The Performance Edge of a One-Piece Stick
The second type is uni-mold. That means the complete stick comes from a single mold. The advantages of the true one-piece sticks is there is no hosel inserted in the shaft so the kickpoint is at the lowest possible spot on the shaft. The stick offers the best feel. One-piece sticks offer the highest performance at the lightest weight.
Ultimate performance is the design goal of OPS's (one-piece sticks). OPS's offer players the ability to store power up in the shaft, then release at the optimal time during a shot or pass.
OPS's are lighter than ever. The top sticks are now under 450 grams and feel as light as feather. There are still some players that use slightly heaver OPS's as they desire more feel in their hands. When choosing a stick you want to find the one that feels good to you.
Balance is an important characteristic in the OPS. Some players like a stick that has a little more weight in the blade and others prefer the stick to be as balanced as possible. Each player has a different and intuitive perspective of what the optimum balance should be.
OPS's are generally made with two types of material. The top performing sticks will be full carbon graphite. Entry level sticks will have some carbon but mainly use a higher content of fiberglass.
Carbon fiber offers more consistency in production, higher performance attributes and is lighter. Fiberglass is more durable than carbon, but it is a heavier material and not as consistent in the manufacturing process. Carbon fiber is graded by its weave thickness, weight and tensile strength. The highest grade carbon is aerospace-grade. Even though it is the most expensive, aerospace-grade carbon will offer the greatest consistency, performance and durability compared to other types of carbon.
The two most common manufacturing processes are compression molding and bladder molding. Compression molding is achieved by using a mandrel, then wrapping it with the desired material and applying the resin. The mold is then compressed to form around the mandrel. The shape of the mandrel will dictate the handle style.
Bladder molding uses an air bladder with the material wrapped around it in a mold. The air bladder is then inflated to press the resin into the carbon fiber against the inner walls of the mold. This process allows for a more consistent resin transfer into the carbon.
Compression molding can cause some irregularities and the resin can be thicker in some areas and thinner in others. The bladder molding process will be more consistent and evenly distributed.
Every manufacturer will offer different shaft shapes. The shape of the shaft is again a personal preference. Some shafts will have standard corners while others will have rounded corners, dog bone-shaped corners or perhaps asymmetrical where the one side is concave and the other is standard.
OPS's get thinner as you go down the shaft toward the blade. This is referred to as the taper. Tapers vary in length and thickness from model to model. The design of the taper is to lower the kickpoint of the stick. The lower the kickpoint, the more power, consistency and accuracy the stick will give you.
There are two big misconceptions in what flex you should use. The first is that the more flexible a stick is, the easier it will break. This statement is simply false.
Second, we see coaches telling 10-year-old players (and their parents) to use an intermediate stick because of the bigger blade. Even though the blade is bigger, using an intermediate stick will do a young player more harm than good. To start, the stick will be too stiff, then it will have to be cut down to size. This will make the stick even stiffer, the player will not be able to flex the stick and this will lower his shot velocity.
The shaft is also thicker, which means the shaft will not fit comfortably in their hands and will be too bulky. Newton 's second law of physics states, 'The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.' In hockey terms this means, the more you can flex the stick, the more energy or forward force you will generate to produce harder, faster shots.
We suggest using the most flexible shaft you can, without overpowering it. This will help you maximize your shot velocity. Most NHL players use 100-flex shafts except the real big boys. Brett Hull used an 80-flex. Why do you think he could flex the sick so much?
Every player likes their stick a different length. As a rule of thumb, your stick should be anywhere from below your chin to about your nose. A shorter stick will make stickhandling easier and offer more accuracy for wrist shots and snap shots. A longer stick will be better for stick checks and slap shots because it will be easier to load the stick for more power.
Some shafts come with a grip coating. There are many different variations available. Grip coatings will keep the stick from twisting in your hand during shooting and stickhandling. That gives you more control.
Editor's note: Special thanks to HockeyX for this article.
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