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Well, the sun is setting on the year 2015, and it has been a year full of gear releases ranging from sticks to skates to protective pads. It's time we compile a list of our top ten pieces of gear released this year.
10. CCM Ribcor 50K Ice Skates
When Reebok began to move away from the game of hockey, their sister company in CCM had some big shoes (or skates!) to fill. The Reebok Ribcor skates were one of the most popular skates in the NHL just a few seasons back, and CCM did a great job designing a stylish and fast skate in the Ribcor 50K to replace them.
Our favorite feature of the Ribcor 50K skates is the black stainless steel SpeedBlade runner. First, the SpeedBlade runner was designed to hold an edge longer than competitors' steel and to reduce friction on the ice, giving players more speed. Then, the 50K is currently the only skate on the market to offer black steel right out of the box. The black steel makes finding any burrs or chips much easier than those with a standard steel blade. While you won't see many pros using this black runner, it comes standard on all retail 50K skates.
Sidney Crosby tears down the ice in his CCM Ribcor 50K Skates. Photo Credit: Charles LeClair, USA Today Sports
9. Easton Stealth CX Stick
After a couple seasons of relative downtime in the Stealth stick lineup, Easton launched their Stealth CX sticks in June and made a huge splash in the low-kick stick market. The CX stick is one of the most whippy, powerful, and accurate sticks money can buy.
Our favorite feature of the new Easton CX stick is the Exo Rim blade. This new feature keeps the blade rigid, meaning it won't bend or twist upon contact with the puck. In turn, this results in an extremely responsive puck feel and a powerful shot with pinpoint accuracy.
Drew Doughty throws some sauce around the boards with his Easton Stealth CX stick. Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA Today Sports
8. Easton Pro 10 Gloves
One of the best new gloves of 2015 are the Easton Pro 10 gloves. While they don't get the same amount of buzz as Bauer or CCM, two of the most popular glove brands, these mitts are not to be overlooked. Offering a roomier fit similar to a Bauer Nexus glove, the Easton Pro 10's also sport a dual layer soft nash palm with a pro grip overlay. This means you'll get sensitivity without sacrificing your grip on the stick.
Zach Parise with Easton Pro 10 gloves. Photo Credit: NBC Sports
7. CCM FitLite Helmet
Another Reebok classic, the 11K helmet, got a CCM overhaul in June. Making its NHL debut on New Years Day in Nationals Park in Washington, DC for the Winter Classic, the CCM FitLite helmet quickly made its way onto several NHL players' heads. Superstars such as Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Marian Hossa, and many more have all been spotted in CCM's latest bucket.
The CCM FitLite keeps the same outer shell design as the Reebok 11K, but offers some new features in the internal padding. The R.E.D. (Rotational Energy Dampening) pads that first came to hockey in CCM's Resistance helmet line are now offered on the FitLite. These are a series of liquid-filled bladders that allow for improved rotational deceleration of the head. This revolutionary technology was developed to reduce rotational acceleration of the head during an impact.
Matt Duchene with his CCM FitLite helmet. Photo Credit: Chris Humphreys, USA Today Sports
6. Warrior HD1 Protective Line
Warrior is taking the player protective market by storm with their all-new Dynasty HD1 shoulder, shin, and elbow pads.
Starting off with the shoulder pads, the HD1's offer an anatomical (Axy-Sym) fit that gives players unrestricted motion without sacrificing protection. The shoulder pads have an awesome rigid sternum guard that practically eliminates all fear one can have when facing a defender's slapshot head-on from the blue line. Then, with the 2-Timer abdominal Velcro straps, players can customize the fit even more because they attach in both the front and back of the HD1 shoulder pads. The combination of the 2-Timer strapping system and another new feature - the I.S.T. (Integrated Stretch Technology) gussets on the back near the kidney padding - gives players the most mobile yet protective shoulder pad on the market.
Going on to the elbow pads, these offer superior forearm protection. The main forearm padding is a honeycomb-style wrap that lightly flexes upon impact and absorbs more of the force of a slash.
Then let's review the shin guards. The HD1 shin guards deliver a comfortable neoprene Y-shaped anchor/webbing strap for the upper shin support and a shorter, thicker, neoprene calf strap for the lower leg support. The shin guards use Warrior's Smart Cap technology, meaning you get High Density foam on the inside and a rigid, vented plastic cap on the outside for both comfort and superior protection.
Last, as an added bonus to all of these great features, the entire Warrior Dynasty HD1 protective line offers Wartech FnC (Fresh n' Clean) liners to keep you cool, dry, and bacteria-free, meaning you can say goodbye to that infamous hockey gear stench.
Martin Hinterstocker, formerly of the EHC Red Bull München, puts his jersey on over his HD1 protective pads. Photo Credit: Warrior Hockey
5. CCM Extreme Flex II Goalie Pads
In 2013, CCM refreshed the goalie pad market with the original Extreme Flex pads. Pros such as Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, and Jonathan Bernier all wore the first-generation CCM E-Flex pads. Now that CCM has made the new-and-improved E-Flex II pads, look for even more goaltenders to wear them.
The Extreme Flex II leg pads are designed for the butterfly goalie who is looking to get deep into his stance and be able to snap the five-hole closed as fast as possible. With CCM's 2,600 hours of research and development in designing these pads, you know you'll get a top-of-the-line performance.
The Extreme Flex II catch glove uses the same "600" break angle from the original glove, and now features D3O foam in the palm to cushion the hand from those stinging saves. Like the catch glove, D3O foam will also be found in the blocker to minimize vibration from blocker and stick saves.
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens prepares for a save with his new CCM Extreme Flex II equipment. Photo Credit: John Crouch, Icon Sportswire
4. Bauer Vapor 1X Ice Skates
In April, Bauer released one of the most anticipated skates of the year - the Vapor 1X. After the tremendous success and popularity of its APX2 predecessor, the 1X had little to improve on, but these skates are amazing. They combine the Vapor line's trademark snug fit with an unbelievably light full-composite boot to make sure you fly down the ice faster than your opponent. Despite the $899.99 price tag, these skate are worth every penny.
Our favorite features in the Bauer Vapor 1X skates are the comfortable 37.5™ liner (keeps your feet dry all game long) and the fact that these skates only weigh 802 grams (one of the lightest of 2015).
The only downside to the 1X skates that I found was the durability of the new LS4 runner. In my second game skating in the 1X's, I took a hard pass into my skates and had my steel snap in half, ending my night early. Fortunately, this was covered under Bauer's warranty and they sent me replacement steel in just a few days.
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks with his Bauer Vapor 1X Limited Edition skates and stick. Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images.
3. CCM JetSpeed Ice Skates
When Bauer released their full-composite 1X skates in April, CCM was hot on their tail with their July release of their full-composite JetSpeed ice skates. While the original RBZ skates were not received very well due to their wide fit and heavy boot, the JetSpeeds couldn't be any more different from their older model.
The CCM JetSpeed skates fit nearly identical to a Bauer Vapor boot with a tight "second skin" feeling. When I put on the JetSpeeds for the first time, I couldn't believe how light they felt - even after wearing 1X's for a couple months. It turns out the JetSpeeds weigh only 790 grams, making them 12 grams lighter than the 1X's and the lightest skate released in 2015.
This redesigned, lightweight, full-composite skate at a fraction of the price of the Vapor 1X makes the CCM JetSpeed skates our top skate for 2015.
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers wearing CCM JetSpeed skates. Photo Credit: Perry Nelson, USA Today Sports
2. Warrior Dynasty HD1 Stick
After Warrior's tremendously successful launch of the low-kick QR (QuickRelease) stick line, many players who prefer a mid-kick point anxiously waited for the June release of the Dynasty HD (HyperDrive) line.
The Warrior Dynasty HD1 uses the same technology found in the QR's low-kick point, but has it higher up the shaft in a red graphic called the "HyperDrive zone." When a player's hand is in that zone when taking a shot, the puck absolutely launches off the stick.
In addition to improved puck velocity, players will definitely notice improved shot accuracy as well from Warrior's new Strong Arm taper. This taper design helps improve the durability of the lower half of the stick and also prevents the blade from "opening up" when taking a shot. It may seem obvious, but remember, a blade that faces square to its target will be much more precise than a blade that (even slightly) turns away at the last second.
If you are a shooter specializing in hard and accurate shots, or just looking for a more durable top-of-the-line stick, the Warrior Dynasty HD1 is the perfect stick for you!
Warrior Pros Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings use their Warrior Dynasty HD1 sticks to battle for puck posession. Photo Credit: The Tampa Tribune
1. CCM Ultra Tacks Stick
One of the new features found in the Ultra Tacks is the Bumper Technology Reinforcement found in the shaft. CCM researched the most frequent areas where players' sticks break due to slashes and made these areas more durable on the Ultra Tacks stick. This technology beefs up the inside of the shaft in order to prevent cracks and fractures from forming. In the event of a small crack, the Bumper Technology prevents it from spreading, giving the stick more longevity.
Apart from durability, this stick has amazing shooting power and accuracy. The blade has great feel to help you stick handle your way to an opening and the response and accuracy to pick those corners on elite goaltenders with a snapshot or a one-timer. The blade had the best feel of any other stick currently on the market.
All in all, the CCM Ultra Tacks is one of the best weapons a dangler and a sniper can have - making it our #1 choice for the best piece of gear released in 2015. You are getting a responsive, accurate, and durable stick that will help you light the lamp game after game.
Seth Jones, formerly of the Nashville Predators, looks to make a cross-ice pass with his CCM Ultra Tacks stick. Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports
Which item on our list was your favorite this year? Did we miss any? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts. We are very excited to see what gear comes out in 2016! Thanks for reading and we'll see you on the ice.