How They Work and Why You Should BuyCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carbonsheetwiki1.gif
Ice hockey sticks have been around for over a century, and have certainly evolved over the years. Starting out as a crudely fashioned piece of wood with a flat blade, this essential piece of equipment is now almost exclusively produced from composite materials like carbon fiber(photo above) and silicon. Very few companies still manufacture wood ice hockey sticks, while composite hockey sticks line the aisles of many sporting good stores. Companies like Easton, TPS, Warrior, Sherwood, CCM, and Bauer all make large lines of one piece composite sticks in both senior and youth sizes. So what is it that makes these ice hockey sticks different and why the great shift towards them?
Composite hockey sticks can be made with varying amounts of flex because the material is being formed from scratch, rather than the old hockey sticks being made from existing wood. This flex translates to player comfort and shot speed improvement. When a player takes a wrist shot or a slap shot with a composite hockey stick, in slow motion it is quite obvious that he leans heavily on the stick causing the stick to bow and then release like a slingshot, rocketing the puck at his intended target with more force than a stick that would not flex. This flex can be altered so that larger, stronger players are able to use a stiffer flex, and will not have so much whip in the shaft that the stick is sloppy to control.
With players skating faster than ever, and coaches demanding fast, short shifts, it is an advantage to have a light stick that is easy to carry and maneuver on the ice. It allows players with good puck handling skills to be able to swing the stick around easily and really feel the weight of the puck on their blade. And when taking a shot, the energy transfer to the puck may be greater as a result of being able to move a lighter stick faster towards the puck.
All hockey sticks break sooner or later. The important thing is that they break safely to avoid injury to the players on the ice. Where wooden hockey sticks would snap and turn into sharp, jagged weapons, composite sticks break much more cleanly, and leave a much less dangerous break-off point.
This attribute is the biggest downside of composite ice hockey sticks. While they are designed for high performance, they do come up short in the area of long-term durability. It is not unusual for them to break on a critical play of the game, creating a scoring chance for the other team. However, for the most part composite sticks do stand up very well during normal play. Extending the shaft is also easily done with a glue in wooden plug that can then be trimmed down to an appropriate length.
Since the market has been satisfied by many companies, the average cost of composite ice hockey sticks has come down considerably in the past 5-10 years. It is easy to find a composite stick for less than $100, but if you want better quality sticks and are willing to shell out the cash, they can be found up into the $300+ range.