Youth Hockey Sticks
All players will tell you that the hockey stick is the single most crucial piece of equipment they bring onto the ice. A good hockey stick will ensure that your shooting, passing, and puck-carrying are the best they can be. What makes for a good hockey stick, especially for beginners and youth players?
Selecting the best hockey stick for youth hockey players is a task that requires careful consideration of various factors that affect a player’s performance. There are surprisingly numerous considerations here, including stick length, stick material, grip type, and kick-point, among many more.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we’re going to take an in-depth look at the various features and characteristics of these implements to help any potential hockey players out there trying to figure out which hockey stick to go for. We’ll see just how these qualities influence gameplay and see how and why they will be favourable to one type of player or another. Let’s get right to it.
When considering the type of material you want your hockey stick to be made out of, there will be three general categories for you to consider, each with its own set of characteristics, benefits, and disadvantages. However, let’s make it clear right at the beginning that the type of stick you play with won’t be the most significant factor in determining what type of player you are. That will be all up to you. But if you’re interested, we do have another article discussing which stick to choose to help better your game.
Wood is the original hockey stick material, and it still retains its popularity with many players for several reasons. For one, classic wooden sticks are much cheaper when compared with other, newer materials.
A wooden hockey stick will give you a very consistent feel for the puck as you play, making it an excellent choice for beginners or youth players who are still developing their playing styles.
These were the first sticks to arrive on the scene after wooden sticks. They comprised aluminum alloy shafts with wooden or composite blades and were very popular in professional hockey throughout the 90s.
What made aluminum sticks popular was their unmatched durability, as they seldom broke or got damaged, even when enduring the heavy usage of professional games. As blades could be replaced with minimal fuss, the shafts themselves could be counted on to last for more extended periods when compared to other types of sticks available at the time.
They are not prone to warping or wearing down, like their wooden predecessors, and could be produced with a high degree of consistency. The primary point against these sticks, however, is the lack of elasticity of the material itself.
These are the most technologically advanced sticks available on the market today, and it’s no surprise that they are the most popular stick type among players. They have become a lot more affordable with time, which is another reason for their favoured status among hockey stick types.
Although there are composite hockey sticks made from wood and ABS, the advanced types we’re talking about here are made from a combination of advanced fiberglass and carbon materials. They perform at a much higher level and weigh significantly less than other types of hockey sticks. Carbon fiber is beneficial when it comes to giving a return on power expended and maintaining shot accuracy compared to a material such as wood.
Back before composite sticks’ prices came down to reasonable levels, two-piece combo blades were the most popular type of stick found in hockey. Nowadays, unfortunately, you will rarely see them in use, and they are slowly disappearing.
They were designed with a blade that you could separate or detach from the stick. This made it possible for you to replace a broken shaft or broken blade without being forced to purchase entirely new equipment. This also made it possible for a player to experiment with different options when it comes to blades, as the cost of a new blade is significantly less than the price tag on a full stick.
Youth players or beginners can benefit from this adaptability since they will try out different setups at minimal expense. Another point in favour of combo blades is that players who take part in indoor and outdoor hockey will be able to switch out the blades as necessary when changing from one hockey setting to the other.
As with all things bought and sold, the type of stick you wind up with will be heavily determined by how much you are willing to pay for it. Generally speaking, the more expensive the hockey stick, the better, and they range from as low as $20 to hundreds of dollars per stick.
You will have to consider certain factors anyway, such as your skill level, how much use you think your stick will see, and whether or not you need any high-tech features to help you get your hockey play to the next level. We also have an article discussing the costs of an entire set of hockey equipment, which might be worth a read before determining the stick budget.
You have to note here that hockey sticks can only help you play to your optimal playing capabilities – even the most expensive stick in the store won’t turn you into a Wayne Gretzky if you only put on your first skates a week ago.
Beginners and youth hockey players might be advised not to spend too much on their hockey stick, especially their first one. You might break the bank only to find that your stick falls short of your requirements in some way or other. Hockey skill is a gradual process, meaning that as you continue to practice, you will learn more about yourself, your style of play, and what type of stick would suit you best.
Much like golf clubs, the shafts of hockey sticks are highly flexible, and their degree or type of flexibility plays a significant role in their performance. A hockey stick’s flex profile can be defined in two measures – shaft flex and kick point.
The shaft flex of a stick refers to how much it will bend during use. This measure will determine the speed of your puck when you shoot. Generally, this quality is defined using an index number that denotes how much weight in pounds the stick will have to be subjected to experience one inch of bend.
Following this guide, you will find that a stick whose flex rating is 30 will be much more flexible than a stick with a rating of 70. The more experienced a player is, the more likely they are to prefer higher flex ratings.For more detailed information about the flex of a hockey stick, make sure to read our article on the subject.
Kick point refers to a related yet entirely different quality. Here we refer to the precise location where a stick will experience the most bend when a shot is taken. In historical practice, this was designed to be at the center or midpoint of a stick, but newer techniques and preferences have made different kick points more commonly used.
Hockey is a very different entity than it was five years ago, let alone a decade ago. The most significant change in the game might be just how much faster it all is. Players no longer have the convenience of taking their time setting up shots – quality shots have to be taken as quickly as possible, or the opposition will be on top of you to block your shot before you have the chance to release it.
In response to the current need for shooting the puck as quickly as possible, low kick point hockey sticks have become very popular. A lower kick point translates to a rapid shot release, even though the power and speed behind the shot will not be as high. They are aimed at helping players get their shots away in tiny windows of opportunity.
These are the traditional types of sticks hockey players would make use of. They are capable of delivering tremendous velocities and power on every shot. The difference between a low-kick’s shot and a mid-kick player’s is the amount of time they will take before releasing their shot.
A low-kick player can get their shot off very quickly, while a mid-kick player will be forced to take some extra time in the wind-up for a slap shot or big one-time hits. Their comparative advantage is that the sheer speed of their shot can be of great help in passing defenders and goalies who might be able to get to slower-moving pucks.
These fill the central role between low-kick and mid-kick sticks. The way stick makers achieve this dual quality is by making their sticks so that the stick owns various kick points, which average out to give a combination of quick shot release and strong shot power. These types of sticks are also becoming very popular due to today’s hockey play’s rapid pace.
Youth players and beginners are advised to select a traditional mid-kick point hockey stick with a lower flex rating as they grow more familiar with hockey. They might not yet have the power and control to make fair use of stiffer sticks, but more flexible sticks will accommodate them. As time goes on, they will figure out whether their particular playing profile calls for a different flex rating and kick point.
The lie of a hockey stick refers to the angle of its shaft measured against its blade. Should you see a blade rated a lie value of 5, you should know that this corresponds to an angle of 135 degrees. Each additional value going upwards indicates a reduction of this angle by 2 degrees.
The higher the lie value, the smaller the angle, and the more upright the hockey stick.
You will find that the average player’s stick will have a value ranging from 5 to 7, while goalies use sticks with values ranging from 11 to 15. The idea behind these values is that players like to have a stick lie that allows them to place their blade flat on the ground as they skate along the ice. For example, Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky would skate in a crouching position and so preferred to have a shallow lie to accommodate this posture.
In the early days of hockey, the blades of the sticks used were not curved, but this changed in the late 1850s when players discovered that broken blades made shots harder to predict, especially with slap shots. This happy accident led to more professional players asking for ‘curved’ blades, which has persisted.
The curved blade has become a staple feature of hockey stick manufacture, even though numerous variations and tweaks are coming up ever so often. The basic types of blade curves, however, fall under three configurations. These are the:
- Toe Curve: The player’s blade is curved at the point furthest away from his or her body.
- Mid Curve: Where the curve is found at the blade’s midpoint.
- Heel Curve: Where the curve is at the blade point closest to the player’s body.
The significance of these curves’ positioning is discovered in their effect on stick control and shooting accuracy. The mid-curved blade has gained prominence as the most popular positioning, making it an excellent choice for young players or beginners. With increasing skill, they will be free to explore other options.
There happens to be quite a bit of leeway when it comes to the grips players choose to have on their sticks. It all depends on the particular player’s preferences. With many, their hands will continuously be sliding up and down their stick depending on what’s happening, their skating action, and what they’re trying to do with the puck.
For these players, sticks without grips are their best option even though these sticks will get wet should they be playing in wet outdoor conditions. Most players, however, will prefer sticks with non-slip grips built into them for assured stick handling ease.
The commonly accepted wisdom when it comes to hockey stick length dictates that while standing on the ice with your skates on and with your stick held in front of you with its tip on the ice, the tip of the grip should reach somewhere between your nose and your chin. This will indicate that your stick is the appropriate length for you.
Sticks that go beyond your nose should be considered too long, while those that do not get up to your chin might be too short for you. As with many things hockey-related, this is a subjective measure – things might be different depending on your particular preferences, so do not take it as a hard rule.
You should know that longer sticks will allow for greater reach when it comes to getting at the puck. In comparison, many players prefer shorter sticks since they allow for greater control and precision while moving with the puck. We have an entire article covering some benefits of shorter sticks.
Many coaches will also tell you that the particular position you take upon the ice will count towards determining the proper stick length for you, with defensive players taking longer sticks and offensive players being issued shorter sticks.
On the face of it, this seems like a pretty straight-forward question – right-handed people with right-handed sticks and vice versa is the assumption. Well, hockey doesn’t quite abide by these conventions, as we’ll see right here.
The first question we need to answer here is, what does it mean to be a right or left-handed player in hockey? Right-handedness in hockey play does not necessarily correlate to your dominant hand in day-to-day living. In hockey, you are referred to as a right-handed player if you place your left hand at the top of your stick and the right hand lower down while left-handed players place them in reverse order.
Which hand to place at the top of the stick will be a question left up to the individual player. This is not a straight-forward issue due to the various factors that come into play. Many coaches and players contend that a player’s dominant hand should be at the top of the stick as this allows for maximum stick maneuverability and, consequently, pick control.
The opposing school of thought holds that placing your weaker hand at the top of your stick will grant you more power in your shots since shot strength is mainly derived from the hand placed lower down on the shaft. This makes sense, as your hockey stick should not be used as a fulcrum when taking shots – passing and shooting are meant to be smooth pushing motions better achieved with the dominant hand doing the work.
On the other hand, it could also be said that there’s not much point in getting all that power behind the puck if you cannot control it. Notice that most hockey players play left-handed even though most people are right-handed, the reason being that most people would rather have maximum control as opposed to power.
The point here is that choosing a left-handed or right-handed stick will come down to the individual player’s preference. The best way to figure out the best choice will be to try out both options and see what feels most comfortable and natural to the player.
Keep in mind that with the dominant hand above, more control of the stick and puck will be experienced, while with the dominant hand below, shots will have more power. It’s up to you to decide what you’re looking for.
The hockey stick market is conveniently categorized according to players’ skill level, with sticks assigned to three levels: recreational, performance, and elite. This is a useful mechanism that helps shoppers get the stick that will most probably suit their particular needs. Let’s check out what each of these categories entails.
These are at the lowest rung where hockey play is concerned, but perhaps only because they are meant to be suitable for any beginners or younger players hoping to get into the game.
They are invariably cost-effective, being at the lower end of hockey stick price points, meaning that a new player can learn the game’s basics and figure out their stick preferences before getting a better, more expensive stick.
Wooden sticks are found in this category, but even where other materials are used, you can expect to find the best durability with sticks labeled under this tag.
These are a step up from the recreational category. Aside from exceptional durability, these sticks will offer significantly higher performance. You can expect to find that performance sticks have more in common with elite category sticks than recreational sticks. The materials they are made from will usually comprise elements of fiberglass or carbon fiber.
These serve the purpose of increasing the impact-resistance and strength of the sticks. While shopping for hockey sticks, you can expect to find that most products on offer are placed under this category since both recreational players and elite-level participants can use them without any problems.
These are the sticks designed to cater to the highest level of hockey players. Competitive hockey will often see players seek any little advantage they can get since every bit of edge can help them overcome their opponents.
These sticks are the most lightweight and highest-performing sticks available on the market, made from the most advanced materials and with the most cutting-edge technological expertise. They will offer an unmatched feel for the puck, increased power delivery, and exceptional lightness in the hands of the player.
Beginners and youth players may not be able to get the full benefits of an elite hockey stick, especially since they might not have developed their knowledge and experience of stick handling and overall hockey play.
The various factors to consider, even in this category, such as stick height, right or left-handedness, and others might be overlooked, leading to the relatively costly purchase of an elite stick that might have to be replaced in a couple of weeks once the new player gets to understand their game.
There are plenty of essential qualities beginners, or youth players in any sport need to cultivate, including dedication, respect for others, discipline, and all that good stuff. Still, one should never discount the importance of proper equipment.
In hockey, perhaps more than in other sporting activities, being properly equipped will significantly influence your performance and enjoyment of the game. The hockey goalkeeper’s role is an undeniably important one, so we won’t leave them out of this discussion. We’ll start with the types of sticks available to goalies.
Goalie sticks come in various woods such as ash, birch, and aspen, which are then laminated. For water resistance and durability, the blade and paddle are then covered using thin fiberglass layers.
Technology has rendered the wooden stick somewhat irrelevant for the most part, as goalies prefer to use softer, lighter stick types. Those who still wish for a stick that offers a more traditional feel and comes at a reasonable price will find the wooden goalie stick to be right up their alley.
These goalie sticks generally have a wooden shaft laminated using glass to increase their durability. The blades and paddles are different. These are made out of molded urethane, injected with foam before being covered up using a glass or composite laminate that increases strength and protects from water damage.
With some newer foam core models, you will find the heels reinforced with a more durable material to help protect them from premature damage through heavy use. The purpose of the foam in these sticks is to provide a dampening ‘cushion’ for the vibrations that goalies feel through their sticks as they absorb the impact of fast-moving pucks.
They provide a ‘soft’ feeling when compared with stick materials such as wood. The increase in popularity of foam core goalie sticks can be attributed to additional factors such as their reasonable pricing, lightweight, good durability, and soft feel.
The composite goalie sticks found on the market today are made from a wide variety of materials that range from graphite to fiberglass to Kevlar/carbon fiber. In many cases, these sticks are also injected with foam for vibration dampening and a ‘soft’ feel.
The materials used in composite stick production make them the lightest available option for goalies. This is especially true for the graphite, Kevlar, and carbon fiber options. Rubber grip zones at the shoulder area, convex paddle options, and contoured paddles (suited for goalies that prefer holding the stick close to their bodies) are some of the innovative options available for composite goalie sticks.
The downside with composites is their price tag. They are relatively expensive when compared to the other stick types. However, many of them come with a thirty-day warranty from the manufacturers.
Picking out a stick will be one of the most important choices made when playing hockey. Even so, do not let the long list we’ve gone through here intimidate you – hockey is more about the player than it is about the equipment. There’s no contradiction. As long as you remain open to new ideas and experiences, youth players will find plenty of benefits resulting from their hockey exploits. Best of luck!
- Discount Hockey: Choosing the Right Hockey Stick
- Grays Hockey: Hockey Stick Buying Guide
- HockeysticksHQ: Ultimate Hockey Stick Buying Guide
- HockeysticksHQ: Best Hockey Sticks of 2020