Stick Flex 101
To me, flex is one of the most important factors of stick selection apart from your chosen curve/pattern.
So what does the "flex" of a stick mean?
It's roughly defined as the stiffness of the shaft, or how difficult it is to bend. When you are shooting a puck, you generate strength from your forward momentum and body weight, rotation of the legs and trunk, push-pull mechanism of the upper body, and wrist snapping. With a very stiff shaft, a lot of this energy is lost, and the puck loses quite a bit of velocity. A flexible shaft allows you to store that energy in the shaft, which coils up like a spring, and then release the energy for a harder shot.
Wood Sticks, Composite sticks whats the difference?
Wood sticks tend to be very stiff, one of the big drawbacks for shorter players when its cut down to suit your height.
Composite sticks are made up of carbon fiber sheets with interlocking or overlapping fiber sheets, creating sort of a grid like pattern in the stick. This makes the stick durable and very strong. However, this hinders the sticks ability to flex or bend because the tightly packed fibers; they are otherwise too strong. To counteract this, they create a part of the shafts that is softer and able to flex while leaving some parts stiff. Composite sticks are offered in a variety of flexes, typically 50 flex for juniors, 60-70 flex for intermediate, and 75-110 flex and above for senior sticks.
How do i know what flex to choose?
When selecting a stick, you should test the flex in the store.
First, here's how you DO NOT test the flex: DO NOT grab a stick off the shelf and push down on it as hard as you can to see just how much you can get it to flex. This can snap the stick in half, and unless you want a $300 wall decoration, I'd recommend against it. Even if it doesn't snap the stick, it can create tiny stress fractures and weaken the stick for a future buyer. Just don't do it.
How you SHOULD test the flex is to hold the stick as you would when taking a wrist shot, and push down slightly with your bottom hand while pulling up slightly with your top. If the stick flexes about an inch or so under light stress, it's a proper flex. If you really need to push and pull, it's too stiff. If it feels very soft and flimsy, it's too whippy.
There's a rule of thumb that says you should select a stick flex that is half your weight. This is likely incorrect, because it fails to take into account height and body composition. A hockey stick acts as a lever, with the bottom hand the fulcrum. The longer the stick, the more torque you can apply, and the easier it is to flex. Let's take two players who weigh 170 pounds, one 5'6" and the other is 6'4". Using the half-the-weight rule, they get 85 flex sticks. The stick comes up to the chin of the 6'4" player in skates, whereas the other player needs to cut 8" off to have it come up to his chin in skates. The short player now has a stick with an effective flex of about 120 flex!
Instead, I like to base the flex of a stick from the player's height, assuming average build and strength:
When you cut down a hockey stick, you will make the stick feel stiffer, and it changes by roughly 3-6% for each inch you cut it down. A low kickpoint stick will feel like it changes less, and senior sticks will change less than a junior stick.
Again, if you use a longer or shorter stick than average, you may need a higher or lower flex. If you're very muscular or very thin, you might need a higher or lower flex. Alex Ovechkin and Brian Rolston are about about 6'2 and 215-220, yet Ovechkin uses an 80 flex stick and Rolston a 120 flex because they prefer a different feel and play a different style game.
Have we missed anything? Add your comments below on what stick you like to use and why.
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