Hockey Stick Flex
Ice hockey is a very well-loved sport in North America, and while it may not necessarily be the most popular, there’s no denying that it isn’t going away any time soon. However, if you’re getting into the sport, whether it be a fan or a player, the terminology you hear people use can be confusing. ‘Flex’ is one of those terms you hear floating around, but what does it mean, and why does it matter?
The flex of a hockey stick can be defined as the amount of pressure (measured in pounds) that has to be exerted on it to bend it an inch. The higher the flex, the harder it is to bend, and vice versa. Stick flex is crucial because it will determine how accurate and powerful a player’s shot will be.
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll take a deep dive into stick flex and talk about what it is, how it is measured, why it matters, what influences the flex of a stick, and how you can find the right stick and flex for your needs. Now let’s get started!
If you’ve never spent any time around an ice rink or know anyone who plays ice hockey, hockey terminology like ‘stick flex’ may confuse you somewhat. However, once you learn what it is, it won’t be nearly as confusing anymore.
‘Stick flex,’ in short, refers to how flexible a particular hockey stick is. It indicates the stick’s stiffness and how much force (in pounds) is needed to bend it by an inch. This is what is known as the stick’s “flex rating”.
Flex varies a lot from stick to stick, and the higher the flex rating the stick has, the harder it will be to bend the stick. The opposite is true for sticks with a lower flex rating; they are much easier to bend.
When a player hits a hockey puck, their stick usually hits the ice first and then the puck. When the stick’s blade comes into contact with the ice, the force applied onto it by the player will bend the stick as it moves along the ice until it reaches the puck, releases, and becomes straight again. How much the stick bends during this action will depend on its flex rating.
Now that you’ve learned what stick flex is, you may be wondering how it is measured and how manufacturers determine how much flex each one of their sticks has.
Manufacturers have to put every stick they produce through a test to determine which flex rating they can assign to it.
The stick is placed in a machine comprised of two supports that are placed a set distance apart (depending on the length of the stick being tested) and a mechanism that presses down on the stick.
This mechanism’s arm is usually placed at the center point of the two supports and then is pressed down onto the stick until it has been bent by one inch. The machine then measures how much force it took to achieve a one-inch bend and registers it as the stick’s flex rating.
Since ice hockey is most often played in Northern America, these tests are measured using imperial units. As we’ve mentioned, the amount a stick is bent is measured in inches, and the force required to bend it that much is measured in pounds.
Remember that although the flex rating shows how much force is required to bend a stick by one inch, these sticks can bend a lot more than that before they break.
Nowadays, some manufacturers do put a metric flex rating on their sticks as well as the imperial flex rating. However, they don’t redo the test with metric values; they do a rough conversion of the imperial ratings and round the answer to the nearest whole number.
This helps people use the metric system (a.k.a. nearly the whole world except the US) because it means you don’t have to do the conversion yourself. However, it is not as accurate as the imperial flex rating, meaning it will take you a lot longer (and maybe cost you more money) to find your perfect stick.
However, just because there is a standard testing system to determine stick flex doesn’t mean that sticks from different manufacturers will feel the same, even if they have the same flex rating.
Different manufacturers use this testing method differently and thus get different results. Some put the supports right at the ends of the sticks, while others place them a short distance from the ends. The flex rating will also measure differently depending on whether the manufacturer calculates it at the kick-point or the center point between the two supports.
Now you may be thinking that this sounds like a lot of effort to go through, and why can’t you just use any stick to play? So next, we’re going to go over why stick flex matters.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “This whole stick flex thing is probably just another marketing ploy to get people to buy new sticks”, you’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. However, stick flex is not a marketing ploy, and it does affect your gameplay. So let’s talk about why it matters.
As you know by now, stick flex ratings will tell you how easily your hockey stick will bend, but what they don’t tell you is how much your stick bends can affect the way you play hockey.
Ensuring that your stick has the right flex rating will ensure that you can shoot with great accuracy and power and will allow you to get a good feel for the puck. Using a stick that is either too flexible or too stiff for you can have adverse effects on how you play this sport.
If your stick has too much flex, it will bend too much as you hit the puck and decrease your shot’s power and accuracy. As the stick bends, it can sometimes twist the blade in a direction that will send your puck off-target or allow your hands to go too far forward, meaning that the blade won’t release fast enough, resulting in weak or slow shots.
However, if your stick doesn’t have enough flex, it can also lessen your shot’s speed and strength because you won’t be able to bend it enough to get the necessary power out of its release. It may also release earlier than you want it to, meaning that your hands won’t be able to come through the shot, decreasing your shot’s accuracy.
Another adverse effect of a stiff stick is that it can vibrate in (or “shock”) your hands as you hit the puck and can be quite painful when it does.
Getting a stick with the right flex rating will allow you to amplify your strength through the stick and use the stick’s built-up energy (from bending it) to add power and speed to your shots.
One of the things that confuse people most about stick flex is what influences it. It is also the thing that people disagree about most. However, there are a few things that undeniably affect the flex of a stick.
The first is material. Different sticks are made of different materials that all have different stiffnesses. Older sticks are made of wood, while newer sticks are made mostly of carbon fiber. The flex rating of wood sticks is tied to the type of wood used, but the flex of carbon fiber sticks can be easily changed by changing the composition of the carbon fiber in the stick.
Another thing that affects the flex of a hockey stick is its length. This is something that people disagree about quite a lot because some say that changing the length of your stick will affect the flex, and some say that it doesn’t affect the flex at all. Guess what? Both of these arguments are right.
Cutting your stick will not change your stick’s native flex rating since its composition hasn’t changed. What it will change is how you perceive the stick’s flex. A shorter stick will feel stiffer and may not bend as easily, even if it’s flex rating hasn’t changed. Manufacturer’s general guides say that cutting your stick two inches shorter will increase the flex feeling by ten points.
We talk about other benefits of a shorter stick in this article.
The same goes for adding an extension to your stick; the stick won’t necessarily become more flexible, but the added length will give you more leverage and make it feel like your stick can bend further and more easily than before.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of stick flex, why it’s essential, and what influences it, let’s move on to how you can find the right stick and flex rating if you want to get into playing ice hockey.
If you’re tired of shouting from the stands and would rather be out on the ice, there are several things you’ll need to consider first. One of the most important things to consider when you’re thinking about getting into playing ice hockey is which stick you’re going to use.
There are several factors that go into your stick choice, a few of which we’ll go over briefly in this section.
This is the most crucial factor that goes into stick choice because right-handed and left-handed sticks are built differently. The blade on a hockey stick curves slightly forward when being held at your side, which means that left-handed and right-handed sticks are not interchangeable.
If you don’t know whether you need a right-handed or left-handed stick, an excellent way to determine this is which hand you hold lowest when holding a hockey stick. Your dominant hand is usually placed the lowest on the stick’s shaft, meaning that you’ll need to get a stick according to whichever of your hands is dominant.
However, if you play the goalie position, you’ll need to use the opposite stick to your dominant hand, as described in our post Do Goalies Catch With Their Dominant Hand.
Another critical factor to include in your decision-making process is the height of your stick. Of course, this will significantly depend on how tall you are, but a general guide can help you determine how tall your stick should be.
When you’re in the shop looking at different sticks, a way to figure out which will work for you is to stand them in front of you. Standing flat on your feet, the top of your hockey stick should reach somewhere around your mouth, and when you get it on the ice, wearing your skates, it should reach under your chin.
This is not by any means a definitive guide, rather just a starting point to get a stick that will work well, and once you’re more confident and have been playing for some time, you can decide whether you’d like a stick that’s a bit longer or a bit shorter.
For more details on hockey stick sizing, we’ve written about this in our article of What Size Should A Hockey Stick Be For An 11 Year Old.
Kick-point is another one of those terms that could confuse you, but all it describes is the point on the hockey stick that is the most flexible (i.e., will bend the most). The kick point of the stick you use will be determined by how far down the shaft you place your lower hand.
Most stick manufacturers make three different types of sticks and respective kick-points; low kick-point, mid-kick-point, and high kick-point.
- Low Kick-Point: Sticks with low kick-point are designed for people who like quick-release wrist shots and snapshots. They are most often used by scoring forward players.
- Mid-Kick-Point: Sticks with a mid-kick-point are made for people who want a bit of the benefit of both low and high kick-point sticks, strong wrist shots, and powerful slap shots. They are often used by power forward and attacking defensive players.
- High Kick-Point: Sticks with a high kick-point are designed for people who play a defensive position and need to produce hard slap shots and one-timers.
Again, the kick-point you prefer may not fall into the ‘common’ category for the position you play, but these are good recommendations to fall back on. If you’re just starting, it might be a good idea to go with a mid-kick-point, as you’ll be able to get some of the benefits of both of the other kick-points. Once you’ve got a feel for the game, you might decide that you’d prefer either a lower or a higher kick-point.
As mentioned previously, getting the right amount of stick flex is very important to ensure your shots’ accuracy and power. Your stick’s flex can act as a sort of ‘slingshot’ for the puck, so you can see why getting a stick with the right flex rating for you is necessary.
It is important to note that most hockey stick manufacturers put the imperial flex rating on their sticks since the test is usually done in imperial units. So if you use the metric system, you’ll need to convert your measurements.
The general rule for finding the right flex rating for your stick is to take your weight (in pounds) and divide it by two. The number you get will be a good flex rating for you to start from (once you’ve rounded it up/down to the closest standard flex rating).
However, as time passes, you might find that you prefer a stick with slightly more or less ‘give,’ and you can adjust the flex of your stick accordingly. You’ll also need to consider how strong you are since there’s no use in getting a stick with a flex rating of half your weight if you’re not strong enough to bend it.
The flex rating of the stick you use might also be determined by the position you play, as forwards usually play with lower flex sticks that will allow them to get the puck off of their blade as quickly as possible. Defenders play with higher flex sticks, since they usually need to be able to hit the puck harder and farther. They will also often need that higher flex to win in a puck battle against the opposing team’s attacking players.
Ultimately though, the stick and flex rating you choose will come down to your personal preference and playing style, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you’ve found the perfect stick for you.
As you can see, stick flex isn’t as complicated a topic as it seemed at the beginning of this article and can come in handy when you’re buying a stick.
Here’s a rundown of the article:
- Flex is a measurement of how much force (in pounds) needs to be applied to a stick to bend it by one inch.
- Getting the right flex rating on your stick can significantly improve your shots’ power and accuracy.
- You can get a rough estimate of the flex rating you should be using by taking your weight (in pounds) and dividing it by two.
- Discover Hockey: Flex that Stick
- BS Hockey: Ultimate Hockey Stick Flex Guide
- TWU: Flex of a Hockey Stick
- Pure Hockey: Stick Flex Guide
- My Hockey Bag: What Is Hockey Stick Flex?
- Hockey Monkey: What Flex Rating Should I Use?
- Hockey Review HQ: How to Choose Flex
- Hockey Repair Shop: How to Choose the Right Hockey Stick