Are you buying your first hockey stick and curious about how stick flexes work? Maybe you bought one previously and are unsure if you made the right choice on the flex.
Or perhaps you want to cut your new stick shorter and are 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.
Table of Contents
What does flex mean in a hockey stick
A hockey stick's flex refers to the amount of pressure (in pounds) 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 called a "senior" stick) is 85. A higher flex number means the stick is stiffer, while a lower flex number means the stick is more flexible.
The flex rating of a stick is not its breaking point
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 bend several inches without breaking.
The higher the flex rating, the more difficult it will be to bend the stick. The lower the flex rating, the easier it will be to bend the stick.
Why are hockey sticks designed to flex?
Stick flex allows players to shoot the puck more powerfully and with higher velocity. Players place pressure on the stick with their lower hand when they shoot.
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 incredibly – especially on a one-timer.
Think about it this way. If a hockey stick were 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.
Usually, 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, making the shot more potent 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 as it kicks forward into your shot.
How much flex should my hockey stick have?
The right amount of flex depends a lot on your height and weight. This chart below should be a good starter guide to get you in the right direction.
Hockey stick flex chart:
|30 – 40
Why Is Stick Flex So Important?
Stick flex matters because it affects how you shoot and handle the puck.
Not using the correct stick flex rating can hinder your shooting strength, accuracy, and feel for the puck.
When you have too much flex
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 can apply your highest shot pressure.
When you don't have enough flex
A too-stiff stick won't allow you to bend the stick at all. At that point, you're using your power against the stick.
What Type Of Flex suits children vs adults?
Youth hockey sticks (usually referred to as "junior" sticks) will possess the lowest flex rating 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 minimal flexes. The average junior stick flex rating is 50.
Ensure a child is using a junior stick. Otherwise, they will develop bad habits.
A child who uses a too-stiff stick will not learn how to transfer their weight into the stick during a shot properly. Instil proper shooting techniques 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 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. 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 stick type will typically be available in several flex numbers.
Is a high or low flex better for my hockey stick?
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 the average stick flex of 85 is best suited for adult players in the 165-175lb range.
With the average junior stick flex rating of 50, it would suit youth players up to 100 lbs. Intermediate sticks average 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 half of your body weight rule. This is especially relevant once sticks get into flex ratings in the range of 100 and above.
Players who exceed 175 lbs don't necessarily need to use stick flexes in the 90 to 100 range.
Sticks in the 100 flex rating range are stiff and sometimes explicitly marketed as a "stiff" model. These sticks are reserved for the heaviest and strongest players and can sometimes be difficult to find.
What flex stick do most NHL players use?
NHLers are usually in the 190 to 210lb range and commonly use 95 to 110 flex rating sticks. But professional athletes also undertake extensive training to maximize their strength and technique.
Nothing would be wrong for a casual hockey player to use a flex of 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 your teammate's sticks on the ice to understand how different flexes work for you.
What hockey stick do most NHL players use?
Bauer has the most popular sticks in the NHL. Data dating back to 2022 suggests that the Bauer Vapor Hyperlites is the most popular stick in the league. They are also one of the most expensive sticks.
Remember, even though it's the most popular stick in terms of the percentage of NHL players using it, the vast majority of the NHL uses other sticks. There are a wide variety of sticks, and players must find one that fits their overall style.
You can learn more about the Bauer Hyperlites here.
Testing your stick flex before buying
When purchasing your stick, you will want to test how the flex of the stick feels.
Starting with a stick flex rating close to half your body weight would be safe. 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."
After that, you need to figure out how the stick's length will impact the flex after you cut it.
Also, be careful not to apply too much pressure to the stick while in the store. Although it is unlikely, putting your entire body weight into bending the stick could break it.
Some hockey equipment stores now have shooting stations to 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 in a few different flexes. Educated salespeople can also watch you shoot and offer advice on what they see 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.
A shorter 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 could apply force to bend the stick. For this reason, manufacturers typically put markings on their upper quarter that indicate the stick's equivalent flex 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, choke up on the stick with your top hand when you're testing it out. Hold it at the height 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. Adding a plug to a hockey stick to make it taller will make the flex rating lower than what the stick was originally.
The flex you should use is a matter of personal preference
Flex can also be a matter of each player's play style. It can depend on your position, how often and in what style you take your wrist and snapshots, for example.
The type of shooter you are
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 snapshots to wrist shots will rely more on flexing their stick when shooting.
Players who prefer snapshots lean more into the stick, so they may look for a flex rating lower than 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 known for leaning into this type of snapshot with an especially weak flex.
The position you play
Wingers tend to take more quick wrist shots and snapshots, which they aim to get off quickly from the sides of the ice. A lower stick flex rating can work to their advantage. It allows for a faster snapshot – a quick shot with the flick (or "snap") of the wrists rather than a full wrist shot that cradles the puck back before 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 stiffer stick and more resistant to force. A weaker flex-rating stick may be a minor disadvantage on faceoffs and puck battles.
Defensemen can usually feel safe using a slightly stiffer stick and a longer stick. They are frequently involved in puck battles that can benefit from extra strength and length.
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 – former NHL defenseman Zdeno Chara is notable for using an unheard of 150 flex stick. But his height and strength were an anomaly in the sport.
Players participating in the NHL All-Star Game's Hardest Shot Competition will also often use a stiffer flex than their usual stick. They do this so they can put their utmost power into their slapshot.
Summing it up, flex matters but is dependant
Hockey players looking to get the most out of their sticks should be attentive to a concern like stick flex rating. A proper flex rating lets you take your highest velocity and most accurate shot.
Stick flex ratings can sometimes depend on your preferences, like your position and how you like to shoot the puck. But dividing your weight by two is generally a safe bet for finding a compatible stick flex rating. Still, don't be afraid to test different flexes when looking for a stick. Make sure you find what works for you.
Cheap vs Expensive Stick
Ever wondered what the difference is between cheap and pricey hockey sticks – click through to read my guide and see how much to spend on your next hockey stick.