Choose Your Weapon! How To Choose The Best Ice Hockey Stick For You
There are few pieces of sporting equipment more crucial to the game of ice hockey than your stick (we think perhaps your skates might be more important, but not by much!). It affects every interaction you have with the puck, you can’t play without it and often, once you’ve found the stick for you, then you’ll likely be together for life (or at least as long as the sticks are made). But don’t be disheartened if you can’t find the right stick for you straight away when you start – there are a bewildering array of curves, stick lengths, flexes and even materials out there – it took the author YEARS to find the stick for him and often you’ll see players chop and change from season to season! (Mine’s a Warrior Covert, Backstrom curve, 65 flex, since you asked).
If you’re new to the game of hockey, that last sentence probably didn’t make any sense to you, but by the end of his article, it will. All you need to know right now is that a carefully selected ice hockey stick will complement your skills and elevate your game, so choosing the right stick is essential!
So how do you pick the right one for you?
First of all, let’s look at the main areas to consider when you are looking for your next Ice hockey stick:
- Composition: What is your hockey stick made from (traditionally wood, but now all manner of exotic materials are used)
- Length: The length of your hockey stick (usually measured in cm or inches).
- Flex: How easily your stick bends (this is a number rating – we'll explain that later).
- Hand & Curve: Whether your stick is designed for left-handers or right-handers, and the shape of the blade. Curve is a whole article in itself, so right now we’ll just stick with telling you how to pick your handedness!
What Are Hockey Sticks Made From?
Ice hockey sticks are made of either wood or composite, most commonly carbon fibre, graphite or titanium.
Wooden hockey sticks are the cheapest option. Wood sticks barely flex and are very heavy making stickhandling and shooting much harder. Typically these are a more durable/ budget option for playing street hockey.
The vast majority of Ice Hockey Sticks are Composite and are much more lightweight and flexible than traditional wooden sticks. We would recommend anyone wanting to play hockey to opt for a composite stick.
What Are The Standard Sizes Of Hockey Sticks?
Sticks come in Youth, Junior, Intermediate and Senior.
Youth hockey sticks accommodate smaller players (ages 3-8), coming in a range between 91-142cm (3’-4’8”).
Junior hockey sticks are slimmer, making them more lightweight and flexible. They range in length from 116-138cm (3'10"- 4'7").
Intermediate hockey sticks bridge the gap between junior and senior sizes, ranging from 140-147cm (4’6”-4’9”). They are usually designed for teenagers, but some adults (like the author) use them too due to not being able to obtain senior sticks in the flex rating they want. Again, we’ll explain this when we get to flex.
Senior hockey sticks are designed for adult players who can control a stiffer, heavier and longer stick with a larger blade. They range in length from 140-158cm (4'8"-5'3").
What Is The Right Hockey Stick Length?
Stick lengths are measured along the shaft without the blade.
Essentially you are looking for the closest fit (as per below) with finer tuning of the length being done by chopping down the stick or adding an extension.
If you hold a hockey stick vertical in front of you (with the toe of the blade on the floor) the stick should be about level with the tip of your nose (if barefoot or in thin soled trainers). In Ice skates the stick should come to around the middle of your chin.
As always this is a rule of thumb, Some players prefer a longer stick for big poke checks, sweeping blocks and heavy shots however a longer stick will mean less control.
Other players prefer a smaller stick which will give better control and allow in close stickhandling and manoeuvring around opponents. It all depends on your personal skating style, so don’t be afraid to experiment with stick lengths!
Willies Pro Tip; Chopping a stick down will reduce the flex of the stick, Adding a stick extension to a stick will increase the flex of the stick. Take this into account when choosing the size and flex of your stick.
What Flex should I use?
The flex of your hockey stick will determine how much control you have over the puck and how much power you can put behind your shot.
The lower the flex, the more flexible your stick; the higher the flex, the stiffer your hockey stick will be. Often players with stronger slapshots prefer “stiffer” sticks because it gets more power into slapshots, while players who like to let snapshots and wristshots go prefer a slightly lower flex so they can load up wristshots more easily. It’s personal preference not necessarily related to strength – bear in mind that in the NHL some players, like Jonny Gaudreau, use a junior or intermediate stick flex to charge their shots up even further while big, powerful defensemen like Zdeno Chara often have sticks custom made to be even stiffer than any production model.
Flex is measured in the amount of pressure required to bend the hockey stick one inch; for example, a 100 flex hockey stick would take 100 pounds of pressure leaning on the stick to bend the stick one inch. To give you context of the range of flexes used in the NHL, the lowest flex in the NHL is Jonny Gaudreau at 55 (normally a junior stick flex) and the highest recorded recently is Zdeno Chara at 130 (that means that his stick would barely bend an inch if 155lb Gaudreau stood on it, for context).
Youth Hockey Sticks – 20-40 flex
Junior Hockey Sticks – 40-60 flex
Intermediate Hockey Sticks – 60-85
Senior Hockey Sticks – 70 - 110
We recommend that beginners use a hockey stick with medium flex within their category to have some feeling with the puck initially. Stronger and more experienced players can use a hockey stick with higher flex to put more power into hitting the puck. As you can see, the categories often overlap, and as you play and your style develops you’ll get a “feel” of whether you like your stick whippy (low flex) or stiff (higher flex).
Should You Use A Right Or Left-Handed Hockey Stick?
Hockey sticks come in either left (L) or right (R), but this doesn’t necessarily relate to whether you’re left or right-handed. Left sticks are for hockey players who play with the blade on the left side of their body, and right sticks are for players who play with the blade on their right.
Traditionally, you should place your strong hand at the top of the stick (as this hand does most of the work), so a right-handed person would use a left stick and shoot left.
However, habits formed through daily life and other sports may make this feel unnatural, and many players will play with their weak hand at the top of the stick.
To be sure which your preferred side is, grab the stick with both hands and position yourself as if you were going to shoot the puck.
- If you lead the puck at your left side, hold your right hand on top and have your left hand closest to the blade: You should choose a left stick.
- If you lead the puck on your right side, hold your left hand on top and your right hand closest to the blade: You should choose a right stick.
Ready To Choose Your Next Ice Hockey Stick?
It can take a bit of searching to find the perfect hockey stick to complement your game, so try out a few to find what best suits you. If you’re ready to find your next stick, take a look at our huge range available online, and remember, if you need any advice, we at Willies are always ready to help!