Sticks are an essential part of hockey, and as such, they have evolved a lot throughout the years. From pure wood to aluminum, players have tried it all. But, chances are that right now, you play with a composite stick.
A composite stick is made of synthetic materials like carbon fiber, making it lighter than wood or aluminum. Composite sticks offer varying degrees of stiffness and weight to suit all styles of play. They can, however, break unexpectedly due to how they’re made. Prices for composite sticks go from $50 for entry-level models to upwards of $300 for elite-level models.
The model you select depends on your style of play, as well as your budget. So, if you want to learn more about composite sticks and understand how to choose them, this is the article for you.
How are composite sticks made?
Most composite hockey sticks are made from carbon fiber, with some using Kevlar, and some manufacturers, like Colt Hockey, dip their products in nano steel composites. A stick is actually made from many carbon fiber sheets and other materials, adhered to one another through heat.
Once enough sheets are stuck together, these are then sent into a stick-molding machine that forms them into the desired size and with the desired curve. Since a composite stick is made up of several sheets, the manufacturers can choose how to place the sheets to have either a more robust or softer configuration.
You might hear some manufacturers say that their sticks are “unidirectional” carbon and other materials such as fiberglass. This means that the fiber sheets are all placed in the same direction, making for a cheaper, heavier stick.
How much do composite hockey sticks weigh?
Given the material and production method, composite hockey sticks are very light. Models used at professional levels, with an 85 flex, weigh an average of 415 g. As the flex number increases, so does the weight.
As technology advances, sticks become lighter. In their latest review of 2020 models, the website Honest Hockey found that Sherwood and CCM sticks are among the lightest in the market. The Sherwood M90 comes in at just 380 g, while the CCM JetSpeed FT3 weighs 375 g. These sticks have a maximum flex of 95.
How long do composite sticks last?
Because they aren’t made of wood and instead use synthetic fibers, factors like humidity won’t affect them. Even with this information, you want to store your sticks in a dry place. Given that they’re made of fibers glued together, extreme heat is a composite stick’s worst enemy.
According to the site Pure Hockey, three main factors define how long your stick will last.
The first and most important is the construction; as we’ve said before, a cheaper stick will have some carbon fiber and fiberglass. Ironically, this combination makes it more resistant.
More expensive sticks like the Supreme series from Bauer use higher quality materials and improved molding processes that remove excess materials and avoid bubbles. This ensures consistency all throughout the shaft and blade. But this process has the objective of making the sticks lighter, not more robust, as we will see later.
But another factor to consider is the player’s position. Players who prefer taking slapshots will see that their stick might last less given the repeated strain than a player who fires mostly wrist shots. Unexpected situations like blocking a shot or a slash can break your stick, even if it was new.
Finally, the level of competition is also a factor. Competitive and professional players might have to replace their sticks with more frequency due to the level of play and matches per week.
Are composite sticks better?
Whether composite sticks are better is still a debate today. But most players at competitive levels use them. One of their most significant drawbacks is that repeated use can generate microfractures within the stick, and these can make the stick break without warning, even if there were no evident signs of damage.
Since some sticks have a low flex number, making them soft, they can feel whippy and uncontrollable at times, especially when shooting or passing. This unpredictability is one of the most significant sources of criticism.
Some say that these issues don’t happen with wooden sticks. But, this doesn’t mean that they are the best choice.
Should I buy a wood stick instead?
While some players prefer the feel of a wooden stick or the price, as they are cheaper, they aren’t as common, and the most affordable option is usually of much lower quality.
A high-quality wooden stick can cost around $50, so a player might choose to go for a wooden version due to personal preference, or budget reasons. But for the price of an expensive wooden stick, you can buy a mid-range composite stick on sale.
A wooden stick is also prone to damage from humidity and water. If there are high levels of humidity around, a wooden stick might have a shorter lifespan. They are becoming less frequent as more players migrate to composites.
Can you cut a composite hockey stick?
You can cut a composite stick, and to do so is a relatively straightforward process. According to the step by step process in the site Sports Rec, it takes less than thirty minutes.
The first step is to measure the stick with your skates on to calculate the new desired size. A recommendation is to take away one inch at a time. Then place a marker with masking tape and use a hacksaw to carefully cut the stick to the desired length.
While it’s easy, you can only cut so much. When you cut a composite stick, the stiffness increases because there’s less shaft you can flex. If you need to cut more than two inches, then it’s advised you buy another stick, as it might be too stiff to play well.
Can you change the curve on a composite hockey stick?
The curve in your stick helps you control the puck, aim when shooting and even imprint spin on the puck. A player might want to change a stick’s curve to have more precision when passing or shooting. Composite sticks come with predetermined curves, and, fortunately, changing them is possible.
As we have seen, heat is the enemy of a composite stick, but you can use it to your favor, like when you’re changing your stick’s curve. If you want to recurve your stick, keep in mind that you could damage it if you use too much heat.
The website Hockey Circles recommends the following steps when recurving your stick:
- Have a heat source like a stovetop element of a blowtorch (a hairdryer isn’t hot enough)
- Clean your stick of any dust with a dry cloth
- Have a large bowl with enough room-temperature water to fully submerge the blade
It’s essential to keep the stick 8 to 10 inches away from the heat source and move it about as you apply heat to it. Expose both sides of the blade to heat as evenly as possible, for no more than a minute.
With an oven mitt, mold the curve to your desired pattern. If it’s too stiff, you can reheat it for another minute. But don’t curve it too much, as the curve might end up being illegal (most leagues don’t allow ¾ of an inch of curvature from the base to any point of the blade).
Once it’s where you want it to be, submerge the stick in water for two minutes to harden it. Do not use it for 12 hours after heating it.
How much do composite sticks cost, and what are some of the best brands out there?
Budget composite sticks will cost under $80, while mid-range sticks cost between $100 to $200. Top-end hockey sticks will cost from $200 upwards.
The CCM Jetspeed FT3 Pro ($300) and the Bauer Vapor Flylite ($300) are amongst the best models, offering excellent feel puck control. The top budget-friendly stick is the Sherwood M90, with a cost of around 80 to $100.
See also: How much do hockey sticks cost
As you can see, composite sticks are the new norm in hockey. But there are many variables: you can explore different brands, flex numbers, prices, and models. So choosing the right one might be difficult.
Take your time. At the end of it all, your stick is one of the most critical components of your game. And, with this article, you will indeed find the one that suits you best.