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Are you buying your first hockey stick and curious about how stick flexes work? Maybe you bought one previously and you’re unsure if you made the right choice on the flex? Or perhaps you want to cut your new stick shorter and you’re concerned about how that will affect the stick’s flex? Look no further, this detailed guide will inform you of everything you need to know about choosing a flex for your hockey stick.
What Does “Flex” Mean For a Hockey Stick?
A hockey stick’s flex refers to the amount of pressure (in pounds) that is required to bend the stick one inch. For this reason, stick flexes are measured in numbers, most often one that is two-digits.
For example, the average flex of an adult’s hockey stick (usually referred to as a “senior” stick) is 85.
A stick’s flex number is called its flex “rating.” While you must apply the stick flex rating (in pounds of pressure) to bend the stick one inch, a stick can actually bend several inches without breaking.
The higher the flex, the more difficult it will be to bend the stick. The lower the flex, the easier it will be to bend the stick.
Stick flex allows for players to shoot the puck more powerfully and with higher velocity. When they shoot, players place pressure on the stick with their lower hand.
The stick then flexes forward from the point where the lower hand is – usually around the middle or halfway down the stick. This bends the stick, producing a “kick” effect that adds to the strength of the shot.
Just how much a stick visibly flexes may surprise you. When an NHLer’s slapshot is viewed in slow-motion, the stick can flex an incredible amount -- especially on a one-timer.
Hockey Stick Flex Chart
|Tyke (3-5)||3’0″-3’10”||30-65 lbs||20-25|
|Youth (5-8)||3’6″-4’8″||40-80 lbs||30 -- 40|
|Junior (7-12)||4’4″-5’1″||70-110 lbs||40-52|
|Intermediate (11-14)||4’11”-5’8″||150-210+ lbs||55-70|
|Senior (14+)||5’7″-6’1″+||150-210+ lbs||75-100+|
Why Is Stick Flex So Important?
Stick flex matters because it plays a role in how you shoot and handle the puck.
If you aren’t using the correct stick flex rating, it can hinder your shooting strength, accuracy, and feel for the puck.
If your stick flex is too flexy or “whippy,” you won’t be able to put your full strength into your shot. This stick’s flex would be maximized before you get a chance to apply your highest shot pressure.
A stick that is too stiff won’t allow you to bend the stick at all. At that point you’re using your power against the stick.
Think about it this way. If a hockey stick was made of a solid material that didn’t bend, you would only be shooting with your arm strength.
Slapshots on a stick with no flex would also be painful.
Normally, when a player’s stick makes contact with the ice and puck on a slapshot, the stick bends forward. This lessens the violence of the impact when the stick hits the ice, and it makes the shot more powerful because the stick’s flex pushes through the shot.
A proper stick flex rating will allow you to extend your power into the stick and utilize the stored energy in the stick as it kicks forward into your shot.
What Type Of Flex Suits Children Vs. Adults?
Youth hockey sticks (usually referred to as “junior” sticks) will possess the lowest flex of all hockey sticks. Junior sticks are shorter, skinnier, and have smaller blades than senior sticks.
Because youth hockey players are much smaller and weaker than adult players, their sticks have rather minimal flexes. The average junior stick flex rating is 50.
Make sure a child is using a junior stick, otherwise they will develop bad habits.
A child who uses a stick that is too stiff will not learn how to properly transfer their weight into the stick during a shot. Instil proper shooting technique in your child from a young age by providing them with a stick that has an appropriate stick flex rating.
Some hockey equipment brands also sell an “intermediate” stick that is between the size of junior and senior sticks. Teenagers will often use this intermediate stick.
The intermediate flex will usually fall between the junior and senior flexes as well. The average for an intermediate stick is a flex rating of 60 or 65.
While stick heights are relatively consistent within their classification group (junior, intermediate, or senior), each type of stick will typically be available in several different flex numbers.
How To Pick The Right Flex For You
A general rule you can start with when considering your hockey stick’s flex rating is to divide your weight by two. This would mean that our average stick flex of 85 is best suited for adult players in the 165-175lb range.
With the average junior stick flex rating at 50, it would be suitable for youth players up to 100lbs. Intermediate sticks average at 65, so the 130lb range fits with this stick.
In most cases, a stick will be available in the standard 80 to 85 range for senior sticks. A flexier version of the stick, often as low as 70 to 75, may also be available.
But at the same time, players won’t always want to follow the divide by two rule. This is especially relevant once sticks get into flex ratings in the range of 100 and above.
Players who exceed 175lbs don’t necessarily need to use stick flexes in the 90 to 100 range.
Sticks in the 100 flex rating range are quite stiff, and are sometimes marketed specifically as a “stiff” model. These sticks are reserved for the heaviest and strongest players, and they can sometimes be difficult to find.
NHLers are usually in the 190 to 210lb range, and they commonly use 95 to 110 flex rating sticks. But they are also professional athletes who undertake extensive training to maximize their strength and technique.
Nothing would be wrong for a casual hockey player to use a flex that’s less than half their body weight. Most recreational and beer league players get by comfortably with the standard 85 flex rating.
Just make sure that the stick works for you. Confirm that first by testing the stick before you purchase it. In store or by testing out your teammaters sticks on the ice to get a feel of how different flexes work for you.
Testing Your Stick Flex Before Buying
When purchasing your stick, you will want to test how the flex of the stick feels.
It would be safe to start with a stick flex rating that is close to half your body weight. A senior stick with an 85 flex is also a safe option.
You can test the flex by holding the stick as you normally would when taking a wrist shot. Then, lean some weight onto the stick with your lower hand.
See if it feels like a natural flex for you. It should not feel like a rubber toy, nor should it feel like unbendable steel.
If you can’t bend the stick, it’s too stiff. There should be a little bit of give to the stick when you lean into it, but not so much that it feels overly “whippy”.
Also be careful not to apply too much pressure to the stick while you’re in the store. Although it is unlikely, if you put your entire body weight into bending the stick, it could break.
Some hockey equipment stores now have shooting stations where you can test out new sticks. If your local store has one of these rooms, take advantage of it.
Once you find the stick you’d like to buy, test it out in a few different flexes. Educated salespeople can also watch you shoot and offer advice on what they’re seeing in your shot.
Will Cutting The Stick Change Its Flex?
Yes, when you cut a hockey stick shorter, it increases the stiffness of the stick.
Cutting the stick doesn’t fundamentally alter how the stick is made, but it does move where your hand is on the stick.
Reducing the height of a stick shrinks the area over which you would be able to apply force to bend the stick.
For this reason, most hockey sticks will have markings on their upper quarter that indicate what the stick’s equivalent flex would be if you were to cut it down to that length.
Be wary of the stick’s flex if you plan to cut it shorter. Even a difference of just a few inches will alter the flex.
If you know that you’ll be cutting the stick, when you’re testing it out, choke up on the stick with your top hand. Hold it at the height that you imagine it would be once you cut it, then test the flex that way (This provides a rough estimation but is not perfect).
Adding length to the stick works the opposite way. If you add a plug to a hockey stick to make it taller, it will make the flex rating lower than what the stick was originally.
Your Stick, Your Flex
Flex can also be a matter of each individual player’s preference. It can depend on what position you play, and how often and in what style you take your wrist and snap shots, for example.
If you take a wrist shot more traditionally – by drawing your arms back and shooting with your arm strength – you would likely be just fine with an average flex rating for your weight group.
However, other players who prefer snap shots to wrist shots will actually rely more on the flex of their stick when shooting.
Players who prefer snap shots lean more into the stick, so they may look for a flex rating that is lower than what their weight would suggest. This type of shot almost appears as though the player is “slingshotting” or “whipping” the puck toward the net with their stick.
NHLer sniper Phil Kessel is especially known for leaning into this type of snapshot with an especially weak flex.
Your position can also influence the flex you’ll want to use.
Wingers tend to take more wrist shots and snap shots, which they aim to get off quickly from the sides of the ice. A lower stick flex rating can work to their advantage, as it allows for a faster snap shot – a quick shot with the flick (or “snap”) of the wrists rather than a full wrist shot that cradles the puck back prior to releasing it.
Centremen have to battle around the offensive and defensive nets more than wingers do. They also engage in a stick strength battle on every faceoff.
For these reasons, centremen may prefer to use a stick that is stiffer and more resistant to force. A weaker flex rating stick may offer a minor disadvantage on faceoffs and in puck battles.
Defensemen can usually feel safe using a slightly stiffer stick as well. They are frequently involved in puck battles that can benefit from the extra strength.
Defensemen also take more slapshots than forwards, and slapshots benefit from a stiffer flex – but still, this is not an unbendable flex.
Some players prefer a very stiff flex for truly powerful slapshots. Some NHLers will even test the limit of how hard a flex they can tolerate to maximize their shot velocity.
6’9” NHL defenseman – and long-time record holder for the league’s hardest shot – Zdeno Chara is notable for using an unheard of 150 flex stick. But his height and strength are an anomaly in the sport.
Players participating in the NHL All-Star Game’s Hardest Shot Competition will also often use a flex that is stiffer than their usual stick. They do this so they can put their utmost power into their slapshot.
Hockey players who are looking to get the most of their sticks should be attentive to a concern like stick flex rating. Having a proper flex rating allows you to take your highest velocity and most accurate shot. Stick flex ratings can sometimes depend on your preferences like the position you play and how you like to shoot the puck. But generally, dividing your weight by two is a safe bet for finding a compatible stick flex rating. Still, don’t be afraid to test out different flexes when you’re looking for a stick. Make sure you find what works for you.
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