Although sticks are arguably one of the most important pieces of gear for forwards, they are often overlooked by goaltenders.
Have you ever walked into a store and bought a stick based on how well it matches the rest of your gear? Unfortunately, this seems to be the case more often than not, but don’t worry, this blog aims to educate you to make the most out of your future twig purchases.
Construction - Foam core vs Composite
Each option is going to have pros and cons that should be considered based on your priorities (durability, puck handling, feel, etc).
Wood sticks with foam cores are going to give you the best feel and are usually cheaper than their composite counterparts. However, wood will soften up over time making shooting consistency a challenge unless you have the resources to purchase them frequently.
On the other hand, composite is the complete opposite. As long as it doesn’t break, its performance will be consistent through it's life cycle. It will also provide more “pop” on your shots due to the increased energy transfer and flex capabilities. This does come with a downside though: composite sticks will vibrate upon impact creating a less than desirable feel, and they also increase in price as they get lighter and more performance orientated. You can purchase a fiberglass stick for around the price of a foam-core, but it will be heavier and lack some of the shooting capabilities of their higher-end alternatives.
Probably the most important dimension of a goal stick is the paddle height. It should be the first thing you look for when buying a new stick. The right paddle height can make a world of difference as far as five-hole coverage and blocker positioning is concerned.
However, it can be tricky to find the optimal size initially as the paddle height is more based off the goaltender’s stance rather than height.
Let me explain: if a 5’7” goalie likes to stand more upright they’re going to need a taller paddle to accommodate that. While a 6’2” goaltender that gets very low when set might actually need a smaller paddle for ideal positioning than the 5'7" goalie mentioned above.
Because of this variable, it's a bit tricky to know what paddle size is best when customers ask for an opinion on sizing.
What you can do to dial in your size next time you’re on the ice is see where your blocker hand is sitting when your stick is in position—high enough to avoid any double-coverage with the leg pad, and low enough to avoid a large gap in the six-hole.
It may take some trial and error to find which size is ideal; you may even change your size as you tweak your style/stance down the road as well. Be aware that although most sticks size similarly, Bauer’s sizing is currently approximately 1.5”-2” smaller than every other brand. Ie. if you’re using a 26” Reebok and you’re looking to switch to Bauer, you’ll be better off with a 27.5”.
After you’ve figured out your correct paddle size, the next step is to pick your curve or pattern. Although many goaltenders consider the curve to be a less important factor, more skilled puck handlers tend to be more choosy when it comes to their curve.
Different patterns are going to behave very differently when it comes to playing the puck.
A blade that is “open” (more twist in the curve) and starts to bend at the heel (a heel curve) will cause the puck to have much more lift off the blade.
On the other hand, “closed” curves that bend closer toward the toe are going to have trajectories that stay lower to the ice.
These are just two examples of dozens of curves and there is no magic formula to discover what curve is right for your game. It’s going to come down to preference and experimentation.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in the Greater Vancouver area, our stick demo zone is a perfect place to try out some different curves before making your purchase. After you’ve driven yourself to near insanity trying to decide which stick to buy (trust me, I’ve been there) you may still have some work to do to make your twig perform at the highest level.
Although many in the industry recommend leaving it stock to avoid throwing off the sticks balance, reducing its length will benefit puck handlers more. But if you haven’t left the blue ice since you strapped on goal skates you’re going to be better off leaving the stick as is. By chopping down the shaft you’re able to properly square the blade with the ice and bring the puck closer to your feet. Doing so is going to result in much more power and reliability in your passes and clears—I’ve learned that this is the case from pro goaltenders (see Carey Price) and basic physics (I’m a total nerd off the ice). Make sure to take your time with this! You don’t want to be hacking off 2-3” and discovering that you’ve ruined your new $300 stick. Knock off an inch to start, or better yet figure out what length you like on an old back up stick first.
If you’ve stuck with me this far I hope that you’ve gained some insight. There are some smaller details I’ve omitted (like shaving down the paddle for better index finger grip) as I didn’t want to make this a novel.
Feel free to leave your own tweaks in the comment section, as I’m sure many of you have discovered your own over the years. Remember, whether it’s your stick, pads, or anything non-hockey related… EXPERIMENT and figure out what works best for YOU!
- wriiten by Jarid Warren