chemistry of BASE’s variable flex blades is the result of experimentation with different resin modifiers, such as particles of rubber, added to the resin mix which binds the carbon fibers together. Adding modifiers alters the properties of the blade, affecting stiffness and vibration dampening. Changing the carbon fiber stiffness or content or changes the vibration, flex, and torque properties of the blade, all of which affect the feel of the stick in puckhandling, passing, and shooting. This is why BASE’s Extra Stiff blades use a visibly different 12K carbon weave than the Stiff or Regular blades, which use a more flexible 3K weave.
Why does feel matter?
The most obvious impact of feel on the game of hockey is a psychological one. Indeed, hockey players are notorious for their particular preferences and superstitions, such as taping their knob a certain way every time. These preferences, although they might not create any meaningful measurable differences in players’ equipment, affects their confidence and comfort level on the ice, which in turn affects their performance. That explains why some NHL pros are reluctant to use a manufacturer’s latest product, even if it has been proven scientifically superior, and instead prefer to use the same old equipment dressed as the latest and greatest. The only way to satisfy players’ subjective preferences in feel is to give them more choice in the configuration of their equipment, which is what BASE’s blade flex option provides.
Watch: Daniel Briere talks about his ultra-soft blade
However, feel can also be an important indicator of actual, measurable differences in the performance that players get out of their equipment. Blade flex, for example, can drastically affect the results that a player obtains depending on his or her shooting mechanics. For example, a player that shoots with a vertical swing path and loads the toe of his stick could greatly benefit from a blade that flexes and torques more, such as BASE’s Stiff (S) blade. This would help the stick work with, rather than against, the player’s natural shooting motion, thereby providing better consistency and power. Also, a player who experiences the sensation of “losing a pass” off her blade could need a blade that better absorbs the energy of an incoming pass, such as the Regular (R) blade. A strong bantam-aged player who finds that Junior sticks are too flimsy for him might need to switch to an Extra Stiff (XS) blade to ensure that the blade stays closed while shooting. These changes affect the subjective feel of the stick, but also produce measurable performance differences on the ice. That’s why BASE fitters use tools like high-speed cameras and radar guns to measure shaft deflection, blade deflection, and shot velocity in order to help players optimize their stick to their shooting mechanics.
Feel the difference for yourself!
Despite the all the science behind blade flex and stick feel, it’s hard to describe the effect they have on players’ performance on the ice. Realistically, the only way to know how a stick feels is to try it yourself! Fortunately, BASE has you covered. There are several options to find out which BASE stick setup works best for you. If there is a fitting center near you, drop in for a fitting and try out all of BASE’s customization options, including blade flexes, shaft flexes, blade curves, and shaft constructions. Otherwise, you can order a single BASE tapered shaft with multiple replacement blades to try out different patterns and blade flexes without the cost of buying multiple one-piece sticks. Once you find the setup with your perfect feel, you can rest easy knowing that it will always be available to order factory-direct, either as one-piece sticks or tapered shafts and replacement blades.