As your child grabs their hockey stick out of the back of your vehicle, you may not be thinking about how important this piece of equipment is to their success.
Sure, you put decent consideration into their skates, helmet and the other equipment that protects them, but what about their stick?
Many parents think that buying an inexpensive stick is good enough for a youth hockey stick. After all, ‘A cheap stick would be good enough for any young player’ you think to yourself.
In reality your player, no matter his or her level, needs a quality youth hockey stick in order develop the fundamentals of hockey.
So what does a parent look for when getting the right stick? There are several factors to consider when looking for the best youth hockey sticks. Youth players usually are players between the ages of 4 and 10, but really it depends on the size of the child. When it comes to looking for a stick, you will need to think about the material, length, flex, weight, as well as what you need the stick to do for your young player.
While wood was once the only choice for hockey stick material, a lot of great technical improvements have been made over the past 20 years. These days, the best hockey sticks are not just made up of a single material, but are instead comprised of several.
The most popular — and best — material that you should choose for a youth hockey stick is composite. Composite can be made up of several different materials, from heavy plastic to titanium. Even Kevlar is often used in composite sticks because it is so strong and reliable. Regardless of the exact make-up, composite is more durable and lighter than other options which is great for younger kids.
The length of your youth hockey stick will affect your ability to control the puck, your reach, and your shots. The length will also affect how you receive and make a pass. For young players, a mid-length stick would be the most appropriate to learn good stick handling technique.
The average length for a junior hockey stick is 52”, but sticks can be cut down or extended to accommodate an individual player’s height. Youth players have shorter sticks at 48”, but they can also be adjusted to fit the player’s height. The length really depends on height for younger players.
This is one piece of equipment where grow room isn’t a great idea. A stick that is too big can hinder their development and make learning more frustrating. Have it cut to size with just an inch or two of grow room.
The flex of a hockey stick is the amount of force that is required to make it bend — which creates a whip-like action when shooting. The force is measured using pounds. So this means that a stick with a flex rating of 80 would require 80 pounds of force to bend.
Looking at the flex ratings for youth sticks, younger children will usually start with a flex rating of 20. Slightly older children would opt more for a flex rating of 30. The older they get, the higher the flex rating.
Most players opt for sticks that are a lighter. The lighter the hockey stick, the less energy is required to move the puck. This will make it easier to control and use around the ice as well. That being said, some players still like the power that they get from a heavier stick. A heavy stick can slow you down, but the shots can be harder. For a child, however, a lighter stick is a safer bet.
Overall, you want to choose a stick that helps your child develop their core fundamental skills. So the one they feel most comfortable with is the best one. Take time to buy from a place that allows your child to try out a few sticks in a shooting range so they can find one they like.
And one last thing … have a back-up stick. Sticks can break even at the youngest levels. This stick can be a less-expensive one that will later end up as a road hockey stick without you cringing on how much you spent.