When it comes to buying a new hockey stick, a dizzying array of options is available, and trying to find just the right twig for your style of play can be confusing. The part of the stick where you’re confronted with the greatest number of choices is the blade. Major manufacturers such as Bauer and CCM typically offer at least a half-dozen different blade patterns from year to year. Some blade patterns are named for NHL players, while others have such descriptive titles as PP28. It’s tempting simply to choose the blade pattern your favorite player uses (or your favorite among those with blade patterns named after them), but that’s not the best way to ensure you match a hockey stick blade curve to your style and skills.
A hockey stick blade is not a flat plane of wood or composite material; it is both curved and twisted. The angle of the face (the loft) can be open or closed to varying degrees, the heel and toe can be square or rounded, the angle between the blade and shaft (the lie) can vary, and blades come in different lengths. Today, we’re talking about the curve and how it affects your play on the ice.
Understanding Hockey Blade Curves
The curve of a hockey stick blade is not uniform, as if it were a segment of a circle. In fact, the curve can be focused at any point along the shaft. When you’re handling a puck, it will naturally go to the deepest part of the curve, called the pocket, and this can exist anywhere along the blade. Stick blades are usually described as heel curve, mid curve, or toe curve, depending on whether the pocket is closer to the rear or the front of the blade. The mid group is further broken down to mid and mid-heel.
The other variable to consider is curve depth. The deeper the curve, the easier it is to control the puck as you skate. (Both international and NHL rules restrict the depth of the curve to ¾ of an inch (19mm) to limit a player’s level of control.) A deeper curve also allows a player to lift the puck off the ice more easily, so limiting the depth is a way to keep the puck down. Of course, there are two sides to the blade. A lot of curve may help you control the puck going forward, but it will make backhand passes and shots more difficult and less accurate.
Although many players focus on how the blade curve can affect shot velocity, the truth is that curve probably has much more influence on puck control and shot accuracy. You probably spend a lot more time during a game stick-handling than you do shooting, anyway. Shot velocity can be improved with the right kick-point and stick flex, but it is mostly determined by a complex combination of strength and form, developed over years of practice.
So, which should you choose? True heel curves are usually considered best for defensemen, who need to make long clearances and slap shots from the point. Good choices for heel curves include:
Settling on a Hockey Blade Curve: Choose Your Weapon
True toe curves are for snipers who want maximum control of the puck, a very quick release, and ultimate shot accuracy. If you want the ability to dangle like a pro and find the top corner from the slot every time, this might be the blade for you, but these blades are recommended for experienced players, because using them requires more skill on the player’s part. Blades designed with toe curves include:
The mid-heel is a good choice for a defender or defensive-minded player who wants an improved stick-handling ability while still maintaining the benefits of the heel curve. Mid-heel curve configurations include:
The regular, old mid curve does everything well, but nothing exceptionally well, so it may be a good place to start if you’re not sure what kind of curve you prefer. A solid choice is a mid curve that’s about ½ inch deep, which offers the best all-around performance. Examples of mid curves include:
As a player progresses in skill and learns which position on the ice best suits them, the most appropriate blade curve will become clearer. Defenders will most likely gravitate to heel and mid-heel curves, while forwards probably want mid or even toe curves. Eventually, it comes down to personal preference and desire for performance. Luckily, there are enough options that any player can find the curve that suits them best.