SHOP TALK: Try using a lower flex and let the stick do the work
The trend these days at the NHL level has been to go with a lower flex on sticks.
When one-piece sticks came out a couple decades ago, everyone assumed the bigger the player, the stiffer the stick. Sure, Shea Weber used a 130-plus flex stick in the hardest shot competition at the 2016 All-Star Game to hit 108 mph, but he skated from the blue line to 30 feet out from the goal to shoot a stationary puck – hardly a live-game situation.
With the speed of the game today, players do not have time for the big slap shots. You are seeing players use the flex of the stick to shoot more wrist and snap shots than in the past – gone are the days of the booming slapper. The prime example of this is none other than Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who uses an 80 flex Easton stick. By using a lower flex, the players let the stick do more of the work, loading and releasing the energy in the shaft. Watch how often he snaps the pucks from the point. Very rarely does he take a slap shot.
How does this translate to youth and adult hockey? Similar principles, by buying the correct flex stick, will increase the transfer of power from player to the stick and result in better shots, accuracy and velocity. Where the companies have really scored is in making lower flex junior, intermediate and senior sticks at the correct heights. It does no good to get the right flex stick and then have to cut off 6-8 inches. When you cut a stick, it affects the flex and kick point of the stick.
What flex is right for you? When purchasing a stick, a good conversation with an educated store employee will help get you the right flex. All the companies do tech sessions with retail store employees to educate the staff on sticks. This past year, our Scottsdale store has received demo sticks from Bauer, CCM, Easton, Warrior, STX and True. This allows our employees to try all the different brands so they can be much more educated in dealing with a consumer’s needs. Our demo program also allows consumers to come in and sign out sticks for 24 hours. Plus, we have gone out and offered our team demo stick program, where we bring 20-plus sticks out to your teams practice and you can try different sticks, flexes, curves and brands. You might be surprised which one you like best.
What is the right height for your stick? The general rule is when standing flat-footed and looking straight ahead, the top of the stick should be at your nose, which becomes your chin when on skates. This gives you the best of all worlds. A smaller stick allows you to stick handle in close easier, a longer stick gives you more reach and leverage shooting the puck. Defensemen these days tend to go a little longer for the reach. We always try to err on the side of cutting a little longer for those players still growing. It’s always easier to cut a stick a little more after trying.
What about the lie of the blade? Every company nowadays has a rounded bottom on their sticks. Typically, this rocker allows the consumer to customize the stick without having to get different lies. Every stick now allows the player to play roughly between a lie 5-6 because of the rocker bottom. Much of the lie depends on your stance and hand positioning.
In summary, when thinking of stick flex choices, I like to quote the classic 1981 movie “Stripes” and say, “Lighten up, Francis.” It’s hard for some, but transitioning to a lower flex and learning to let the stick do the work for you will become more beneficial to your game in the long run.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.