Written by: Anthony Porcari
This story will go through parts of my hockey stick journey. It will feature some of the experiences I have had and some opinions that I have developed along the way. Growing up, the hockey stick was the one piece of equipment I followed. I kept myself up to date with new releases, rising prices, and which NHL players were using different models.
I had a major collection of sticks in my garage. Between wooden blades, shafts, broken sticks, or my brother's old sticks, there was no need to go to the store to get a new one. My dad would make me a two-piece stick or give me the bottom half of a broken stick because I was so small. I would always collect broken sticks from my brother’s hockey games and try to make something for myself to use in a real game. This was normal to me growing up as my family did not have the money to buy me a new stick every year like my friends. I learned to take care of my sticks and knew that if I ever wanted to buy an expensive stick, it would come out of my wallet.
I started playing Timbits hockey at the age of three and vividly remember playing at the Corel Centre during an Ottawa Senators intermission game using a black wooden stick with a straight blade. I remember being able to slide the puck along the ice on my forehand and backhand, but it was tough to lift the puck and control where it went. That day, I scored my first goal in an NHL arena.
Power of branding. This first experience is quite rare but it allowed me to reflect on the power of branding that is still relevant today. In my early years of hockey, I received a signed stick from the Carleton Place Jr. B Kings. It was right-handed and I was left-handed, but it was a Bauer Vapor XXX and I loved the design. I loved it so much that I convinced myself I could shoot the other way. The next day, I taped over the original tape job that had been signed by the entire Jr. B team to protect it and brought it to my game. My coach told me I was not allowed to use it before I went out for the warm-up and then he told me again after warm-up, but there I went on my first shift trying to make it work. Halfway through my shift I could not handle holding the stick properly and decided to hold it like a left-handed stick. At that point, I had the most lethal backhand on the ice. Once I finished my shift my coach could not believe that I went out with it. I was so consumed by the branding of the stick that I convinced myself I could shoot the other way. I was so determined that I didn't even bring my left-handed stick into the rink, so my dad had to go get it out of the car so I could play the rest of the game. Although I believe you can do anything you set your mind to, learning to shoot the opposite way in one day is simply unrealistic.
Bauer Vapor XXX
Karma strikes. Later that season, I was using a gold Easton Synergy shaft with a wooden Easton Sakic blade. The wooden Sakic blade was the ultimate blade at the time and it gave me the ability to flick the puck top shelf in close to the net. I was in a tournament in Peterborough and during the dying seconds of one of the round-robin games, I was on a breakaway down 2-1 and I resorted to the flick shot. I beat the goalie but hit the crossbar and all I heard my coach yell was “You’ve got to be kidding me, Anthony.” I believe this was karma for my decision to use the right-handed stick earlier that season.
Opinion. Branding is a major factor in consumers' minds when buying a stick.
I noticed that most kids cared more about the brand of the stick or getting the newest model to show it off to teammates rather than getting a stick with the proper curve and flex. These happened to be the same kids that flexed their sticks in the dressing room until they broke just to get a new one. My teammates that had money were less likely to take care of their sticks, whereas those with less money tended to care more for their sticks. I was the one who took care of my sticks but noticed that the power of branding still affected my choices growing up.
In my second year of Novice, I got a Warrior stick from my older brother's teammate that had lost all of its grip on the backside so it was just fiberglass. It was a silver stick and had Warrior written in Orange on the front of it. I loved the design of the stick so much that I wanted to use it. The stick was not in ideal shape to use because of the exposed fiberglass, so I put a couple of strips of teal hockey tape down the backside to solve the problem.
I fell into another branding trap again when I received a different Bauer Vapor hockey stick from my brother’s teammate (it was left-handed). I took the bottom half of the stick and to make it the correct height I had to use a footlong wooden extension. For people not to see the extension, I wrapped the wood in tape, even though it was very evident. The result was a ⅔ composite and ⅓ wood covered in tape. It was stiff as a rock and offered me no benefit, but all I cared about was the branding of the stick.
My first purchase. In Atom, I purchased my first stick. It was a youth 30 flex Reebok for $19.99. The only reason I was able to get it was because I went shopping with my Mom. When I got home I knew my Dad would complain because we had so many in the garage. The stick was black and gold and had a Crosby curve. The blade was really thin and did not have much curve to it, but was better than the straight wooden stick I had in Timbits. The thin blade allowed me to launch the puck on my backhand to clear the puck out of the defensive zone or roof it top shelf when deking a goalie. My teammate's dad told me I had the best backhand on the team because I was able to do this, but in all honesty, I gave credit to the stick.
In Peewee A, I bought a Junior Easton S60 stick for $60. It was a cheaper model of the Stealth series, but it had Easton written on the front and back of the shaft like the S19. It was the first full composite stick I used with a Sakic blade (comparable to today’s Bauer’s P92, ProBlackout’s Blade 1, or CCM’s P29). I switched back and forth between my Easton and my Reebok until the Reebok had too much flex to it and I upgraded to a Junior Bauer Supreme One75 SE. I purchased the P92 curve but since it was a junior stick it did not match the P92 senior blade. I finally got my first real P92 blade when I upgraded to an Intermediate 60 flex Bauer Supreme Totalone. It cost me $150 on clearance, and I had to use all of my birthday money for it, but it was worth it, so I thought. I broke the blade just after the 30-day warranty and decided to get it repaired for $60. When I got the stick back from a local arena in Ottawa, the blade repair made the stick a lot heavier and because I was going through a growth spurt, the 60 flex was not stiff enough. It did not take long for the shaft to break. At that point, my parents would not let me buy another expensive stick.
Johnathan Toews - Chicago Blackhawks - Bauer Supreme Totalone
Opinion. Youth and junior sticks do not have the true curve of an intermediate or senior stick.
The blades on youth and junior sticks are smaller than senior blades and therefore cannot be exactly replicated. Bauer’s P92 on a junior was not even close to the same as the P92 on a senior stick when I played. I noticed this when I started buying composite blades with my brother or comparing a junior P92 stick to a senior P92 stick in stores.
Since I was not able to buy an expensive stick, I continued to collect broken sticks from teammates and bought composite blades to make my two-piece. I remember putting a Bauer One30 junior blade in an intermediate Bauer Nexus 1000 and cutting a thick piece of metal to fill the extra space. Then I took a 100 flex Senior Sherwood T90 shaft that my brother got from his Jr. B team and I put a Senior Bauer One30 P92 blade in it. Although these sticks got me through, they did not enhance my shot as neither stick had any flex to them.
In Minor Midget, I went back to the local arena in Ottawa that did the blade repair on my stick and bought a refurbished Bauer Totalone NXG with a P92 curve for $60. I was hooked on the fact that I could get a high-quality stick for such a low cost. This stick held its purpose, only breaking the blade on a diving backhand to score the 2OT game-winning goal in a Toronto A/AE tournament near the end of the season.
Shea Weber - Montreal Canadiens - Bauer Supreme Totalone NXG
To finish off that year, I bought a retail Bauer Totalone NXG when it went on sale for $150, but when it broke in my final tournament that year, I was left with the sticks in my garage. After complaining to my dad about it for so long, he did some research and found HockeyStickMan. Once I bought my first stick from HockeyStickMan, I never looked back.
Click here to read about my stick experience with HockeyStickMan and how I used their refurbished sticks throughout my Varsity Ball Hockey career at Brock University.
Final thoughts. Through my experience, the branding of hockey sticks played a severe role in my mind. As I grew up, I began to care more about the curve and flex of my sticks rather than what brand it was. Knowing what I know today, the Pro Blackout would have been the perfect stick for me in competitive hockey. It is a top-of-the-line stick for half the price and offers a range of curves and flexes to suit each player’s preferences. Most of these curves are not offered on the market by top brands anymore, making HockeyStickMan a one-stop-shop for all your wants and needs.