For this review we enlisted the help of Angelo Maggio from Magic Hockey for his feedback. With over 34 years of experience Angelo runs a successful goal school based out of Langley, BC and knows Bauer goal gear as good as anybody in the biz.
With the release of the Reactor 9000 series, Bauer is seeking to build off of the success stories that they experienced with the Reactor 6000 series.
While the Reactor 9000 leg pad is still the softer of Bauer’s two pads (the other being the Supreme Total One NXG), it's not quite as soft as last year's 6000 leg pad.
The closest comparison that can be made is between two of the 9000's closest competitors. The Reactor 6000 pad could be compared to a Vaughn Velocity 2000 because it was very soft and supple, whereas the 9000 more closely represents something like a CCM. It has gone from a flexible pad meant to control rebounds, into a more squared off pad designed to excel in seal and sliding performance.
One of the biggest improvements Angelo relayed during on ice testing is that the 9000 leg pad is squared off better than the 6000. Goalies trading up from the Reactor 6000 or even from Vaughn Velocity pads will notice the squarer thigh rise but this should be an easy (and beneficial) transition.
Overall, the Reactor 9000 can be summed up as a more sturdy pad. Rebounds are now more lively and predictable compared to the Reactor 6000 of year's past.
And on the warm and fuzzy front, Bauer continues to make their pro series gear in Canada at the JRZ factory to ensure quality and consistency.
The internal construction change that allows a more squared off pad with better seal is a new pro core construction. It uses stiffer HD foams in place of the looser and softer SD foams that the 6000 used. This stiffer (yet still soft construction) provides a much improved slide, getting you to your destination more efficiently.
The pro core construction in conjunction with a much wider and flatter sliding surface also makes the pad much more balanced and alleviates some of the minor rotational issues some goalies experienced with the 6000 pad.
Instead of focusing on going for the lightest weight pad, Bauer has pushed towards excellent seal and coverage characteristics.
One of the first things we noticed when we first saw the pad is that the toe has been squared off. This is something that we thought might catch on ice providing blowouts but it didn't. Instead you just get the benefit of more coverage and better seal. This may have been aided by the new offset toe bridge as well but it seems to be more of function of design. Not too shabby.
The leg to pad integration has been improved. The leg channel is loose but it contours to the leg nicely, feeling snug while not being sloppy, and allowing the pad to rotate really well.
And like most pro level leg pads these days, strap positioning can be customized. Angelo and our other on ice testers still preferred the standard strapping set up but it's always nice to have the option to make adjustments if necessary.
Bauer has included an improved version of the Reactor knee protector, which was previously only sold separately. Including this knee pad means that you no longer have to worry about finding a separate knee pad that is simultaneously comfortable, protective and small enough to fit in the knee lock of your pad. This also increases the overall connection that you have with the leg channel, which in turn increases control.
Another big feature that Bauer threw into the knee cradle and calf wrap is their new Ax Suede Quattro material, which is very close to a traditional supple suede. This new material has three main benefits.
First and foremost, having a supple and grippy material in the leg channel increases the feel that goalies have to the pad, especially in the knee cradle.
Secondly, Ax Suede Quattro is a material that dries out quickly, doesn't stink up easily and is extremely durable. It gives all of the advantages of cream nash leather, without the downsides. I'm not sure what the science is behind the technology but it's a very cool material and nice upgrade.
Throughout the rest of the calf wrap and back of the pad Bauer has left it quite simple. It has just two calf straps and a versatile calf Velcro that has two separate attachment points. By going to the attachment inside of the calf wrap goalies can create a very tight fitting traditional feel. Conversely however, goalies can take advantage of the outer attachment point if they want a pad with more of a tendency to rotate around the leg.
This simplistic design that still features the freedom of choice shows how Bauer has taken the time to listen to the goalie community, and attempt to make everyone happy.
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