Composite one-piece hockey sticks have taken over the professional ranks over the last 20 years, to the point where you can’t find anyone in the NHL using the traditional wood any more. As a long-time recreational player, however, I had long resisted this trend. I’ve tried a number of composites and found them lacking, mostly because they felt weak and brittle, resulting in more distraction than help on the ice. In a game of split-second decisions, you need to have confidence that the tools you’re using will do the job required of them.
My mind has been changed, however, after the good folks at Easton Hockey sent me one of their Synergy EQ50 hockey sticks to try out. Over the course of a couple months, I found that besides the oft-cited improvement in shooting accuracy and power (it’s the stick which Zdeno Chara used to set a new record for Hardest Slapshot at the NHL All-Star Weekend), there was a surprising level of control provided by this stick, the “feel” that you get from a good wooden stick, but… better. Much, much better.
Control’s the word
Part of that has to do with the optional grip coating you can get on the shaft, which for many players can eliminate the need to wrap tape down around where the shooting hand is positioned. Besides that, however, the kevlar wrapping greatly reduces the “rattle” which some sticks produce when receiving a hard pass or engaging in a puck battle. In addition, the combination of firmness and flexibility in the shaft leads to an outstanding ability to both send and receive hard, accurate passes.
This feature jumped out at me on the very first shift in which I used the EQ50. As a left-handed shot, I prefer playing the off-wing, and as I brought the puck down the right side across the blueline into the offensive zone, I had the opportunity to hit a trailer coming down the middle. I was surprised to see just how quickly and accurately that backhand pass turned out, hitting my teammate right in stride and allowing for an immediate shot on net. The weight balance within the stick blade itself makes a significant difference, as you can really feel the puck travel along the blade, encouraging you to follow through with a proper wrist roll.
Of course, Mike Cammelleri thinks the EQ50 offers a fine degree of control, too…
Harder, more accurate shots
Of course when it comes to one-piece composites, most of the conversation heads immediately to the matter of slap shots, and how much harder the new sticks allow players to shoot. Based on personal experience, that certainly seems to be the case. The “sweet spot” on the blade is pretty forgiving, and thanks to a variety of weight plugs you can insert in the butt end, you can adjust the swing and flex dynamics of the stick somewhat depending on personal preference.
The only sad part about this story is that my EQ50 is no more. During a game earlier this week I caught the toe of the blade in a seam along the boards, wedging the stick like a lever between my body weight and the boards, and snapping the blade right off (it was either that or breaking one of my ribs, so I’m OK with that). Having to go back to using my old wooden stick as an emergency backup was a sore step backwards, in just about every way. I can definitely say I’ve been bitten by the composite one-piece bug, and I can’t see ever going back!