Comparing Stick CurvesPosted by Ian Tang
Hockey sticks these days come in so many different sizes, lies, stiffness, and curve patterns that it can be hard to know which one to pick. Original wooden hockey sticks were made with a flat blade and no curve at all, until the late ’50s when players began to curve their stick blades, uniquely affecting the their shots. Now there are many different possible curve patterns to choose from, each with different effects. The “curve,” refers to the amount that a blade will curve from the heel to the toe. Curves are specified by where on the blade the majority of the curving is located, either on the heel, the toe, or in the middle of the blade.
When you hear someone mention a “toe curve,” they are referring to a stick blade with greater amount of curving at the end (toe) of the blade. This is typically a forward’s preferred curve because it helps with stickhandling and elevating the puck closer to the net. Contrarily, a heel curve has more of a curve near the base (heel) of the stick blade and generally helps with slap shot accuracy and power. Heel curves are thus preferred by defensemen who take their shots mostly from out on the point near the blue line. But what about mid curves? Open and closed curves? How does lie affect a curve? Lets break down all these choices so its easier to understand what blade pattern is better suited for you.
What is the difference between all these blade patterns? Which one is right for me? These are all important questions most people have when they first pick up a hockey stick. The first real question to ask, however, is: am I a right-handed shot or a left-handed shot? Think about any time you have swung a baseball bat, or which hand you prefer to hold a tennis racket in. If you stand on the left side of the plate and swing counter clockwise or hold your tennis racket in your right hand, then you’re a right-handed shooter. The opposite means you’re a left handed shooter. Straight blades are still made and sold for players who aren’t yet sure which side feels more comfortable. This gives the player more mtime to develop a preference. If local, you can come by and check out our in-store shooting alley to get a feel for right- and left-handed sticks.
Once handedness is determined, you need to identify what kind of player you are and what position you will mostly be playing. If you are a forward, you are going to spend more of your time closer to the goal and will want to elevate the puck quickly. You’ll also want better puck control for stickhandling around defensemen, and the ability to make quick, accurate passes to your teammates. Look into a stick with a toe curve.
Centers should consider which curve is going to help to win faceoffs. Usually a flatter blade is ideal for this purpose.
Defensemen are going to want a curve that will help when taking slap shots from the point and making long passes up to the forwards. Heel curves are used to create a slow-rising slap shot that doesn’t lift too quickly and soar over the net. Some defensemen blade patterns also feature a square toe to help dig the puck off the boards.
Considering your shot tendencies will help you to decide between an open and closed curve. Open and closed refer to the amount of twist on the blade from the heel to the toe. An open curve will twist along the blade and open up looking like a golf iron. A closed curve will remain very neutral along the blade and stay cupped or closed. This will change the way the puck lifts off of the blade when you take a shot. With an open blade, the puck will begin to lift as it rolls from heel to toe, whereas a closed blade will help to keep the puck down, allowing more force to be put onto the puck before it lifts off the ice.
Lastly, but also very important, is your stick handling. Are you trying to dangle through the defensemen and get in close? Or are you just looking to keep control of the puck and make precise passes? The curve you choose will help bring your puck control up to another level. The way your curve is shaped will help you cradle the puck for better pass accuracy and more control when your deking. A closed curve with a deeper pocket makes for better heel and toe drags and an open curve will help you saucer pass the puck over other sticks.
Blade pattern charts will provide you with the information to decide your ideal curve once you have assessed all of the factors above. In addition to the curve details, blade pattern charts may also explain the uses of each curve. The one above, for example, details each curve and provides what type of shot or stick handling this blade pattern complements. Once you have selected the perfect pattern for your play style, you will have a bit of an adjustment period with your new curve; you will see improvements on your accuracy and power once you get a feel for the puck on the blade. Curve choice coupled with the right flex will yield drastic improvements in your shots and also in your goals. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different curves or styles of a blade pattern until you find the one that best suits you. A difference in curve can make a huge difference out on the ice.