Hockey Stick Buyer's Guide
ESSENTIAL HOCKEY STICK GUIDE
Whether you’re an experienced hockey player or you are new to this wonderful game, this essential hockey stick guide should serve as a means of refreshing or enhancing your knowledge about hockey sticks. If you are on the market for a brand new hockey stick then below you’ll find tips and information on the various hockey stick specifications, materials, prices and sizing.
During the last two decades, manufacturers have adapted to the demands of the modern games and have produced a wide variety of hockey sticks to suit various hockey formats, sizes, budgets and levels. So before you make a purchase from our fantastic hockey stick collection, please read this comprehensive hockey stick guide so that you can purchase a brand new hockey stick with complete confidence.
HOCKEY STICK CONSTRUCTION
Hockey sticks have been continuously refined in the modern era but they have maintained their traditional shape, with the handle, the head and the shaft remaining its core features.
The hockey stick handle has a diameter of approximately 25-30mm prior to a grip being applied to boost control, with this size proportionally decreased in junior hockey sticks.
The hockey stick head offers many different design options, including how rounded the face is, while modern features include rubber inserts and indented concave faces to boost feel and control. The advent of artificial playing surfaces has resulted in many changes to the hockey stick head, with consumers given multiple options to choose from. The modern game has demanded manufacturers to come up with new ways to boost power, feel and control.
Shorti Head: Developed through the limitations of a solid Mulberry wood head, the Shorti head has a very short head curve and minimal surface area on the reverse side to aid ball control. It is primarily this reason why the popularity of a shorti head has decreased during the last decade with players opting for the greater surface area of its contemporaries. Shorti heads are seen now and then in the indoor game, as hockey players tend to play a lot closer to the ground, especially on the reverse part of the head. Meanwhile, some hockey internationals feel they can develop their dribbling skills more effectively with this traditional-style head.
Maxi Head: The Maxi head was developed in parallel to the advent of the laminate head construction in the early 1990s with its chief selling point being the increased size and sweet spot, which boosted power. The Maxi head also boasted a more open recurve, which aided contemporary skills like ‘dragging – trapping the hockey ball in the space between head and shaft. The overwhelming majority of hockey players from international level to the school playing field utilise a Maxi head.
Hook Head: This type of hockey stick head is designed for players who adopt more of an upright stance, and offers the player an increased surface area on the reverse. However, in recent years hockey players have been encouraged to adopt a lower playing style, meaning demand for the hook style head has dwindled. Although forwards who receive and pass the ball at pace, and whom usually adopt a more upright stance than most, still favour the hook head.
The Shaft: This is perhaps the most limited aspect of the hockey stick in terms of innovation, although some manufactures have experimented with various features to aid control and increase stiffness. The amount of curvature or bow, however, is one feature that varies from model to model.
Akin to the cricket bat, the bow is the amount of curvature along the playing surface of the hockey stick from top to bottom – the peak of the handle to the bottom of the hockey stick head. Measuring the bow is very simple: Place the hockey stick face-down on a flat surface and measure the maximum distance between the surface and the playing surface of the stick.
As enhanced bows grew in popularity, a limit of 50mm was imposed by hockey’s governing body, FIH, before a 2006 ruling modified the limit to 25mm, curtailing the drag flick technique used on short corner routines which resulted in high ball speeds and a number of high profile injuries.
Despite the limitations imposed, the advantages of an increased bow includes maximising speed and power with aerial passes and drag flicks, supplying a sling shot effect – speed is built up as the ball is propelled along the shaft so that the ball is moving at a higher speed than the head of the stick. On the contrary, when the ball is received with the hockey stick in a horizontal position, an enlarged bow can boost control by helping to extinguish the natural tendency of the ball rolling up the stick.
Nevertheless, an increased bow also comes with its disadvantages. Hitting and passing can be affected because the hockey stick with an increased bow will make contact with the ball sooner and at a different angle to the straight bow stick. This could possibly lead to the ball lifting off the ground or moving to the left of the intended target, depending on whether the stick was in vertical or horizontal position, and what level of power was imparted. Also, receiving on the reverse side can be compromised – when the leading edge of the stick is leaned towards the ball the bowed element of the stick lifts further off the ground, sometimes resulting in the ball slipping underneath the shaft of the stick.
HOCKEY STICK MATERIALS
Due to technological advancements and the increasing demands of professional hockey players, the materials utilised in the construction of hockey sticks have changed over the years. Hockey sticks were typically made from wood – usually Mulberry, due to its combination of strength and flexibility – but a number of additional materials have been introduced, owed largely to the modern tendency of using sand and water-based artificial pitches.
Aluminium shafted hockey sticks hit the market in the 1990s allowing for fantastic hitting power, but the FIH quickly outlawed any use of metallic components in the construction of hockey sticks after several injuries were reported. Fibreglass, carbon fibre and Kevlar have now become widely adopted. Hockey sticks comprised of composite materials have become widely accepted after initial disinclination, and these materials combined with wood have culminated in stiffer, lighter hockey stick with a traditional feel.
Wooden hockey sticks:
Traditionally, wooden hockey sticks were hand crafted from individual blocks of Mulberry wood in a one piece head construction until modern hockey techniques demanded enhanced curvature, which would have put too much stress on the wood.
This problem was overcome by the development of the laminate head construction, which involved bonding together several layers of wood, which boosted playability. This process embraced a two-part stick construction – a one-piece handle connected to a laminated stick head. Early on in its development, substandard bonding processes caused splitting in the wood but improved techniques have meant that this has become the customary construction for wooden hockey sticks.
As stiffness became more vital, manufacturers had to adapt the traditional process and incorporate contemporary materials to reap the rewards of certain properties through reinforcement. Pro-quality hockey sticks incorporate woven sleeves to encase the shaft of the hockey stick while similar strips are applied to key areas to reduce wear and tear and enhance power and stiffness.
Composite Hockey Sticks
Power and feel can be fully maximised in both wooden hockey sticks and fully composite hockey sticks by borrowing useful properties from a range of materials. Composite hockey sticks are made from a variety of woven fibres which are pre-soaked in resin and are baked in a mould to bond the different materials together. Paint and lacquer are then applied to the outside layer once cooled. Most composite hockey sticks adopt a twin channel inner construction, which results in an ideal strength-to-weight ratio.
Fibreglass: Highly affordable, fibreglass is composed of fine strands of glass which are woven together and mixed with a risen to not only enhance stiffness and strength, but to also decrease general wear and tear to wooden hockey sticks.
Resin: This applies to a range of glue-like substances used to produce very hardwearing materials – offering a protective shield to the head of both wooden and composite hockey sticks. Marrying resin with other composite materials can produce a bonding agent to hold together fibrous strips and sleeves.
Kevlar/Aramid: A fibrous, flexible material used to maximise the strength of a hockey stick, which is seen as a step up from fibreglass and is used in bullet-proof vests.
Carbon Fibre: By no means the cheapest of materials, carbon fibre is composed of light strands of carbon woven into sheets or strips. Greater power was permitted in a hockey stick through the application of carbon fibre, as it vastly enhanced the stiffness – the more carbon fibre the stiffer the stick. It is also a very strong material but its poor impact protection means that breakages are frequent, which is why carbon fibre is often married with Kevlar/Aramid to offset its brittleness.
TOP TIP: The greater amount of Carbon Fibre the stiffer and more expensive the hockey stick is to manufacture – hence it is of a higher standard. The greater amount of fibreglass used the more flexible and affordable the stick is.
DECISION TIME: A WOODEN OR A COMPOSITE HOCKEY STICK?
Wooden hockey sticks
Below are some of the pros and cons of using wooden hockey sticks and composite hockey sticks. What will you opt for?
Price: Wood is a cheaper material compared to the use of a range of composite materials, so wooden hockey sticks offer greater affordability. The high cost of composite materials and the sophisticated production process means that a composite hockey stick will be greater in price compared to a wooden hockey stick of a similar specification.
Feel: Many international hockey players prefer wooden sticks as it offer a softer feel on the ball. Composite hockey sticks tend to have a less refined feel for the ball, but manufacturers are working at ways to reduce this deficit in touch.
Consistency: As wood is hand-made and wooden sticks are only as good as the wood that they are sculpted from, inconsistencies exist in quality, moisture levels and density. Specifications of composite hockey sticks are more consistent in weight, stiffness and power.
Durability: Wood is prone to wear and tear, especially on sand-based surfaces, while moisture can be drawn into the stick over time which may lead to breakages. With a high resin composition, composite hockey sticks naturally bond intimately, boosting durability and consistency in feel.
Power: Generally, wooden hockey sticks are not quite as powerful due to a smaller hitting zone. Composite sticks are renowned for a greater power-to-weight ratio, while the heads of composite sticks are manufactured to create a maximised sweet spot.
HOCKEY STICK LENGTH & WEIGHT
The standard length for an adult hockey stick is 36.5 inches long – approximately a yard – and manufacturers do not usually produce sticks that are more than 38.5 inches long. However, longer lengths can be custom made as there is not currently any restriction on the maximum length of a hockey stick.
Your height should obviously dictate what length of hockey stick you require, especially if you are a young player developing your skills, but it is not the sole consideration. Strength is also a factor and stronger players could take advantage of the increased reach of a longer stick, as long as control isn’t compromised. Use the below guide as a starting point to determine a suitable length stick for your height:
ESSENTIAL HOCKEY STICK GUIDE
Your key considerations are comfort and control. You do not want to be bending too low, which could result in long-term back problems or a lack of vision on the field, and it is imperative to ensure that your hands are in full control of the stick head throughout the swing when hitting a hockey ball. Your body should not interfere – if the stick is frequently making contact with your stomach then it is probably too big.
With regards to weight, the best advice we can give you is: if in doubt, get a lighter hockey stick, as the majority of players are looking for lighter specifications. Due to the modern trend of composite hockey sticks, these contemporary instruments are capable of retaining excellent strength and stiffness whilst reducing the weight – you’ll now find many manufacturers offering extra light hockey sticks in either high end sticks with excellent strength, stiffness and lightweight qualities, or low end sticks where power and stiffness is often compromised.
Did you know? The FIH have set the maximum weight for a hockey stick at 737 grams.
How to choose the correct weight
Again, it’s all about comfort and feel, but a hockey stick that is too heavily can hinder performance. Naturally, the stronger the player the more accustomed he or she will feel towards a heavier stick.
If you are already a regular hockey player with a specified position then certain positions require different skills, which could lay a claim to a certain weight of stick. For example, defenders need a lot of power to make long-range passes as well as stronger tackles, so a slightly heavier weight could be preferred. The closer ball control required by forwards means that a light or extra light stick is a popular choice for attackers. Whatever your position, the skillset and style tendencies developed by players can sometimes determine the choice of weight. If you’re a beginner, we recommend that you opt for a light stick whilst you’re developing your game.
Are you ready to buy a hockey stick?
- Hockey Stick
Other useful guides:
- Hockey Equipment & Clothing Guide
- Hockey Goalkeeping Gear Guide
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