Stick companies offer so many sticks now, from the previous article you are now aware of how to understand the shapes of the stick, but what about the next question, “Which model do I pick?“.
Companies will regularly offer the same stick shape in a range of models, adding more confusion to the buying process, so we need to consider which model is right for you and that is a consideration around the composition / construction / lay-up of the stick.
There is a common method of marketing the merits of stick composition in the hockey market which is to publish a material content in the stick by percentage of the overall composition. This is a very simple system to understand but it really should be recognised that it is a very, very loose way of assessing sticks, at best and at worst it is very misleading.
What Makes A Composite Stick?
Before anything lets have a look at what makes up our composite sticks. The main materials used in most sticks are carbon, aramid and glassfibre.
Carbon is for stiffness and rigidity, directly linked to potential power but again consider this to be dependent on correct application in manufacture and the quality of the material used (some companies use cheap carbon, some use expensive).
Aramid is sometimes referred to as Kevlar, which is a trade name for a material that does the same job, namely shock absorption and abrasion resistance.
Glassfibre is a basic strength and durability material used structurally.
“How Much Carbon Has That Stick Got?”
Percentage of Carbon is the most common unit that customers will look for and most commonly asked question for the Hockey Pro Shop team is ”What % of carbon does that stick have?”
So we will delve into Carbon and the percentages you see on sticks.
There are many sourcing options for carbon and many different grades of the material also. This makes “carbon” in itself a factor open to significant variation – how good is the carbon in stick A relative to stick B? That is something that a percentage figure and the word itself never elaborates on.
The performance difference between the best and worst carbon has a significant impact on the stick. It is also very true to say that the amount of each material in the stick is only as important as the arrangement of the materials and other aspects of the moulding process.
In all it is really far too simplistic to regard stated percentages as a measure of comparable quality. Much better is to consider the stick on a more personal basis.
”I can hit the ball hard so this is the best stick for me”
Typically players measure the quality of the stick on how hard they hit the ball, but again this is a very narrow and very basic line of thought.
All composite sticks are again just inanimate objects in the hands of a player and it is the player’s ability that influences the power generated more so than the stick in most cases. Yes, ‘better’ sticks have a higher potential power than a ‘bad’ stick, but unlocking that potential power is down to the player. It is better to understand the stick you are buying and wider considerations of what makes the stick right for you, the wider consideration being the feel of the stick, this is the most personal connection and has the greatest bearing on your skill execution.
What Does Percentage of Carbon Mean?
Every composite stick will generate a vibration wave on contact with the ball. How large that wave is and how fast it travels up the stick is something that is controlled by the composition and arrangement (the lay-up) of the sticks materials. Top end sticks will generate a fast and powerful wave because they are stiffer, which equals more of the swing speed being transferred through the ball, giving a higher potential power. As you move down the range the stiffness of the stick reduces, so the wave gets smaller and weaker, movement in the structure increases and energy transfer from the swing is reduced.
The stiffness of the stick is directly linked to the potential power, but it should also be considered that it affects the touch of the stick and the feeling in the player’s hands. Stiffer sticks will generate a more “instant” registration of contact through the hands. In playing terms this can be described as a more instant or responsive touch. The more flexible sticks will ‘give a little’, so there is a slight delay in that feeling and the touch in playing terms can be described as softer as a result.
The Balancing Act
All players want the potential to hit the ball hard, who doesn’t love hitting a bullet pass from defence to attack or scoring in the top corner past a goalie who never saw the ball, BUT, it is so important to understand that with that potential power your touch and feel on the stick will be impacted, this is where a player has to make a decision. You should be looking for a stick that feels right when you control and dribble the ball, a stick that feels the best for your performance, not what a sticker says, find that balance between stiffness and touch.
The right stick for you is determined by your personal feeling towards it, not information provided in the guise of marketing or product description that is something entirely unseen, unmeasurable and assumed on the part of the player.
Ultimately consider the stick as something that you need the right connection with, which involves more than just potential power since “potential” needs to be realised to be effective. It is more important to have the right touch and feel characteristics in your stick to develop and enhance your game fully.
We recommend that all customers online or instore have an idea about the stick they would like to buy and why they want that one (if it is simply a colour then pick your favourite)
This helps our staff in store give the right advice to customers but it means online that players can look at sticks with similar lay-ups and compositions from different companies and have an idea of how that will feel in their hands.
Thank you for reading, if you have any questions please post a comment below and we will do our best to answer it for you 🙂