SHOP TALK: Accept the fact that all sticks will eventually break
“When I was growing up, we used to get a bundle of (insert name of old wood stick company here) sticks for $25 dollars and they would last us the whole season. How can this stick be $269?”
I never get tired of hearing that one from the father of a new hockey player or the old men’s league veteran visiting the shop.
Yes, it’s true, times have changed. Sticks are now performance pieces of equipment, helping shoot the puck faster, harder, and more accurately than that old Northland your dad used back in Minnesota. Along with enhanced performance, a top-end stick comes with the risk that said stick will eventually break. When it happens in abundance I often get the asked, “What do I do? He just keeps breaking sticks.”
I wish the answer was easy. It would be great if I could just say, “Stay away from this brand/model, switch to this one, it’ll hold up better.” Sadly, as much as I’ll get some grief from my sales rep friends for this, there really isn’t a ton of difference in durability from brand to brand. It’s not that durability isn’t taken into consideration, but with high-end sticks, it’s all about maximizing the power and accuracy of the shot. Weight is also a consideration – they attempt to minimize it where possible, but nobody is going to want a heavy stick for just under $300. So you love your stick for these reasons, but hate it when it’s in two pieces on the ice.
There’s a few things to consider if you find yourself in a vicious cycle of breaking stick after stick. If all you ever did was shoot or pass the puck, your sticks would last forever. I hate to break it to you, but your booming slap shot wasn’t what broke that stick. It was more likely the stick-on-stick contact that happens every time you practice or play that did it in. When your stick slashes or chops anything, you are creating small fractures in the walls of the shaft or the outer composite material of your blade. Every time the stick flexes, those cracks get larger until finally it just goes. It might be on a breakaway, it might also be when you catch a pass in warmups.
If you’re playing men’s league once a week, your sticks are going to last. If you’re playing travel hockey, along with high school hockey, throw in a private lesson, maybe a stick time, and you now have a stick being used 4-7 times a week. This is where you start to see the chronic breakage. It’s 100 percent relative or how often you’re using that stick.
Most of the people that have come to me in the last month or so saying, “He/I just keep breaking sticks. This is crazy, it’s my (third, fourth, fifth) stick so far this season,” have a few things in common. For one, they’re on the ice six-plus hours a week compared to the 1-3 over the summer. Secondly, they’re 14-16 years old and probably 10-20 pounds heavier than they were the season before. Lastly, the level of play they’re at this year has increased. More aggressive play equals more stick damage.
The causes of breakage I discussed, combined with the frequency and level of play, are 100 percent your culprit for quick breakage. There’s really no avoiding it. One suggestion might be to compromise a small amount in the stick level you’re buying. The models that sit right below the high-end sticks (which usually run about $40-$60 less) are many times ALMOST the same stick, save for a few features that make the stick a tad heavier, but in turn, stronger. The performance might suffer a small amount, but not enough to stop you from still scoring the goals you’ve been scoring with the high-end one.
Nick Boyarsky serves as the head of team sales for Behind The Mask and the manager of the Chandler location.