Sacrifice

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

I got to talking to our neighbours at the weekend about hockey and the shelf life of a hockey player. Where I told them about the training, the commitment to the game and to the sacrifices I make for it and everything else, the true meaning of the latter didn’t hit me till later. After I got back home and sat down, at an empty house, I realised that the sacrifices I make for the game are nothing compared to the sacrifices my family makes to enable me to play.

As a head of a young family, hockey is taking me away most weekends and it means that my son and wife are without me for a number of hours per game-day. That combined with the work that I put in at the gym (OK when I go to the gym, my son is usually asleep). It takes time away from the ones that mean the most to you.

Where the start of this might read like one of those “I retire” post, it’s not that, far from it. It has taken me a while to realise how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to play the game I have been in love with since I was a little boy. I get to play for the team I love with a great bunch of guys and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

What I am saying is that I am grateful and appreciate the sacrifices my family makes for me to be able to do this. I guess it adds to the humbleness of hockey players. They know that their jobs are tough and take away a lot of time from the family, but they understand that their families live the game with them. They, or rather we, understand how important it is to spend as much quality time with our respective families as possible.

When dealing with injury the support of your family is important. It’s not easy to do things around the house when you’ve got a busted knee, back, shoulder, head or foot. Yes as a player, you do take some sort of pride in the pain, but to your significant other has to carry the load. They are the ones that have to put up with our quirks and routines we like to observe for game days.

Where the life of a hockey player doesn’t end at the final buzzer of a game or the season and as the game develops, it is increasingly important to work on conditioning during the time between games and training. Summers are full of work too, but you have more time for the family and I view that it is the time to make up for the time and dedicate yourself to the routines of family life.

We sacrifice as players, for our team and for the chance to win something big during our careers, but the families (be it wives, kids, girlfriends, boyfriends, moms or dads) sacrifice the most out of all of us and we should be eternally grateful to have those special people in our lives that make it possible for us to lace up our skates.

So in short, to my family, thank you for the sacrifices that you make for me.


Christmas is drawing ever so close and if you have not yet done your shopping the panic is starting to set in. For hockey players its always tricky to buy anything or find present ideas, so we have listed some ideas below to get you going .

 

Sticks:

There’s always need for twigs for hockey players. The market has some great offerings and the most interesting of which for many players at the moment is the Sher-Wood Rekker EK 15. The stick is the lightest in the market and uses a production method that takes twice as long than standard top end sticks. However, what makes the Rekker EK15 an interesting proposition is that it still retails at a cheaper price point than some of the other top of the range sticks.

If you are looking for a great alternative one-piece stick, you should also take a look at the Winnwell AMP 700. We tested this stick recently and were suitably impressed by its features and the balance of the overall package. It looks flashy and will certainly appeal to the younger players. At sub £100, it is a real steal.

Other sticks that look like a promising package include the CCM RBZ Stage 2, Bauer APX2,  Easton V9 and there’s been a lot of buzz about the Warrior DT1 LT.

 

Shower gels

Whilst it may not seem like a big gift, shower gels and shampoos will be greatly appreciated and will be gifts that will be used. As players we go through a lot of shampoo and shower gel throughout the season so there’s always demand for it. If you want to treat the player in your life, we would recommend the products from ManCave. The shower gel in particular has a nice scent to it and lathers up well. That and having used the products for a good year and a half now, the tube of shower gel has not burst open in our kit bag, despite gear being thrown recklessly on top of it. Additionally, the ManCave face wash and moisturiser are good additional presents to include in the stocking.

Gadgets and gizmos:

For those long roadies, it’s good to have some entertainment. Things like iPods, or other music players will be popular. Additionally tablets will be more and more common on the bus, though players should be wary not to spend too much time with their tech so it doesn’t interfere with the mental preparation for games.

In terms of tablets, we’d recommend something small-ish so that it is easy to carry, so the new iPad mini or Samsung  Galaxy Tab 3would be good presents. However, in the age of social media (and parents are going to faint) we would recommend getting the 3G/LTE versions as much of the time is spent on a coach where Wi-Fi may not always be readily available.

Headphones: We are big fans of in-ear head phones, mainly because we find the over-ear head phones too intrusive. They may be OK on the coach, but when it comes to working out or warming up, the in-ear headphones tend to be more suitable. Our current favourites are the Motorhead Phones, though we would also recommend Skull Kandy.

 

Clothing:

For hockey folks the obvious choice is Gongshow, which stocks both casual gear as clothing appropriate for game days (not suits). I mean these guys even do beer! You can’t go wrong with that. Other apparel manufacturers include BizNasty’s own Sauce Hockey, or BarDown hockey.

Supplements:

These have become a big part of hockey players regimen over the years and there is growing list of supplements out there. For players, BioSteel High performance sports drink should be in Santa’s sack.  The BioSteel has been designed to give you energy (without caffeine) throughout a workout or a game. For workout supplements, we have become huge fans of Muscle Pharm.

Movies and books:

The one documentary that should be in Santa’s sack is the Sel8nne documentary. However, as far as we are aware, the documentary is only available in the Finnish market (subtitles only in Swedish). In terms of books the one hockey book that should be included is the Bobby Orr autobiography, which will give hockey fans a great insight into the game during Orr’s career.

For the younger players, we would also recommend some books that detail hockey fitness programmes and how to train off ice. But remember, if you are a junior player looking to add some strength, please consult your GP/physician first to ensure it is safe for you to undertake a weight training regimen.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and take the time to thank those who support your hockey careers and make sure you spend as much time with them as possible this holiday, before you are back on the road again.

Independence

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Today, Finland is celebrating its independence. It is the 16th Independence day that I will be spending abroad, but I will still be observing Finnish traditions throughout the day. But what does being Finnish mean? Is it being proud of the fact that a nation of 5.5million has produced a couple of F1 and WRC world champions, won a couple of world championships in hockey or being proud of the technological innovations that come from the Finnish shores? In Finland, there is a saying “it’s like winning in the lottery to be born Finnish.”

 

Yes, those things form a part of what it is to be Finnish, but to me being Finnish is about pride of my cultural heritage and roots. Whilst I don’t want to romanticise war, being Finnish to me means to remember the struggles the country has gone through to achieve its independent status. As I’ve lived abroad, I think all Finns have certain characteristics, which is best described by the word sisu. I mean what else would drive a nation of people to run around practically naked in early May in 1995 and 2011?

 

The older I have gotten and the more years I have spent away from my native, the more emotional I have become over Finland’s independence. To me it is a day to pause and reflect on the achievements of myself and those of our nation. I find it rather strange that some people on social media networks say they want to leave Finland, but I have a yearning to go back. 

 

Where sure, Finland is not the same country it was back when I grew up there, or what it was when men gave their lives to protect its independence and values, I am still damn proud to be Finnish.

 

As I grow older, I hope to share the ethos of what it is to be Finnish with my son, who has both British and Finnish nationalities. I want him to have the same cultural heritage as I do and that he understands where his family originated from and the history of Finland and the meaning of what it means to have an independent and peaceful nation to live in.

Review: Winnwell AMP 700 stick

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

photo 1

Specifications:

Model: Winnwell AMP 700

Curve: PS124, similar to the Drury curve

Flex: 85

Grip surface

Where to buy: http://nekoti.co.uk/hockey-sticks/winnwell-hockey-stick/hockey-stick-amp700  (if you register your account and use virtanen as agent password, you will get a 20% discount on the stick)

Price: from £92,82, CAD$129.99

photo 4We have not tested a Winnwell stick before and the sticks were quite new to us. Whenever we usually look through sticks back home (Finland) Winnwell is not a name that many retailers carry. We recently looked at the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads and are confident that the guys at Winnwell know what they are doing.

The AMP 700 stick, which retails at sub £100/€120 is a quite a nice stick. The stick features a 50/50 blend of carbon fibre and fibreglass to provide durability. The stick also features a 12k carbon skin, which gives the stick a lot of durability.

The graphics on the stick look quite flashy. Like with some of the other manufacturers of late (CCM and Easton) using full white sticks, the Winnwell AMP range fits into the mould quite well. Personally, we’re not sure whether a white stick is the way forward or not, but it does stand out from the crowd and has a certain appeal.

On the blade, Winnwell have left a ‘performance zone’, which is a cut through to the carbon weave of the blade. Winnwell says that this is done to enable players to identify the best performance spots of the blade and where to get good shots off.

After a couple of times on the ice, and a fair few slashes to the shaft, we were surprised to find that the paint coating on the stick is actually quite thick, but reassuringly underneath the paint, you can see the carbon fibre, so you are safe to know.

On the hands

The AMP 700 is slightly heavier than some of the other sticks we have tested, but not as heavy as the 2012 version of Sher-Wood’sphoto 2 T70 stick.  The weight of the Winnwell stick is in the range of 545 grams (per manufacturer specification), so it is slightly heavier than other sticks we’ve played with, but by far not the heaviest. In terms of weight if you were to pick something like a CCM C300, or Easton Mako M5 you’d have the Winnwell AMP 700’s weight. However, the weight isn’t too cumbersome that you feel that you are dragging the stick through shots.

The stick has a concaved walls to it and features a grip surface and a “trigger grip” technology along the flex zone of the shaft. What is the trigger grip technology? It is basically small raised square bumps on the surface of the shaft (similar to what is found on the Sher-Wood T-100 sticks). Personally we have not seen any benefit or drawbacks of the technology through the glove and would have maybe preferred a clear shaft. Additionally the shaft is slightly concaved in the middle to provide a more natural feel on the shaft, much like we have seen on some Bauer and Easton sticks of late.

In use

When we first took the stick to the ice, the thing that surprised us was the pop you’re able to get into your shots. Specially wrist and snap shots came off the blade quite handsomely and it seemed like you didn’t need much effort in loading the shaft either, which was a huge surprise given that the stick weighs slightly more than some of the high end sticks.

The stick features a spear construction, which means that the shaft runs all the way to the heel of the blade, meaning you get better performance when it comes to loading. Additionally this construction provides more durability as the blade is not joined to the shaft midway through the flex zone, which often weakens construction of a stick.

The blade has a foam core built into it and it provides a good level of feel for the puck. You don’t need to spend time with head down wondering if the puck is on your blade as you can feel it on the hands. Additionally the blade feels quite rigid, so you have confidence to take slap shots, without having to worry that the blade gives way too much.

The shaft and the blade look like they will maintain their rigidity throughout the life of the stick. On some sticks you will notice that the blade will start giving first, but according to independent tests, the AMP 700 will maintain its shot speed throughout the life of the stick.

Conclusion

The Winnwell AMP 700 is a stylish piece of equipment and provides great bang for your buck. The range has a huge collection of blade patterns so you should be able to find something to appease your tastes. Performance wise, you will be able to get a top of the range performance with less than £100 worth of investment into a stick, which is rare these days. Having not used Winnwell sticks before and having had a view that the gear would be cheap and break, but Winnwell have made a great first impression and we would thoroughly recommend this stick.

It looks fashionable (if that is your thing), but when you drill down to the specifics and start playing around with it, the stick delivers great value for money in terms of durability. It’s weird, a brand of stick that we have never tested before has performed to the degree that we have real difficulty with finding anything wrong with it. Winnwell have taken the stick to a company called Hockey Robotics to test, where literally a robot shoots pucks till the stick breaks and the AMP 700 scored quite handsomely. Winnwell is clearly confident of its product and it should put your mind at ease if you’re thinking of buying the AMP 700 but are worried it might not be up to scratch. Trust us it performs just as well, if not better than some of the others.

If we had an official seal of approval the AMP 700 would definitely get one. It has been a long time that we have been this positively surprised by a ‘smaller’ manufacturers stick. The Winnwell AMP 700 is right up there with the bigger brands.

photo 3Pros

Stylish looks

Durable stick at sub £100

Provides good pop

Durable blade and shaft, but still easy to load

Concaved walls on the shaft

Extensive range of blade patterns

Cons

Heavy – 545 grams

Trigger grip technology doesn’t really provide any noticeable benefit

The First

Posted: November 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

I said a while a go that we all remember them. Our first goals. I still vividly remember my first goal in the Netherlands.

I played for Utrecht junior team during my first year in Holland. The adjustment to new life abroad was difficult so hockey was a good outlet. I went pretty much the whole season without scoring until in one of the last games of the season, it finally happened.

I had chances in games before this bit for some reason when push came to shove I choked at the critical moment, which lead to a lot of frustration.

My first goal came in the second period of a game against Assen. The game was tied 0-0 and me and a team mate, Steven van Dortmund got on a 2-on-1. I remember thinking to myself to ‘keep my stick on the ice’ and I received a nice saucer pass and it was an easy job to put the puck in the net from there.

I tell ya, I screamed like a girl after I scored that goal. It was the culmination of so much anxiety and stress pouring out at that moment. I didn’t know how to celebrate I just skates pumping the air, almost crying. Then when my teammates reached me I fell down (which is a bit embarrassing) but none the less.

My first senior goal came early in the season in my first year with the senior team for Utrecht. We were playing against Den Haag or The Hague. I remember that we were all over them in the game. My goal was again in the 2nd period and I was playing a shift with the Utrecht legend, Steffan Collard. Stef had the puck behind The Hague net and managed to draw their centre and d-man behind the net. I had managed to move to the high slot, and got a pass from Stef and that was that. I one timed it five-hole.

In the UK, when I went to play league, my first goal was supposed to have been in our first game against Lee Valley. I knocked a loose puck from the goalies pads into the net ( the puck was still in play), but the goal was credited to another player and wasn’t changed. The first goal I scored was on the Isle of Wight goalie Dan Weller-Evans. I can’t remember who got the assist on the goal as the goal was scored off a rebound. I had the puck fall into my blade and I took a shot. Thing is I didn’t know it had gone in, bit instinctively i raised my hands to celebrate and took a nervous look at the ref, who was signing that the puck had gone in. I made a little jump and then.. I can’t remember. But I remember how the goal came about.

It’s funny how little things like your first goals are branded into your memory. They give you belief and a good feeling of wanting more as you want to experience the feeling again and again. Kinda like another form of scoring…


ImageThe CCM 4 Roll Pro gloves were a hit when CCM brought it to the market two years ago. IT brought the 4-roll glove in nylon since the CCM 925 glove that was phased out by the Vector and then the U+ range. The 4-Roll Pro II has undergone a serious re-design and the gloves now look more like the Bauer 4-Roll pro (now Nexus range). So what else has changed in the glove apart from the look?

 

The gloves have a similar feel to some of CCM’s other gloves that use the build from inside out methodology and actually feel really comfortable on the hand. CCM has mastered the art of making some of the most comfortable gloves on the market and the 4-Roll Pro II is following in the same path.

 

The biggest difference to the previous 4-Roll Pro glove is the cuff. CCM has made the cuff on the 4-Roll Pro II smaller and has left some of the elements out that were in the first line of products. The smaller cuff really improves the way you can stick handle. In the previous glove the CCM logo was stitched onto the cuff, but this time the company has used sturdy lettering to display its wares.

 

Breaking in:

Thanks to the glove being nylon covered, it is lightweight and that gloves are pretty much ready to use and game ready the minute you pick them up from a store. However as with any new kit, we recommend that you wear it for a couple of training sessions before you use it in a game, but the CCM 4-Roll Gloves are quick to break in and offer you a good level of comfort and responsiveness quickly.

 

Ventilation:

Image

Inside ventilation on the CCM gloves

Compared to the previous model of the 4-Roll Pro gloves, the ventilation is much improved. To be fair, the glove’s ventilation is very similar to that on the Bauer Nexus gloves. However, when trying out the two different gloves, to our hands the CCM 4-Roll Pro glove liner felt more comfortable than that of the Bauer one.

During game play, it is only natural that the gloves get wet. The CCM inner liner actually stays relatively dry, while the palm itself gets quite wet, and if you don’t have dryers to your disposal at the game, the glove can be quite uncomfortable toward a particularly heavy training session or game.

 

Protection:

CCM has used PE inserts in the glove and on all the rolls of the glove to give good protection from slashes and pucks. In the previous model the rolls and fingers actually had a very thin metal plate within it, which added a bit to the weight of the glove.

The thumb of the glove uses a three piece design like the previous version of the glove. We actually preferred the thumb design of the first gen of the 4-Roll Pro gloves. On the current one, the thumb area feels a bit un-protected at the tip.

 

Overall though, the levels of protection offered by the glove is really good and it doesn’t sacrifice any bit of the usability of the glove.

 

Quality and value for money:

Image

The grey patches are where holes were patched up, due to the poor quality of the palm

This is where the CCM 4-Roll Pro II disappoints big time. The palms of the glove wear out really fast and it is only after a couple of uses that you’ll  see the top hand’s palm starting to wear out. What was weird was that the pair we had also wore out from the finger really quickly (also on our top hand) which is something that hasn’t happened before.

 

Additionally, the bottom hand’s palm wore out quickly and actually left a sizeable hole in it. This is something that hasn’t happened with any other gloves we have used in during the career. With CCM gloves it is usually the top palm that wears out, but this is the first time that the lower hand’s palm wore out. Compared to the Sher-Wood T70 glove where after a season’s use the palms are still intact and the gloves are in top shape, the CCM really disappointed us with the wear and tear element.

 

The biggest disappointment in the build quality came when the seam between the palm and the actual glove broke down, leaving a big gap on the side of the glove and exposed the hand, which leaves serious questions, whether people should invest a relatively large chunk of money on these gloves as they seem to be made from paper.

 

In the end we ended up taking the gloves to repairs and ended up paying almost the same price for the repairs as the gloves themselves!

 

Conclusion:

Image

Further repair work, where the sutures on the palm came off from the main glove. Further disappointment for the overall build quality

It is a real shame that the quality of the gloves leaves A LOT to desire for. The gloves are genuinely comfortable to wear and ease stick handling. There’s a lot to like in these gloves, in terms of the features, but judging by the pair we’ve been trying out, we’re questioning whether you should actually buy them because of the quality problems.

If you are set on buying these gloves, be prepared to budget in repairs for them as well, or alternatively be prepared to buy another set of gloves mid season or at the end of the season. It is a real shame as we really liked the previous 4-Rolls from CCM and they’ve lasted a lot better than the new range of 4-Roll gloves.

However, we do hope that CCM keep the 4-Roll Pro in its line up, but that the company makes some serious efforts in improving the overall quality of the palm materials.

 

 

Pros:

  • Good fit
  • Easy to break in
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Eases stick handling
  • Light weight

Cons

  • The palm is not durable at all
  • Poor build quality
  • Poor price vs quality ratio

The brand:

The Winnwell brand is a bit of a new one to us, having not really seen much of the equipment in the European hockey stores or featured much in trade shows. In the NHL, Winnwell is perhaps more known for its gloves than other visible equipment. It does manufacture shoulder pads, sticks and shin pads.

Having done a bit of research into the company, they have been around the game since forever it seems. Winnwell has a strong pedigree in manufacturing protective equipment that has been built with the pros in mind and to pro-spec. Further research shows that some of the games’ greats have worn Winnwell equipment so the brand certainly has the pedigree behind it. However, Winnwell might not have the marketing budget of some of the other big brands, but does that hinder the quality of equipment? That’s what we are going to find out.

The equipment features:

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

What we have been testing is the Winnwell Pro Stock elbow pads. The elbow pads, the company says, have been built to the specifications and demands of the professional player. When you look at the gear out of the box (or bag in this instance), the elbow pads definitely have an ‘old-school’ feel to them and a look and profile that is akin to the days of the good old Jofa protective. In fact if you Google Jofa 9144 Pro Stock Elbow pads, you’ll see a striking resemblance between the two.

Where most elbow pads have gone towards a more low profile look, Winnwell has provided a protective that calls back to the good old days of hockey. The shoulder cups are actually quite deep in comparison to many other elbow pads in the market. This design ensures good strong fit for the pads. However, it can be a bit of a shock depending on what you are used to wearing. If you have been wearing some of the lower profile elbow pads, the first time you wear the Winnwell product you’ll feel a bit out of sorts to begin with, but even towards the end of our first session with these pads they felt really comfortable towards the end.

The elbow pads come with Winnwell’s clean hockey technology which is designed to keep its equipment smelling fresh. After 2 months of use on the pads, there is hardly any “hockey” scent on the elbow pads.

Breaking in and fit:

Breaking the elbow pads in was a bit of a strange experience. Out of the bag the elbow pads do feel a bit stiff, which is to be expected with any new piece of equipment. On first use the pads felt extremely comfortable, but for the first 20-30 minutes of training the elbow pads felt a bit stiff which did affect shooting and puck handling a little bit. This trend lasts probably about 3-4 training sessions before you are fully accustomed to the elbow pad. But like said above, towards the end of each of the first few sessions the pads actually feel really comfortable and you hardly notice you are wearing new pads.

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

As mentioned the elbow cups are a bit deeper than other elbow pads, which can take a bit longer to get used to. However, what the deeper cup has resulted in is comfort and great fit. The elbow pads come with a sticky liner on the wrist that has been designed to keep the pad in place against the compression layer. Having used both T-shirt and compression long sleeve, the elbow pads do stay in place, which is a rare feat in elbow pads. Often during a game you have to fix and alter the position of your elbow pads, but the Winnwell Pro-Stock does actually stay in place relatively well.

However, the only criticism that there is to the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads is that the Velcro attachment areas could be a bit bigger to ensure a tighter fit. Despite wearing the right size, there is still a little bit of slack on the bicep area of the elbow pad.

Value for money

What the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad scores big on is value for money. The elbow pad provides protection that is equal to the top of the range CCM, Reebok, Bauer or Warrior gear, but at a fraction of the cost. The graphical design isn’t something that will set the world on fire, but then again the elbow pads are under your jersey, so it doesn’t matter what they look like. The main point is that they protect your elbows and bicep.

For £45 for elbow pads you cannot go wrong. Do not let the relatively low price tag of Winnwell’s equipment fool you. It does not mean that the product is bad quality or that there’s something wrong with it, far from it. We think that this piece of equipment is where price and quality meet. You are not paying over the odds for a top of the range elbow pad and it will not leave you hanging dry. The elbow pads do not rely on any gimmicks and we have been positively surprised by them.

Durability:

winnwell3As mentioned above, the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad will not break the bank, but one thing that people will question is that whether a sub £50 elbow pad will actually last or if it is going to fall to pieces after a few months use. We have had these elbow pads for almost five months in active use, but during the time there have been no faults with the equipment. The straps are still where they’re supposed to be, the elastic straps have not lost any elasticity (though this will happen over time on any piece of protective).

Despite taking a few falls and purposefully elbowing plexi glass at the rink, there are no signs that the cover of the protective cup has worn.

Conclusion:

Once the elbow pads have been fully broken in, they perform really well and equally to other top of the range elbow pads. The Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads hark back to the era of the good Jofa equipment. The pads are relatively lightweight compared to others. In comparison, the Winnwell Pro-Stock weighs about the same as CCM U12 elbow pads, so that’s not too bad.

We’d recommend the elbow pads for both league players, as well as recreational players who are looking for good quality protection but don’t want to spend too much money. That’s not to say that this is a beer league level pad, far from it. It can cope with the demands of the professionals, but for those that want top of the range protection, why pay over the odds.

 

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Durable
  • Stays in place during play
  • Comfortable
  • Great ‘old school’ feel

Cons:

  • Can take a while longer to break in than others
  • Can feel a bit bulky at first few uses
  • The Velcro strap areas could be a bit longer for tighter fit in places