Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’


We had an opportunity to try the all new Warrior Alpha QX Stick recently. Similar to the QRL review last year, this is a quick overview of our thoughts on the new top of the line stick. The Alpha QX range replaces the outgoing Dynasty range of sticks. These first impressions are based on about 45 minutes of tinkering with it. The stick was tested in dry land conditions only and for shooting.

 

Upon picking up the stick it feels incredibly light. The stick weighs in at 410 grams, which isn’t the lightest stick on the market but on hands it definitely feels a lot lighter than it actually is. The stick is finely balanced and feels good on the hands. The one thing that we found a bit uncomfortable to begin with was the grip coating. It felt ‘stickier’ than other sticks that we’ve tested in the past, but this again is a matter of preference. Warrior says that this grip is to improve accuracy and control.

 

One of the other things we noticed when we first held the stick is that the contour of the shaft is also new and at first felt a little different to ‘conventional’ hockey sticks. The best way to describe the shaft and the contour is a mash between the old elliptical design on the Easton S19 and CCM’s Octo-Gun sticks. However, it isn’t as radical as those two.

Warrior says that this is to help with stick handling and shooting (we’ll get to that later). The Alpha QX is a low kick point stick and differs from the QRL in that the kick point is slightly higher. The aim has been to make shot release even quicker on the Alpha QX.

The stick that we tested was an 85 flex with W05 (Granlund) blade pattern, which has a 5 lie and a 9/16 heel curve. Normally we would prefer a 75 flex but the 85 flex stick gave us a good enough impression on what the stick is capable of.

 

We only tested the stick on dry land for shooting, but it did impress us quite a bit. One of the first things we look at in any stick is the feel for the puck how well the blade feeds back to the shaft/hands. On the Alpha QX the feel is what you would expect from a top of the range puck. You can stick handle comfortably knowing that the puck is on the blade and not having to spend too much time looking down to the puck.

 

Shooting is where the stick reveals its worth. You can comfortably release slap-shots and wristers and get the feeling that there is more ‘oomph’ behind the shot. We’ve experienced this with the likes of TRUE X-C 9 sticks. The stick is easy to load and especially using it for one timers (using a Hockey Shot Passing kit PRO) you can really unleash some heavy shots with the stick. Wrist shots feel like they come off the stick with ease and you can really tell the improvements made for quickening the release. In shooting, there wasn’t much of a wobble on the puck and it comes off clean from the blade.

 

There is a durable feel to the shaft. Thanks to an all new construction method, the stick is now stronger, which translates into your shooting confidence. You can easily lean into one-timers with the stick without the fear of the stick breaking. For example with the Sher-Wood Rekker EK-15, the stick feels just so light your natural instinct is to hold back a touch. Not so with the Warrior, you can lean into shots with your hearts content.

 

The big downside for the Alpha QX? The price. The stick is set to retail at $300/£200/€240, so it is not the cheapest top-of-the-range stick on the market. Then again, you do get a lot of performance for the money.

 

Conclusion:

Where our time with the stick wasn’t that long, it did provide us with a good idea of what the stick is capable of. The Warrior Alpha QX is a real shooter’s stick and we would love to do an indepth review of one on the ice to really put it through its paces, but just from dry-land shooting experience the stick is impressive piece of engineering.

 

The only things that we found bugged us slightly were the grip and the new shape of the stick, which with more time I’m sure would not be a massive problem. However, as said, at the moment, the only downside that we can see is the price tag of the stick. Yes you do get a high performance stick for that money, but it is a lot of money to invest in a product that is most at risk of breaking in the game of hockey.

 


Helmet is probably one of the most important pieces of protective equipment that a hockey player wears. Not only is a helmet responsible for protecting your head during play, but one of the other key duties it has is to allow enough air flow to ensure that the players are still able to think and perform their plays and roles effectively without overheating.

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M11 Helmet fitted with Hejduk visor. The helmet is compatible with majority of visors on the market.

Having played the game for a number of years and having worn a number of different helmets all the way from the Gretzky Jofa to the Selanne Fishbowl and beyond. Additionally, as regular readers will know, I have a history of concussions, hence making the helmet selection process a delicate and meticulous process. In the past it was all about the ‘Mirror test’ of what looked good, rather than the protective features of the helmet, but now increasingly players and manufacturers alike are paying attention to the protection from rotational forces and direct impacts to the head.

Enter Cascade Hockey’s M11 helmet. The helmet has been at the forefront of helmet technology for a couple of years now and has made a significant effort in reducing the risk of concussion in a contact sport. Though it is important to note that no helmet will protect you fully from a concussion, but the Cascade M11 has made a conscious effort to dramatically reduce the risk of one.

As a side note, Cascade Hockey was recently acquired by Bauer, but the M11 line will carry on with Mark Messier still leading the development, which should ensure further leaps and bounds in terms of R&D

The helmet itself differs from majority of the competition on the market in that the helmet shell is all one piece. The likes of Reebok, CCM, Warrior and Bauer all use two piece outer shell construction in the helmet design.  So far I’ve only come across the M11 and the Easton that rely on this design.

The single shell design distributes impact forces better than the traditional two piece shell. The only downside with the design and on the M11 is that it can look a bit bulkier than other traditional styled helmets, but it’s not in the league of bulk of the Warrior helmets.

The Fit:

When I was choosing the helmet, I tested and tried on the 11k from Reebok, The V10 from CCM (which I had previously), RE-AKT from Bauer and The E700 from Easton. However, none of the helmets were as comfortable out of the box as the M11 was.

My previous helmet was the CCM V10 and where I was looking to carry on using the model, I was sold on the M11 pretty much from the moment I fitted it on my head. As I mentioned I have had a history with concussions, so the research and technology behind it made the helmet appealing. Given that the CCM V10 helmet hasn’t really changed since it’s launch, it came down to the choice between the M11 and Bauer’s RE-AKT helmet.

Yes the RE-AKT is lighter than the M11, BUT the deciding factor, swinging it in M11’s favour was the fit of it. Even with the RE-AKT adjusted appropriately, it didn’t fit properly and the helmet still wobbled on my head if I shook my head, which was something I was looking to avoid. What I was looking from my helmet was something that stays in place and doesn’t move in case of a particularly heavy hit.

The M11’s tool free adjusting mechanism, or the ratchet system, at the back of the helmet ensures that the helmet sits properly. There is only a single mechanism used to adjust it, comparing it to the other helmets majority of helmets, bar Easton, where you have to lift up two or more flaps to adjust the helmet.

What I really like on the M11 is the adjustment coming from the back of the helmet, making it sit nice and tight on the head.

Foam wars

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The inside of the helmet and the foam. The foam ensures comfortable fit of the helmet.

The thing that really sets the M11 apart from the other helmets is the foam within the helmet. Traditionally the pro-level and high end helmets use what is called an EPP foam. EPP Foam is not by any means bad, but it does not possess the same features as the M11’s foam.  The way the foam has been designed to react to impact is to return to its original shape as fast as possible, which in turn provides better protection as the integrity of the foam has been restored a lot quicker. The foam and the cylinders that sit between the foam and the shell of the helmet have been designed to spread the force of the impact to a larger area, thus minimising the direct impact to the head.

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Under the foam you’ll find the cylinders that have been designed to return to their original shape soon from an impact. This reduces the risk of head injuries in case of multiple impacts to the same location.

The foam is definitely more comfortable than some of the other foams in helmets. The only thing I have experienced with it, which is something that has happened with every helmet, is initial headaches when first wearing the helmet on the ice. It has taken a while for the foam to adjust to the shape of my head, but it is something that I have encountered with other helmets throughout my playing days.

Customising and Fitting visors etc.

The one thing that was quite funky with the helmet was that you are able to customise the colours of the vents. At the pro shop where I got the helmet from, they offered to change the white coloured vents on my helmet to a desired colour, but I decided to stick with them as they came. Further to the point, if you are ordering the helmet directly through the Messier Project home page, you can truly customise the helmet colour and the colours of the vents.

The biggest problem I had with the helmet was installing a visor and removing the ear guards. The trouble is that some of the screws sit behind the foam and the cylinders inside the helmet, requiring a bit of handy work and in my case as I have no skill in DIY and incredibly short attention span with the screwdriver it was a bit of an up-hill battle in having the visor installed.

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The vents on the side of the helmet can be changed to fit your desired colour.

The helmet when I got it came with a cage, but the guys at my pro shop (Sportia-10), were kind enough to remove it for me.

Overall:

The M11 is a great helmet, and I would go as far as to say that it is the best helmet you have never heard about. The price point for the helmet (€149 without visor or $119 on hockey monkey/$144 regular retail price) comes in lower than the E700 or the 11k from Reebok, but is slightly more expensive than the CCM V10 helmet.

The M11 provides superior protection while providing comfort. Where it is not as light weight as my previous V10 helmet, I hardly notice the difference between the two. The M11 stays in place when being hit and does not wobble around on the head when adjusted appropriately, something that other helmets can do.

I would thoroughly recommend the helmet to anyone looking to buy a new one or look out for the M11 Pro line as an alternative.

Pros:

  • Incredible fit. Helmet does not wobble on head and sits comfortably at the desired position
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Customisable
  • Easy to adjust
  • Single shell design provides superior protection
  • SEVEN technology is a definite plus for the helmet and helps spread the force of the impact to a wider area and returns to normal shape quicker
  • Great ventilation throughout

Cons:

  • Fiddly: Some screws not easy to get to when fitting visor/cage or removing ear guards.
  • Breaking in pains
  • Heavier when compared to the Easton E700 or Bauer RE-AKT

More info and dealer locations can be found at: http://www.cascadeicehockey.com/