Posts Tagged ‘Latvia’


The groups for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament have been set after the final qualification rounds came to a close. Where the pre-qualification tournaments may not make big headlines in the main hockey media, there was one storyline that I followed quite closely (well through social media and radio). The story being the one of Team GB.

British ice hockey may not be that highly regarded in the grand scheme of things, or the international hockey pecking order, but what surprised me was that Team GB made it to the final Olympic qualification tournament. Currently GB is ranked 21st by the IIHF and went on to play against teams like Latvia, France and Kazakhstan, all of which have experience from the highest tiers of international hockey within the IIHF. In fact, all of the nations in Team GB’s group featured in last year’s World Championships in Helsinki and Stockholm.

I think this is a good juncture to make a confession: I didn’t think that Team GB would make it. However, the achievement of the team should not be disregarded or mocked. Given the infrastructure for the game in the UK, where rinks seem to be closing quicker than they are built (specially in the South), or are in dire need of renovation, Team GB pulled of a minor miracle by making it to the final qualification round.

What the team who went to Latvia have achieved, is a foundation that the powers that be should start building upon. Team GB may not feature in the highest tier of the World Championship stage, nor will we see them in the 2014 winter Olympics. However, what the success of the team shows is that the fan base is there and now it is time to build. What the UK should focus on in an ideal world right now is to invest more into the sport and adapt a junior system that is being used by some of the top countries in the world. I’m a big believer that the future of the game of hockey is in junior development and now if ever, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.

The process won’t be easy, but done right, I can see that Team GB has a legitimate chance for the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, having been around the game here for a couple of years, I sadly doubt that it will happen due to the way things are ran and the fact that hockey is a sport that hardly receives any funding. Sure there  recently was a funding of £100k, but more is needed. £100,000 will not build a programme that would nurture the game here.

I know this opens up a debate that hockey is a minority sport and that the £100,000 is a good enough investment and why should ice hockey be invested in. Well, even though a minority sport, it was good to hear the game being called on the radio and actually hear fans chanting “Let’s go GB”. The fan support is there and my Twitter stream was filled with tweets from the games. Team GB’s games were picked up by ESPN here in the UK, a great feat for the sport. I’ve thought this for the longest time, but the local leagues (Elite League and Premier League) should be shown on free-view TV. Having them shown and (what I find) often buried on Sky sports 2 is doing the sport no favours here. But as with many other things, money talks. I would be as bold as to hazard a guess that apart from the people who follow ice hockey actually know that the sport is shown on Sky Sports 2, or that the NHL is on Premier Sport.

 

EDIT: This was something that Graham Goodman said on Facebook and I totally agree with him. British players should cast their eyes to European leagues as well and seek contracts outside of the confines of GB. There were a couple of players who did not ply their trade in the British leagues and ultimately the international experience from different leagues (and potentially better leagues) will make the standard of the national team better. Many of the teams GB played against had A LOT of players on the roster that played in countries other than their own.

While Team GB may have lost all of its games in the tournament, it is nothing to be laughed at. Though any self-respecting hockey player will tell you that the losses sting and they suck, but in the grand scheme of things, this team that went so far, have the potential to be regarded as pioneers for the game here. They have laid a foundation on which to build the sport on and the powers that be now need to strike while the iron is hot or the achievement by these guys will have been for nothing.

Follow the author on twitter: @amateur_hockey

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Choosing a hockey stick can be difficult at times. If you are anything like me, it can take hours and hours of trying out different sticks and checking out blade patterns. The staple of stick manufacturers that are known to all in the hockey community include the likes of CCM, Reebok, Easton, Bauer, Warrior and so on.

 

About Beaster:

Though in the recent years many new manufacturers have cropped up and began manufacturing their line of sticks to compete with the big boys. But how do we know if the sticks these ‘smaller’ players are making are any good? Well, one such company has given us a stick to test to find out just how good their wares are. The company in question is Beater Hockey, from Latvia. Latvia has produced many hockey talents, like Arturs Irbe and the late Karlis Skrastins its obvious that hockey is a big deal to Latvians. Beaster is the only manufacturer of hockey equipment from Latvia that I have heard of.

 

‘The Kings of Badassery!’ it proclaims on its website. Beaster hockey was established in 2008 and has been producing a line of sticks since then. It has grown to a global brand with dealers and distributors in Canada, USA, Germany, Slovakia, UK, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Russia, and Kazakhstan. The full list can be found here: http://www.beasterhockey.net/#!page-7

Beaster hockey has recently also opened its own first retail store in Latvia and has also done so in the UK. The UK specific site can be found at www.hockeybeast.co.uk The site is currently being built but you can already order the RockNRolla stick from there.

 

Aesthetics & Look and feel:

The stick we are testing is Beaster’s RockNRolla range. The stick is 80 flex with MOD blade pattern and with grip surface. The stick is preferred by many KHL players and is used quite a bit by the Avangard OMSK team.

The first thing that we noticed from the stick is that it is incredibly light! Out of the wrappings, the stick weighs only 410grams, a whole 15grams lighter that the CCM CrazyLight. In fact, Beaster’s top of the range stick, the B1, weighs in at staggering 365grams. That is incredibly light for a stick!

The RockNRolla is not a mid range stick, far from it. It is one of the staples to the Beaster brand and is used by professional players across the globe. When looking at the design of the stick, Beaster have gone out to create a stick that is recognizable on the ice. The use of mirrored/reflective text for it’s own brand name and the name of the stick is recognizable off the ice. A lot of the time when looking at different stick manufacturers it is difficult to distinguish which stick the pros are using. And lets face it, the pros have a huge influence in the purchasing decision on the stick us mere mortals are buying

Durability:

One of the concerns that I had in the first instance of getting the stick in my hands was that of durability. The stick is so light that I worried whether it would be durable enough on the ice. Having said that, I had similar concerns with my CCM CrazyLight stick as well and that’s held up well.

In the hack and slash kind of environment that hockey can sometimes be the RockNRolla has held up really well. In fact you get the same durability that you would normally associate with some of the bigger and established brands in the market, so you are safe in the knowledge that your hard earned cash hasn’t gone into a stick that looks great and doesn’t last for more than a training session.

Normally with sticks the first bit that I notice wear and tear in is the blade area. It’s happened to sticks I’ve used from Easton, CCM and Reebok. The construction of the blade area on the RockNRolla is slightly different and the blade hasn’t started to come apart at the toe or at the heel. As part of the review I have been giving the stick a really rough and tumble ride to check out how well it has lasted.

The end result is that despite abusing the stick it is still in one piece. I’ve had other players slash at it during games and it has held in one piece.

Sure I haven’t gone to the lengths that ended my CCM U+ Pro stick, where I beat it against the bench in frustration and turned the stick into saw dust. But please do bare in mind that sticks do break in hockey and I’ve yet come across an indestructible stick.

Performance:

When I first got the RockNRolla it took me some time to get used to the feel of the stick, simply because I’ve been using CCM sticks for such a long time and I had to get used to the feel and contours of the shaft.

When I first used it on the ice, I had to get used to the sticks flex pattern (similar to Bauer TotalONE) as I noticed that at first my wrist shots weren’t coming off well and I couldn’t get a good enough feel for the stick. However, the more I’ve used it the better it has gotten.

With slap shots and one timers the stick is a beast of its own. I’ve noticed that my slapshots are still as heavy as with other sticks but this time there’s more control of the direction and height. The shaft is easy to load for a slapper and provides enough ‘pop’ for a one timer, without losing the feel of toughness in the shaft.

The only thing where I think the RockNRolla falls a bit behind on is the blade. I’ve been testing a MOD pattern on the stick and normally I prefer a curve similar to CCM’s Lecavalier or Thornton or Easton’s Sakic or Bauer’s Toews. The MOD pattern isn’t most ideal for me, but that is just my personal preference.

However, I think that the overall feel of the blade is not as good as it is on a CCM stick. Again this might be my long term use of CCM sticks, but with the CL I get a better feel of the puck. The RockNRolla does give you a good enough feel of the puck, but at times I found I had to pay increased attention to it and check to make sure the puck was still on the blade.

That again could be my personal preference from using a long line of CCM blades, but it is the ONLY thing I can really mark the stick down on.

Overall:

The Beaster RockNRolla is a nice piece of work. The stick looks flashy and means business. I know for many guys, buying a stick is a personal thing and there are a lot of factors that play into the decision, so it’s difficult for me to give it an overall grade apart from my own experience with it. I would thoroughly recommend the RockNRolla and would recommend that players take a look at the Beaster line of products to find a stick suitable to their needs. I think with Beaster the quality of the product and price are well matched and you are not paying for the name on the shaft or what players the company has to market it’s wares.

The RockNRolla is ideal for players who prefer lighter sticks that do not sacrifice durability and affordability. If you are still thinking about what hockey stick to ask from Santa or what stick to spend your Christmas money on, give Beaster a serious look.

Overall I’d give this stick a 4 out of 5 grade purely due to the issues I had with the blade pattern and the feel of it. Otherwise the stick stacks up well against the top of the range offers from Easton, CCM, Bauer and Reebok.