A perfect hockey blade represents the difference between sinking a shot top shelf and ringing it off the iron. Much like the cut of a skate and the firmness of a pair of gloves, individual taste determines what blades do or do not make for a great match. Professional NHL players may spend hours practicing with different stick blades in order to get the exact fit for their skill sets, with as little as a quarter of an inch making a huge difference. While most stores won’t let you test drive different sticks, you can plan what blade will work best for your shot with a little bit of research.
Attack Or Defend
Everyone has seen a hockey game where a forward selflessly hands his stick to a defenseman after the defender’s stick breaks. While a defenseman can use a forward’s stick in a pinch, and vice-versa, the blades for the two positions need different angles for different usage. A forward needs his blade to protect the puck, while a defender needs his blade to strip the puck. For the same reason that defenders use longer sticks than forwards, a defender will likely use a blade with more of a heel curve than a toe curve. A heel curve turns into the blade at an earlier point than a toe curve, creating a larger “sweet spot” for picking up pucks on the move. Forwards often prefer a toe curve to a heel curve because the turning point at the end of the stick produces more torque on the puck, resulting in faster, harder, more accurate shots.
A taller player will hold the butt end of his stick higher while on the ice. This in turn forces the stick blade downward at a sharper angle than a shorter teammate. A taller player like Zdeno Chara should select a stick blade with a higher lie (the angle between the hockey blade and shaft of the stick) in order to handle the puck with a higher center of gravity. A player that’s not so tall, or who prefers to skate with his knees very far bent, should use a shallow lie to position his blade to take passes, break up the opponents’ play, or release a shot with all his power. A good lie will have the toe resting on the ice instead of being propped up with the heel.
What do the blades of some of the fiercest players in the game look like? Guys like Ovechkin, Kessel, and Stamkos use curves with a huge amount of depth since their shots are some of the best in the business. A deeper curve will make it more difficult to stick check but can provide excellent support for a wicked snapshot that fools goalies. Remember that the deeper the curve, the more difficult it becomes to angle and lift a backhand shot. Thus, attackers who spend a lot of time in and around the crease instead of getting open in the slot will struggle to knock home garbage goals with a deep blade curve.
Take a gander at a set of golf clubs and you’ll get an appreciation for the degree of face in a sport that exclusively uses a similar mechanic to a hockey swing. Just like you want a sand wedge with a tilted face to elevate a golf ball up and out of a trap, so too does the face of a hockey stick provide different capabilities regarding the elevation of a puck. An open face gives no protection to the puck but creates far better lift on a shot, making it better for defenders than for attackers, while a closed face makes it possible to keep the puck from stick checks while uncorking a shot with lots of direct power.
The length of a stick blade has less difference from player to player, since most prefer a standard medium-blade length. Some defenders, however, prefer a longer length in order to create more space and to better carry and pass the puck. A shorter blade will produce less torque on a shot but allow a faster release, making it better for attackers who like to aggressively use snapshots against the opposition.
Cover Photo by: www.cbc.ca