Above: Evgeni Malkin flexes a BASE demo stick at an on-ice fitting (see video here)
One of the greatest advantages in stick technology since wooden and aluminium sticks were overtaken by carbon fiber is the ability to fine-tune shaft (and blade) flex. Instead of a nearly one-size-fits-all approach that leaves many players using sub-optimal sticks for their personal characteristics, mechanics, and technique, modern manufacturing processes allow flex to be tailored to each individual player. BASE Hockey has taken full advantage of this technology, constantly refining and redeveloping the materials, equipment, and methods used in its factory to manufacture custom sticks in order to give players the maximum depth and breadth of choices to suit their preferences and needs. The newest development from BASE’s flex research is the Senior 65 flex option, soon to be available on all BASE Senior one-piece sticks and shafts.
Above: The Reign LT, soon available in Senior 65 flex.
For those players who like the dimensions and length of a senior shaft, but who are looking for a softer flex than 75, BASE has developed an even softer flex. The Senior 65 flex is softer than Senior 75 but is slightly stiffer than an Intermediate 85 flex stick extended to the same standard Senior shaft length of 60”. This new flex lets players used to Senior sticks fine-tune their flex even further, which should optimize shooting, stickhandling, and puck feel for Senior players who find 75 flex slightly too stiff. Why is all this fine-tuning necessary? As with all other aspects of stick fitting, finding the right flex is a complex and crucial process.
Above: One of the methods BASE fitters use to determine optimal flex for a player's particular shooting mechanics
While many coaches and instructors try to reduce shaft flex fitting to a simple rule (usually, “flex = ½ of body weight in lbs”), the reality isn’t so simple. As you no doubt know by now if you’ve been reading this blog or if you’ve attended a BASE custom stick fitting, there is a great deal of subjectivity and personal preference involved in finding the right flex for your game. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the pro ranks, where players have taken flex preferences to the extreme.
Here’s a picture of Phil Kessel in his Leafs days taking an off-foot snapshot. As you can tell, there is a massive amount of shaft deflection – or shaft bending/flexing – going on as Kessel puts his weight out over the stick and torques with his top and bottom hands. Kessel weighs 200lbs, and the stick he’s using in that picture is an Intermediate 65 flex (which is much softer than BASE's new Senior 65). Kessel switched to the intermediate model of the Synergy stick as soon as it was introduced, since he prized a whippy flex above all other stick characteristics. The “standard formula” for stick flex would fit him in a Senior 100-flex stick, but the over 40 flex less doesn’t seem to bother him. For instance, he had no trouble clocking a 104mph slapshot with what some would describe as his “noodle stick”:
Similarly, the 5’10, 180-lb Ryan Ellis, who should use a 90-flex stick according to the common wisdom, uses a 102-flex twig. Apart from his devastating slapshot, Ellis has also demonstrated his quick release, even with a stiff stick:
Clearly then, there is no magical formula to determine the optimal flex for shooting, and the same flex can react differently to players of the same weight depending on a multitude of other factors. However, flex isn’t just about shooting the puck – it can and does affect nearly every aspect of play, including passing, pass reception, stickhandling, stick checking, puck battles, and puck feel. That’s why BASE fittings not only measure shaft deflection and puck release while shooting, but also allow the user to try out stickhandling, passing, and other relevant plays to see how they like a particular flex.
Above: Cliff Ronning selects a shaft during a custom stick fitting.
However, flex tuning at BASE starts much before the fitting or sale of a stick. At BASE’s own factory, technicians create different flexes and kickpoints using different layups of carbon fiber. Stiffness and flex in a graphite stick is determined by the direction or angles of the carbon fiber ply – not the thickness of the carbon fiber, as is commonly thought. Graphite is stiff only in the direction that the fiber runs, so if all the fibers were oriented in the zero-degree direction (straight up and down the shaft), then the shaft would be very stiff. If they were all oriented in a 90-degree direction (horizontally across the shaft), the shaft would be overly flexible. Therefore, a combination of zero, 90-degree, and angle orientations are used to create the desired shaft flex and kickpoint.
Above: The SuperNatural, soon to be offered in Senior 65 flex.
For example, in a mid-kick stick like the SuperNatural, the angle plies are at a constant angle throughout the shaft; but, in a low-kick stick like the Nasty, BASE increases the angle of a few plies towards the bottom of the shaft. The Reign LT combines a lower kickpoint than the Nasty with some additional very lightweight but stiff plies that minimize the twisting of the shaft (which maximizes kick but minimizes shot distortion). The result of all this flex engineering is a variety of precise flex profiles which allow every shooter to find their perfect weapon.
If you’re interested in finding the perfect flex for you, and possibly trying out our new Senior 65 flex in any of our stick or shaft models, book a BASE Hockey custom stick fitting at a fitting center near you.
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