In early December, 2014, I was looking for something to do with my 4-year-old child on a Saturday afternoon. Somehow I found out that there was an ice-skating show going on about 10 miles from my house. I telephoned my wife and asked her if she would like to go, and three of us were off to the ice rink. The show ended up being a pretty big bust, but we got to see the ice rink, and I suggested that we stay over for the public skating. We rented the skates for ourselves, including our 4-year-old son, and got on ice.
This was the most fun and thrill I had had in years. My parents enrolled me in figure skating when I was 5, and then I switched to hockey at the age of 8 and played until I was 15. I was never good enough at it to make a semi-professional youth team at the local hockey club, but I continued playing and was pretty good at the street level. At the age of 15, I scored my last goal that ended up being the winning goal in the game that brought my team local championship, and as far as I remember, that was the last game of hockey that I had played. This was in 1985, and I was 15 years old.
Since then, I ice skated a few times every decade, so perhaps, I had skated 10 times in thirty years – at most. So, in early December 2014, I got on ice the first time since 2003-2004 – the first time in over a decade. I was on rental skates – a pair of old CCM hockey skates, which were in a pretty bad shape, but after a few laps around the rink, I felt like I was back and enjoyed the skating session a great deal. By the end of that skating session, a few adults asked me if I was interested in giving their kids private skating lessons, so I knew that not only did I impress myself with my skating skills – being away from skating for over a decade, but I stood out of the crowd during that skating session. I also fell once and ended up damaging my shoulder pretty bad that night, but that is my little secret that I am not sharing with anyone.
After that public skating session, I decided that I really want to get myself a pair of good skates. I blamed my fall on the bad skates I had rented that night, and on my over-zealous desire to skate hard that night. I’m glad I didn’t hit my head on the ice that night because I was not wearing a helmet – for obvious reasons.
Therfore, for the holiday season in late 2014, I got myself a pair of nice hockey skates. I had ventured once into buying hockey skates when traveling to Canada in 2001. I ended up paying a few hundred dollars for a pair of CCM skates, which as it turned out later, hurt my feet so much that I could not skate more than 15 minutes in them before I was in so much pain I had to quit. I believe the reason is that they are a little too narrow for my foot. Therefore, this time I decided to choose a pair of quality skates that fit me well and not to worry too much about the price.
I went to several local hockey stores (LHS) and looked at different types of skates they had in stock. Because I was out of this field for so long, I had no idea about all of the improvements and inventions that occurred in the business of making hockey skates. Obviously, I was overwhelmed at the choices. There are several major hockey manufacturers out there: Bauer, CCM, Reebok, Easton, Graf, Warrior, etc. Some of them manufacture only certain types of hockey equipment, whereas others manufacture everything related to hockey. Each manufacturer has more than one lines of hockey equipment, and each line has several levels based on the quality/price ratio. Therefore, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of choices that a consumer has in front of him/her for every piece of the hockey equipment. If you are just getting into this field, the number of choices is overwhelming. This blog post is to help a new hockey player choose the proper equipment.
I tried a pair of Bauer Nexus skates at the hockey store located inside one of the local hockey rinks. The skates felt too wide and too stiff to me. They didn’t feel like anything that would be comfortable on ice. Unfortunately, the sales clerk at the store didn’t bother (or didn’t know) to explain to me that Bauer Nexus line of hockey equipment is made for big wide-boned guys, which I am not. Therefore, I decided that Bauer skates are not for me and moved on. This same store also carried Easton skates, which I looked at, but they didn’t have my size. I had never even heard of Easton before, and the prices were very steep, so I never really pursue Easton either.
I then went to anther LHS that carried Bauer, CCM, and Reebok brands, but no Easton. Since I had ruled out Bauer before, I decided to try on Reebok and CCM. I LOVED Reebok skates. They felt on my foot like regular shoes – the feeling I had never had while wearing hockey skates. I also tried a pair of CCMs, and they were just like two stiff boots, so compared to Reeboks, CCMs were inferior. Seasoned hockey players reading this post will probably think to themselves that I don’t know what I’m talking about – I didn’t specify the type of CCM skates I tried, and CCM has several lines of skates with each line having several levels. Well, I wholeheartedly agree with this, but I didn’t know anything about that back then, so all I knew about the product was what I saw at the store. It is a good idea to have done you research before showing up at the LHS, but, when buying hockey equipment, and hockey skates especially, the most important thing is to try them on and see what they feel like. That’s exactly what I was doing. Another consideration was, of course, the price. The owner of the LHS – the second one I visited – really recommended the Reeboks. He also explained to me the different levels that the Reebok Ribcor line of hockey skates has. Even though this time I wasn’t going to go cheap, I also didn’t want to drop $1000 on the skates along. I was hoping to get skates in the $400 – $500 range. What ended up fitting the bill were Reebok Ribcor 30K skates. Those skates are just one level under the most expensive Reebok skates – Reebok Ribcor skates. The LHS owner explained to me that the price different between Reebok Ribcor and Reebok 30K – almost 100% price hike – doesn’t justify a few additional features that Ribcor has over 30K. I figured that I will never be able to play at the professional level, so there’s no reason for me to drop close to $800 on Reebok Ribcor, whereas I could get Reebok 30K for $400. Another consideration was that I was getting the second best skate in the Reebok line of skates for $400, whereas if I went with Bauer or CCM, I would have to drop $600 – $650 for the second best level in their lines of skates. The most expensive Bauer and CCM skates were close to $1000, whereas Reebok Ribcor was under $800. I figured I was getting a good value for my money with Reebok 30K skates, but most importantly, they were available (last pair) in my size at the LHS, and they felt great on my feet.
The LHS owner advised to me that they could “bake” the skate to my feet, which I didn’t even know was possible. So, I told him I needed to do some more research and would most likely be back shortly. I took a day to consider my options, do some pretty serous research on the internet, and figured out that Reebok 30K were in fact the best choice in my circumstances unless I was ready to drop close to $1000 for just hockey skates. Money is really not as much of a consideration for me at the current stage of life, but I didn’t want to squander it on the top-level equipment just to have the best; instead, I wanted to make my first hockey purchase prudently. The following day, I was back at the LHS to buy the skates. The LHS baked my skates and I had them molded to my feet. Then, I was off to my first skate. What a difference! I was thrilled. The skates felt perfectly in the beginning of the public skating session, but by the end, I felt pain and my feet were rubbed raw in certain places. I did a few more public skating sessions in those skates, and then went back to the LHS to show them my foot injuries. The LHS owner offered to bake them again for me. He also said if that didn’t help, he has techniques to stretch the skate boots in certain places to make the problem go away. So, I had my skates baked again and molded to my feet. After that second skate bake, the skates broke in, and I’m no longer having any problems with pain or blisters. All in all, I think I made the right choice with my hockey skates, and I would recommend Reebok 30K (or obviously Reebok Ribcor) as a great skate at a good value. I know some NHL players swear by Reebok Ribcor, such as Sydney Crosby, so you can’t go wrong with Reeboks, just don’t try to save money and go with the lowest-end ones because you will still spend a few hundred buck but will get a pair of sub-par skates, which is true not only with Reeboks but with any other skates – be they CCM, Easton, Bauer, Graf, etc.
As I was skating with my family at one of the public sessions at a newly opened rink, which was recommended to me by one of the employees of the LHS where I bought my skates, I decided to approach one of the workers there and ask them if there was some class for adults who are trying to get back to playing hockey. It turned out that the owner of the new hockey rink was standing by and overheard my question. He said that, in fact, he was planning to start a hockey clinic for adults. So, a few weeks later, I went to my first hockey clinic class. Before that, I purchased a helmet and hockey gloves in my LHS. Since I already bought my skates there, and they were Reebok, I decided to focus on Reebok as the brand of hockey equipment I was going to buy. Because the same LHS also carried Bauer and CCM, I naturally also compared the Reebok helmet to CCM and Bauer. The situation repeated itself – the top-of-the-line Reebok helmet was over $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line CCM or Bauer. Reebok ended up being the most comfortable of the helmets that I tried on at that LHS. I ended up going with the top-of-the-line Reebok helmet, which was Reebok 11K. I bought it without the face cage, but I later purchased a Bauer Hybrid Shield, which is a combo of plexiglass shield and wire cage. When I tried on the Reebok with its original wire cage, I hated it. It felt like I was looking out from a prison cell. With the Bauer Hybrid Shield, the view was perfect: when I looked straight, I saw no wire cage, but the lower part of my face was fully protected with the wire cage. I would recommend the Bauer Hybrid Shield together with the Reebok 30K. The size I got in both was Large – I do have a very large head, which I want to believe is due to my unbelievable intelligence.
The next was hockey gloves. Obviously I went straight to the Reebok section to try my hockey gloves. I tried a pair of Reebok 30K and immediately fell in love with them. Then, I compared them to the top-of-the-line Bauer and CCM gloves, and spent about an hour there, trying to decide if I had become obsessed with Reebok, or if they actually make superior product. Again, there were different lines of CCMs and Bauer gloves that I tried on, with Reebok only having one line but several levels. I tried Reebok 24K and 26K, but decided to pay extra for the Reebok 30K gloves. I love those gloves just as much as I love the Reebok 30K skates and the Reebok 11K helmet (top-of-the-line).
So, for my first adult hockey clinic session, I had my own pair of skates, gloves, and my own helmet with the Bauer Hybrid Shield. I also purchased a Sher-Wood 5030 wooden stick, which is another story. I had not realized that a revolution had occurred with the hockey sticks sometime around the year 2000. I didn’t even know that hockey sticks were no longer made of wood, and when I saw the price of the composite hockey sticks on sale at the LHSs, I was floored. The sticks cost between $200 and $300 per stick. I couldn’t understand who in their right mind would pay this amount of money for a hockey stick, and I still cannot grasp this idea. So, I went with a wooden stick I found in one of the local sports stores for under $30 per the top-of-the-line wooden hockey stick. I have now played with this stick 8 times or so, and it is still in great shape. However, I also picked up a composite Reebok Ribcor 26K stick for $54 dollars at the LHS. I haven’t yet played with it, but I’m planing to try it out very soon. Weight-wise, I don’t see much of the difference between the Sher-wood 5030 and the Ribcor 26K, but this is an entry-level Reebok stick. I cannot make myself buy a hockey stick for $250 – no way Jose. Maybe some time in the future, but not yet.
So, I absolutely LOVED my first hockey clinic session. I was thrilled. I was on ice with a stick and puck for the fist time in 30 years. Our coach was the owner of the new hockey rink, who has been coaching kids for a long time at other hockey rinks. The guy is a French Canadian, and he is absolutely amazing as a coach. I wish I had such a coach when I started playing hockey in late 1970s – early 1980s. I may have become a hockey player with such a great coach. He made us do drills that were very helpful. I remembered some of those drills back from my childhood. Unfortunately, I fell quite a bit during this first session and hit my left knee against ice on multiple occasions that evening. When I got home, my knee was in a pretty bad shape, and I had to put an ice pack on it for several hours that evening. I realized later that the reason I fell so much that evening and every time hit my left knee was because my skates had dulled by then, and I failed to have them re-sharpened. Another thing I realized was that I really needed shin guards with knee pads if I was serous about getting back in playing hockey. So, off I was for another adventure of buying knee pads. To be continued ….