We live for and talk about hockey equipment here every day. Over the holiday break, I thought that it might be interesting to take a look back at hockey equipment in 2013 – what was released, what we liked, what we didn’t, what the pros were wearing and so on. It’s time for “the year in gear!”
There were some big movements in skates and sticks in 2013, as well as a couple of pretty good trends in helmets and protective gear. Three manufacturers had major stick and skate releases this year and all of them made some significant improvements to their products.
2013 Skate Releases
In the spring there were three big time skate releases. Bauer introduced the Vapor APX2 skate, CCM launched their RBZ skate line and Easton released the Mako skate. All three had major improvements from their respective predecessor.
Easton Mako Skate
Easton switched up their thinking in 2013 and released a skate that they had been working on for a while. Adopting the mantra “Invention vs Improvement,” Easton built a new skate from the ground up, bucking the industry trend of just taking the most popular aspects of skates and making a small tweak here and there. They worked with Olympian speed skater Dave Cruikshank to look at proper skating mechanics, then built a skate designed to work with those stride mechanics.
The Mako was keyed around three features; an aggressive pitch, asymmetrical sides of the skate and an extending tendon guard. Easton also introduced their new CXN holder – Short for ‘Connection’ – designed to allow for the most stable feel, while giving a great sense of what’s going on under your feet. Our Marketing Director and I had a pretty detailed conversation about these skates after we’d both tried them out for a few months – check it out here for good detail.
Bauer APX2 Skate
The Bauer APX2 skate saw changes stemming from pro player requests like a thicker tongue and tweaked liner. Bauer also made improvements from a materials standpoint, adding a CURV Composite boot, the same material as their TotalOne NXG skate, to create a skate with better energy return and better performance. Another major addition was the creation of the Injected Stability Lacing system. This one-piece eyelet system features square eyelets, allowing laces to sit flat and glide over the tongue without catching to eliminate lace bite. The single piece also increases energy return, creates a better wrap to hold a players foot in place and finally makes for a more consistent performance over the life of the skate. It does this by making all eyelets connected to take pressure off individual points on the skate. Ending the days of having perfectly preserved eyelets and boot in one place on the skate while the flex point is destroyed.
The biggest addition to the APX2 skate is more than deserving of its own paragraph, as the TUUK LightSpeed Edge holder system is an absolute game changer. This new system creates a secure holder, but allows for tool-free, on-the-go steel changing. No more losing a shift taking off your skate, running to the locker room or getting that blown edge touched up, 20 seconds is now enough time to change both skates’ steel. Along with the revolutionary steel changing, the LS Edge holder is also 3mm taller than the LS2, allowing players to get lower in turns without ‘bottoming out’, minimizing turning radius.
CCM RBZ Skate
CCM made the most progress with a skate release since their heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They went a similar route as Bauer and Easton, introducing a new boot and new holder for the release of the RBZ skate. The RBZ was created to be a pro-level skate, with excellent ‘out-of-the-box’ comfort; and it truly succeeded in that goal. A massive improvement from the U+ Crazy Light skate from CCM, the RBZ is astoundingly comfortable as soon as it is on your foot, and that’s before it’s heated up!
CCM created a more form fitting outer boot shape, with a true heel cup and ankle counter, making for a better fit and really getting players’ feet to lock into the skate. Add in the highly moldable Action Form foam and it is a very secure, custom, comfortable fit. A nice pro-style felt tongue helps prevent lace bite. One of my favorite features on this skate is the eyelet design, with two distinct areas. The lower half has a softer facing, allowing the eyelets to wrap around and really hold onto players’ forefoot; while the top half is stiffer, stays straight out allowing great forward flex during strides to allow players to really load their feet for power.
Another big step by CCM was introducing a stock, upgraded insole for the RBZ skate. The CCM Custom Support insole was designed to create a full contact surface between the bottom of the foot and sole of the skate; the greater that contact surface, the quicker a players’ reaction time. It also helps to provide correct foot alignment, help with posture and create a better skating position. All these factors help reduce fatigue and can reduce injury risk. Products like this have been available for years, but CCM is first to introduce it as an included item for a skate. NHL players have noticed, indicated by our Gear Talk w/ The Pros chat with the Sabres Marcus Foligno – he wears a Bauer skate, but loves the CCM insole. See the video in the playlist below.
The new boot sits on a brand new holder and steel set up, the Speed Blade 4.0 Holder along with Hyper Glide steel. The holder has better balance points under the skate for a more stable base and is also 4mm taller than its predecessor, again for that extra ability to get low in turns. The Steel is CCM’s Hyper Glide Steel runner, a polished steel runner is smoother on the outside, creating less drag and giving players more glide down the ice. It is also harder steel than others on the market and will hold edges better.
2013 Protective Hockey Gear
The other major spring releases were in the protective department. A big trend among manufacturers was two-way protection, the idea of softening the out layers of gear to make it safer for the other players it comes in contact with. We saw it from Reebok, with their 20K line, we saw it with the Easton Pure Pro line – designed and built exclusively for Pure Hockey (shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads) and we also saw it with Bauer’s TotalOne NXG line of protective gear (shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads). If you want a little more in-depth on this topic, I posted this full article about two-way protection back in November.
2013 Bauer Stick & Helmet Releases
The summer brought about 3 big stick releases and the introduction of what has already become an extremely well liked helmet. Bauer leads the way, having released the Vapor APX2 stick as well as the IMS 9.0 Helmet.
Bauer Vapor APX2 Stick
The APX2 stick featured similar flex properties, the Vapor line’s patented “Intelli-sense” flex profile with two distinct flex points that adjust based on the shot you’re taking. The big improvements were in the blade; the “Aero-Sense” blade core features lighter, more pliable foam. This helps provide more feel on the puck and makes the core less prone to cracking. Combine with stitching that core into the composite instead of gluing it in, Bauer has almost eliminated that “crackling” in the stick blade. Bauer also introduced a new “sense layer” to the blade; a thin rubber layer that helps to dampen vibration and increase feel.
Bauer IMS 9.0 Helmet
The Bauer IMS 9.0 helmet is a welcome change to the market. A helmet that combines sleek looks, great protection and the comfortable feel of softer VN foam (Same foam found in Bauer’s 4500 helmet). The helmet has the same, low-profile, pro-approved styling as the Re-Akt, but lacks the Re-Akt’s Suspend-Tech liner. You can see more in the IMS 9.0 video we posted back in April.
Reebok RIBCORE Stick
Reebok released their RIBCORE stick, generating a lot of buzz. It’s a pretty cool technology, designed to allow players to get a much faster release on their shots with the sensation of more pop. Having used it, I can vouch that it does feel like there’s a ton of pop. By creating “Pre-loaded” composite fibers in the lower portion of the stick, it essentially eliminates a large area of the stick that energy needs to flex in order to travel through. Less time loading is a faster release. The SSX blade gets stiffer from heel to toe, creating a blade that doesn’t torque or flex back on shots, giving you better accuracy by keeping the blade squared to your target.
Easton V9e and V9 Sticks
Easton’s two-headed monster this year was the Velocity series of sticks, the V9 and V9E. Taking technologies from Easton’s previous Mako and Stealth lines and combine them into one, the V9E featuring an elliptical taper and a lower kick point; while the V9 has a traditional taper and a higher kick point. Like with the Mako skates, Easton looked at proper mechanics and designed a stick made to perform for them. The HyperToe blade flexes just as the shaft does to create a springboard effect, adding velocity to your shot. The blade also continued Easton’s “Dual Lie” technology, effectively creating two blades; a toe that sits flush on the ice when shooting and a heel that sits flat on the ice when passing and stickhandling.
Pure Hockey Stick Challenge
Think you know your stick well enough to pick it out of a lineup just by shooting with it? Most players would say yes. We found out that’s not always true. Our Stick Challenge Series takes 5 completely blacked out sticks, from 5 manufacturers and gives players a shot at picking their favorite without the instinctive bias that comes along with brand name. Of our first ten, only 2 chose the same brand of stick they had been using as their favorite and only one with the same stick. There has really been no “runaway winner” for sticks; so far the choices have been Bauer APX2, Easton V9 and Warrior DT1LT all with 3 wins while the Sher-Wood EK-15 was chosen once. The CCM RBZ has not been chosen through the first set of trials.
Gear Talk With The Pros
We continued our Gear Talk with the Pros series and sat down and chatted with as many NHL and AHL players about their gear.
Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins equipment staff told us all about the upkeep of Bergy’s gloves. I sat down with then Devil David Clarkson and talked about his gloves and how he had his young daughter come up with the color layout. In another we chat about his Easton sticks and the filthy toe curve he uses. Zdeno Chara talked about his 2-piece stick and the fact that its 150 FLEX!!!
We had a bunch of videos with Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton and basically got to walk through his whole bag – did we mention we did that almost immediately after he wore it on the ice? Not recommended – From the tiny shoulder pads Shawn wears, to the shin pads he refuses to part with. Shawn told us how the equipment managers have to constantly rehab his gear to keep it in playing condition.
Devils goalie and native New Englander Cory Schneider stopped by our Pure Goalie location in Braintree, MA to talk about his summer testing out new skates for the season. Bauer had to discontinue his pair and he was looking what he was going to wear next. In another video we asked Cory about his pregame routine, any weird goalie habits or rituals?
Towards the end of the year we had a couple Sabres on camera to talk about their gear. Cody Hodgson tell us about how he tweaks the blade of his stick to help his game out. Cody has Bauer build his blades a bit thinner than normal as well as having a thicker connection from blade to hosel, allowing for more contact with the puck on those bounces and rebounds. Hodgson’s skates are Bauer Vapor X90’s with a custom wide toe cap. His runner is Step steel, a taller runner, with what amounts to a “dual radius” serving one purpose on the front half and another towards the back. The “Z-channel” sharpening is a groove in the runner that helps improve his glide as the ice deteriorates late in the game.
Finally Marcus Foligno let us check out his shoulder pads. They are pretty stock but he chose them because they are very well suited to his style of play and provide good protection for areas he has had some issues with. In his next starring role, Foligno talks about his Bauer TotalOne NXG skates and choosing to go with the CCM Custom Support insoles to help pitch him a bit forward.
2013 Year In Gear Review
All-in-all, a pretty good year in gear, had some great new stuff come out. There was a bunch of new skates, new sticks and new helmets. We talked to a lot of NHLer’s about their gear and we got to see how well players really know their own stick. It was a good year, but I can promise from what I have already seen, 2014 will top it. Stay tuned!