The feeling of holding a new hockey stick in your hands—whether it’s a hand-me-down from an older sibling or a fresh-off-the-rack Bauer Supreme or CCM Ribcor—is one of excitement and endless possibilities.
That new twig may seem perfect for you right off the bat, but you should definitely think about customizing it before you head out on the ice. To get the most out of a hockey stick, you’ll want to ensure it’s the right length, has a grip you’re comfortable with, and offers the right kind of puck control. There are several ways to customize a hockey stick to match your needs, and a variety of products to help you do it.
1. Get Fit: Use the Right Size Hockey Stick
The correct length is the most important variable to consider when choosing or customizing a hockey stick. Otherwise, you won’t be able to maintain a good hockey stance—with your hands in the proper position—and keep the stick blade flat on the ice. If the stick is the wrong length, you’ll end up altering your body or hand positions, or you will simply struggle to control the puck.
Just Right: What’s the Right Hockey Stick Length?
The “right” length is a matter of preference. Conventional wisdom holds that the butt end of the shaft should come up to your chin when you’re on skates, with the toe of the stick blade on the ice. But many NHL players go much shorter, so the butt comes up just to the collarbone. (See “How to Size a Hockey Stick” for more on this topic.)
Keep in mind that shortening or lengthening a hockey stick shaft will alter the flex profile somewhat. Obviously, the less you cut or add, the less you will feel this change.
Too Long: Cutting a Hockey Stick to the Right Size
Cutting a hockey stick to size is not difficult, but should be done carefully. Remember to “measure twice, cut once.” Some experts suggest erring on the side of caution: Measure the shaft, mark it where you think it should be cut, and then make the cut one inch higher than that. Then, if that extra inch feels like too much, you can easily make another cut.
To make the cut, brace the shaft right next to the cutting point, so the stick doesn’t wiggle while you’re sawing. A bench vise works best for this task. A hacksaw will make a good cut in a composite shaft, but make sure to make a perfectly square cut. Use short, sharp strokes and cut all the way through the shaft. Once you’re done, file the edges of the cut to round them a bit.
Hockey Stick Is Too Short: End Plugs to the Rescue
To make a stick longer, you’ll need to buy a stick accessory known as an end plug, which slides into the existing shaft. End plugs are available in wood and composite. They come in various lengths, so you have options to add however much you need to.
2. Get a Grip: Customize the Butt End
Whether or not you’ve altered the length of the stick shaft, you may also want to consider a new or different grip at the butt end. You can buy a complete grip, such as those made by Buttendz, or you can create one with tape, based on your own preferences. Some players like a smooth grip, which allows easy top-hand movement, while others prefer a raised grip, which keeps the stick from twisting. A spiral-rib grip may be easier for you to hold onto, and you can easily make your own with standard hockey tape. There are also products such as Lizard Skins Hockey Grip Tape, designed specifically for the butt end of the stick and available in a bunch of cool colors and patterns. To learn more about how to create your own grip, see “How to Tape a Hockey Stick.”
3. Better Your Blade
At the other end of the stick, there are a few ways to customize the blade. You’ll want to use hockey tape to protect the blade and to add tackiness that improves puck control. But you have some options. Classic black tape is always a good choice, as it makes seeing the puck when you release a shot more difficult for goalies, but plenty of players choose white. If you’re looking to stand out or make a statement, you’ll find a wide variety of bright colors and even neon tape on the market.
To learn more about how to wrap tape around a blade, see “How to Tape a Hockey Stick.” If you find the blade wrapping process tedious, opt for a peel-and-play stick-on version.
For a final boost in performance, browse hockey stick accessories to find a stick wax to apply to the blade; so doing will add even more tackiness, protect the tape, and prevent ice buildup. Some players find that wax gives them better control of the puck, and better spin on the puck upon release; adjust the amount of wax you apply to control the level of tackiness. A good coating of wax will help your tape job last longer, so you don’t have to wrap the blade as often. And when the ice starts getting rough, stick wax will prevent the ice and snow buildup that can cause the puck to slip off the blade.
Before you step onto the ice with a new stick, do everything you can to ensure the best performance possible. Take the time to tailor the stick to your size, grip preferences, and puck control style, and you’ll feel more confident in your stick-handling ability and shot accuracy. And that confidence usually shows in how well you play.