Posts Tagged ‘hockey gear review’


true1When TRUE first let us test the original A6.0 and A5.2 sticks it was a revelation of what hockey sticks could and should be like. This was then followed by the X-Core 9, which we still view as one of – if not THE – best sticks on the market. TRUE has given us the A6.0 SBP to try and we’ve been finding out if it is the old A6.0 with a cherry on top or a complete overhaul.

The A6.0SBP does not come with TRUE’s X-Core technology but features other technologies in the blade that have been designed to make your shot harder. To benchmark this stick we’ve gone back to our original TRUE A6.0 review (a stick that was donated to a fan after winning the league) and Warrior Covert QRL. We benchmarked the QRL against the X-Core and found that the two sticks were pretty much on par with each other. Can TRUE pull one out of the bag and out-do the QRL?

In terms of TRUE’s tree-chart of sticks, the A series is aimed for providing Strength, Balance and Power (SBP) making it a shooter’s stick (think Bauer’s X1) and the X-Core series is aimed to provide accuracy, control and feel, with TRUE billing it as the playmaker’s stick.

Design:

In comparison to the Original A6.0 stick, the A6.0SBP is a flashier stick and has more design elements to it. It staystrue3 true to TRUE’s brand of using almost neon blue and grey design, which helps it stand out from the crowd. Like we mentioned in the Warrior QRL review, TRUE has always been more about performance than about the bling factor of a white stick with a fancy blade decal.

As with all design related things, the beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, but we really like the design of the A6.0SBP and would go as far as to say that it’s a handsome stick when you put it up against some of the others. You get a great combination of decals as well as the cool element of seeing the carbon fibre twill.

Feel:

When first holding the stick out of wrappers, it feels lightweight. The A6.0SBP is the same weight as its predecessor and ranks right up there with the Warrior, with both weighing in at around 400grams. Comparing the SBP to the original A6.0 it feels like the balance of the stick has been improved. The original A6.0 was a well balanced stick, but on the A6.0SBP the feeling of balance is better.

The lightweight construction of the stick makes it easy to use and stick handle, much like the Warrior QRL. However, in TRUE’s case we felt that we can get a bit more feedback from the blade and that the blade is more rigid than on the Warrior. This is thanks to the BRT blade on the stick (more on that later). Also the shaft of the stick feels that it gives you more.

This is in part thanks to TRUE’s SmartPly technology, the stick is well balanced and durable. The durability aspect is always key point to consider for any hockey player, but with the TRUE stick we’ve found that despite taking a few rather vicious hacks and slashes of the shaft it does last. However, as a disclaimer, it is always worth noting that virtually all sticks do break at some point. TRUE has done a great job in terms of producing a stick that goes that extra mile in terms of durability in a jungle of sticks waving at it.  

Shooting:

true2What we have found interesting in the TRUE A6.0SBP is TRUE’s Smartflex. The Smartflex technology allows for stiffness distribution from any shooting position. It feels almost like similar type of technology that CCM successfully used in its RBZ sticks and we really love it. The Smartflex is one of the real highlights of the A6.0SBP stick as it offers you almost a customised flex from the shaft.

In terms of shots, we were surprised at the ease of getting a decent shot off. Much like with the QRL that we tested, the TRUE A6.0SBP doesn’t need huge efforts to load for a quick wrister or snap shot. Thanks to the lightweight of the stick, you can get a better, quicker swing on your slapshots and much thanks to the flex of the shaft, they carry some immense power behind them.

In non-game situations and no goalie in net, it is easy to pick the top corners with this stick. In fact, what we found is that the shot almost automatically goes into that sweet-spot just where the cross bar starts to bend to the post. Sometimes even with hardly any load in behind the shot, it still amazes us just how much velocity you can get behind the shot with the A6.0 SBP.

Blade:

The blade on the original A6.0 was already amazing, but with the A6.0SBP, TRUE has made it 50% stronger than the A6.0. The blade features a Braided Rib Technology, which in essence means that the stick has seamless braided tubes running through the blade, making it stiffer. We have been using the stick now for good four to five months and the blade is still as stiff and responsive as it was the day we pulled it out of the wrappers.

In that respect TRUE has kept things the same and to this date, it is the only stick that feels newer for longer. For example, an X-Core 9 we used throughout last season still has the same performance as when first used, despite the several scuffs sustained in game play.

When we first reviewed the A6.0, we likened it to the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15, but in many respects TRUE has moved the game on from there. The A6.0SBP has maintained the great feel throughout our test period and is definitely one of the best sticks on the market in this regard. In game play and training the does provide you with the new stick feel – in terms of pop – for a long time. When you connect with a puck the shot has good velocity with it.

Conclusion:

The True A6.0SBP is not a mere minor improvement on an existing range of sticks. What TRUE has done is completely overhauled the popular stick and has made it even better and put more into it that delivers performance. When we originally reviewed the A6.0 we said that TRUE would be a name to watch and in the space of a few short years, we are more than confident in saying that TRUE has gone from a new comer to a company that produces perhaps the best sticks on the market.

So how does it compare against the Warrior QRL? Again this is a really close call, but we would say that the TRUE stick has the upper hand due to a few elements, mainly due to the BRT blade and the way the stick performs on the ice. The other elements that swing the vote TRUE’s way is the Smartflext technology and the price of the TRUE stick gives you slightly more that the QRL with not as much money.

In terms of overall performance, the A6.0 SBP is probably the best stick we’ve tested to-date. And that’s saying something as we absolutely love the X-Core, but the A6.0SBP has a slight edge over the X-Core. If other stick manufacturers weren’t worried about TRUE before, they better be now.

If anything negative has to be said about the stick (It’s grip coated by the way) it is the grip coating feels almost a bit too rubbery. It does give you good grip but to us, it’s almost too much grip.

While TRUE may not yet have as many NHL players using their sticks as CCM or Bauer, but the numbers are steadily growing (see Mitch Marner of the Maple Leafs recently picking up a TRUE twig). More and more players however, are discovering TRUE, which is good news for the company and the stick market, which risked being saturated by a few major players and faced lack of any real innovation. TRUE has been able to innovate with all of its stick launches and continues to produce the best sticks on the market.

Pros:
· Superb blade structure

· Great feel on the shaft and puck

· Shooting made easy

· Right price-quality point.

· Not a minor improvement over original A series, but a complete overhaul
Cons:
· Grip coating feels rubbery

 


  photo 8Stick specifications

Flex: 75

Weight: True A6.0 400 grams, True A5.2 425 grams

Blade Pattern: TC2 (similar to Nugent-Hopkins, Backstrom, Hall and/or Kopitar)

Grip coated

Price: A6.0: $259.99 (On Hockeymonkey.com) A5.2 $199.99 (On Hockeymonkey.com)

More information at: http://www.true-hockey.com/

True Hockey is a relatively new player to the stick market, even though the company behind the sticks has a long pedigree in golf (True Temper). True Hockey supplied us with two sticks to try out -its top of the range A6.0 and A5.2  – and to see how the sticks stack up against some of the more established brands in the market.

The True A6.0 is the top of the range stick within the True range and the True A5.2 stick is a high level stick that is packed with a lot of the features of the A6.0, though it weighs a fraction more than the A6.0.  Both of the sticks we are testing are 75flex and come in True’s TC2 blade pattern, which is similar to Bauer’s Backstrom, CCM’s Nugent-Hopkins, Easton’s Hall or Warrior’s Kopitar blade patterns. The blade is a toe curve, with round toe and open face, with a 6.0 lie.

The A6.0 is the lightest stick in the range, with the senior stick weighing just 400grams and the A5.2 weighing in at 425 grams. Where the sticks are – and feel – incredibly light, the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15 is still the lightest stick on the market. Having said that, the True A6.0 and A5.2 are sticks that are within the industry average when it comes to weight and beat a few top-end manufacturers on the weight front, meaning that the new comers can compete with the big boys.

Lookphoto 11

The True sticks look great. With a black/grey finish to the shaft of the stick, the product name is included on the shaft in electric blue, which makes it stand out. The design is really no-nonsense. It is slick but effective, whilst ensuring that it will standout at the stick racks at a store.  The other aspect that might make the True series of sticks standout in the stick rack is that the sticks are longer (out of box or rack) than most of the top marquees in the market.

 

 

Feel

photo 9 When we first started to play with the A6.0 and the A5.2, we felt that the sticks had a great feel to them. Even when first holding the sticks in your hands they feel super light and have a feel of a high-end product to them. The grip coating is not too heavy as it can be on some other sticks, where the coating can feel overbearing on the gloves.

When stick handling, both of the sticks give great feedback to your hands, meaning that you know at all times where the puck is. This has been achieved through True’s patented manufacturing process (Axenic Technology), where the blade is seamlessly co-molded to the shaft, creating a true one piece stick. This manufacturing process is different to the spear process used by some other manufacturers and we feel that the Axenic Technology is one of the real strengths of the True sticks.

The manufacturing process has allowed True Hockey to create a well balanced stick. In terms of balance, the A6.0 and A5.2 are on par with Sher-Wood’s sticks which are some of the best balanced sticks on the market. Both of the sticks are mid flex sticks and are maybe a touch softer at the top of the shaft than other sticks we’ve tried, but still provide you with incredible responsiveness to shots, particularly wrist shots during game play situations, when you need to get a shot off quickly. If the softer butt end will have you worried, we wouldn’t. The tip of the stick provides players with increased stability and accuracy for shooting.

Wristers and snap shots are easy to get away, we felt that with slap shots we got a bit more behind the shot as well. The stick produces great pop and you don’t have to do much work to get the stick loaded for the shot. Just as with the wrist shots, the slap shots are quick off the blade and thanks to the structure of the blade, they don’t turn into knuckle pucks either.

photo 10

As you move down the shaft and get to the blade, this is where the real beauty of the True sticks are. Both the True A6.0 and True A5.2 feature True’s Active Bond Technology II. This technology ensures that the blade maintains its original stiffness for longer periods of time. It is something that we have noticed that the blade will provide you with great pop on the shots. The blade also features 100% carbon fibre rib structure to provide additional durability of the blade. Much like the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15, the True A6.0 and A5.2 sticks will give you that new stick feel for longer, which will keep your shots crisper and accurate. Throughout using the sticks, every time we’ve hit the ice with these sticks, it feels like a stick that we have only just taken out of its wrappers and cut down to our liking.

We noticed that the sticks do improve your accuracy somewhat. Usually our shooting can miss a barn door, but with the True sticks we have been able to usually hit the net where we have wanted.

Durability:photo 5

Durability is always something that players look for in sticks. We want to be sure that the money we spend on sticks means that we will get a product that will last a long time and that we are not back at the retailers getting a new one within two months. After using the stick both outside to do shooting practice and in on-ice training and scrimmages, the stick has proved to be durable. In a hack and slash type of environment, the stick has only ‘suffered’ a few scuff marks on the shaft, which is normal for any hockey stick in active use.

With 75 flex sticks we really want to make sure that the sticks are capable of handling slap shots and one timers as often times, sticks at this flex range (and depending on manufacturing quality) have a tendency of breaking easily and earlier. Both the True A6.0 and A5.2 have held up well and only boast a few scuff marks on the shafts and the flex profiles on both sticks are still in original form, meaning that despite abusing the sticks on the ice they feel like new.

photo 6The drawbacks?

Despite trying to pick holes at True’s own literature and the stick to try and find something negative about them, we are quite pleased to say that despite being new to the market, True Hockey have created a product that is difficult to fault. There are great features built-in to both of the sticks and both A6.0 and A5.2 provide players with great levels of responsiveness, shooting accuracy and power.

Overall

The True A6.0 and A5.2 sticks are both high quality products. If we had to compare them to any of the existing manufacturers out there, we’d say that the True A6.0 is like CCM’s Tacks stick in terms of feel and performance. We are huge fans of the rigidity of the blade and the accuracy of the stick, which was something we noted when having a quick play on the Tacks. The A5.2 would be comparable to CCM Tacks 5052. That’s not to say that the True sticks are like for like for the Tacks (in our opinion the True sticks are better), it’s just a reference as True is a new player to the market.

True Temper has created a truly wonderful set of sticks that have quickly become our favourite sticks to use. We have had other players test the sticks True provided us with and the feedback has been nothing but positive (though some guys prefer a stiffer flex), so we are confident to say that these sticks are going to be a huge hit among players. The one thing that we did wonder was the price tag. True’s top of the range sticks (the A6.0 and A5.2) are priced at the levels of some of the top brands on the market. The sticks deserve that price tag due to the performance and build quality, but will that deter people from buying a stick from one of the new guys to the market? We hope it doesn’t because these sticks are simply AMAZING!

True hockey is expanding rapidly into the European market as well and any retailer picking up the True range will be making a great investment to their business as these sticks will become popular among players very quickly.

Pros:photo 4

  • Lightweight construction
  • True one piece stick
  • Responsiveness
  • Provide great pop for longer
  • Durable construction
  • Accuracy of shooting
  • One of the best blades on the market

Cons:

  • Price – May turn customers to more established brands

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

ImageFollowing from the M11 review we did earlier, we are carrying on in the world of head protection, this time by looking at the all new Easton E700 helmet. Easton is carrying on with the design concept it came up for the Stealth line of helmets with the E700 and the helmet looks sleeker and more streamlined than its predecessors do.

For the E700, Easton teamed up with the helmet manufacturer Giro to design the helmet and lend some of the technologies used in bike helmets to combine for light weight and protection. Giro is known for its bicycle and snow sport helmets and is regarded as one of the leaders in those markets.  

When first getting the helmet in hand, it felt incredibly light. So light in fact that it almost felt too light. So with the lightness of the helmet in mind, the first thought was obviously going to be “Well if it’s so light, is it actually any good and is it durable.” In fact the helmet that we tested came with a cage and the cage was the heaviest part of the helmet and it almost felt like the cage was weighing it down. Having said that, the cage was an Easton cage, which is lighter compared to most other cages. I personally preferred to use the helmet without the cage, and the removal of said cage was not overtly complicated. However, I’d probably pay attention to what cage you will fit on the helmet as you will notice a difference and it can get some time getting used to.

Like the M11 helmet that we looked at, the Easton E700 relies on a single shell design, which again is designed to spread any impacts to a larger area of the surface of the helmet. The interesting element of the E700 is that there is no clips or ratchets on the outer shell of the helmet, anywhere, giving it a really nice sleek look. The adjustment mechanism actually sits inside the helmet, which is quite unique in the realm of helmet design.

 

Inside the helmet:

So as said, the adjustment mechanism sits within the helmet and this took me a while to work out, Imagedespite the mechanism coming with fitting instructions. To adjust the helmet to fit your head you have to remove some of the padding (which is attached by Velcro) to access it. At first the fitting might seem a bit fiddly but once you get the hang of it, it is relatively straight forward.

The thing that was surprising with the padding. Normally we see helmets use foam that moulds itself to the head, but with the E700 Easton has opted for canvas plush padding, which replaces the EPP foam seen in the previous models of the Stealth line of helmets. Remember I said that the adjustment sitting inside the helmet? Well the canvas pads are attached to the helmet by Velcro and I must admit that they feel comfortable when wearing the helmet. However, the only downside is that the Velcro strips are prone to breaking and this happened on the helmet. Per Easton’s instructions you’re not supposed to glue the strips back to the helmet as it voids the warranty on it. So our advise would be to keep a hold of the receipt from the retailer you bought the helmet from and make sure that you check the warranty period. For Europeans, it might be tricky to get a replacement with Easton as they do not ship to Europe, as per a company customer services representative. Figure that one out.  

ImageOtherwise the helmet has a polypropylene foam liner inside it, much like seen in majority of the helmets. The shell itself is made out of polycarbonate plastic and combined with the design and the foam, the helmet offers a improved energy absorption than previous models. Additionally, due to the desing, Easton has been able to use more foam, which leaves for fewer gaps within the helmet shell and liner, thus offering better protection.

 

Ventilaiton:

Though the helmet looks like it doesn’t have that many air intake vents on it, it actually circulates air really well, making sure that you don’t overheat or get too uncomfortable wearing it. Actually, due to the light weight of the helmet and combined with the few vents, it almost felt like you weren’t wearing a helmet at all, which at first was a very weird sensation.

Fit:

The fit of the helmet is super comfortable, almost more comfortable than the M11 that we recently reviewed. The fitting system, makes the helmet sit nicely on the head. Much like the ratchet system on the M11, the E700 provides superior fit that most helmets on the market still have not mastered.

 

Once adjusted properly, the helmet does not shake or move about unnecessarily, but provides the same level of confidence as the M11.

Malfunctions:

Now, I already mentioned that there were some issues with the liner and the Velcro strips within the helmet. There were other malfunction issues with the helmet as well, namely that the chin strap broke. Or more accurately, the locking mechanism on the chin strap (the shorter of the two straps) completely fell off and we could not find it on the ice. This lead us to think about the reliability of the helmet and the durability of it. If the helmet is only been in use for a few weeks and these are the issues users can potentially face, is it worth spending up to $179.99 on it?

Having trawled through a few hockey discussion boards, it would seem that the helmet we tested was not the only one to have malfunctions such as the ones stated above. Others have reported that the matt version of the helmet scratches easily and that the shell can crack.

It’s not that the E700 is a terrible helmet, the technical aspects of it are nifty and it is super comfortable, but simply because of the issues in the helmet we have been testing, one can only wonder if it would be better to spend the money on a different helmet.  

Price:

The helmet’s retail price is up to $179.99 for a helmet without a cage, or $149 on HockeyMonkey.com. The $149 price tag seems pretty unanimous among online retailers and in Europe the prices are around €169. 

Pros:

  • Incredibly light weight
  • Comfortable
  • Does not rattle around
  • Sleek look
  • Good ventilation

Cons:

  • Malfunctions and reliability
  • Anything that you attach to the helmet (cage, visor etc) will make a noticeable difference
  • Bit fiddly at first
  • More expensive than most