What is a Hockey Stick Flex and Why Do You Need to Know It?

Hockey stick flex is a critical yet often misunderstood aspect of the sport that plays a significant role in a player’s performance on the ice. It refers to the degree of stiffness or flexibility a hockey stick exhibits when force is applied to it. Understanding stick flex and its importance is essential for players of all levels. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into what hockey stick flex is, how it’s measured, and why it matters when choosing your hockey stick.

What is Hockey Stick Flex?

Hockey stick flex
Image by Chris Seward is licensed with Creative Commons

Hockey stick flex is a measure of how much a hockey stick shaft bends when pressure is applied, typically during a shot. When a player leans into a shot, the stick’s flex allows it to store energy. As the stick snaps back into its original shape, this stored energy transfers to the puck, increasing shot power and velocity. A number indicates the flex rating, which represents the amount of force (in pounds) required to bend the stick one inch. For example, a stick with a flex rating of 85 requires 85 pounds of force to bend it one inch.

Measuring Stick Flex

To measure stick flex, manufacturers use a flex-testing machine, which applies a controlled amount of force to the shaft and measures the resulting deflection. The standard measurement is taken by applying a load at the midpoint of the shaft. Manufacturers specify the flex rating on the stick, making it easier for players to choose the right one for their needs.

Why Does Stick Flex Matter?

  1. Shot Power and Accuracy: The flex of a hockey stick significantly affects a player’s shot. A stick with the right flex allows players to load energy effectively and release it into the puck, resulting in more powerful and accurate shots. Players can fine-tune their shooting technique by choosing the appropriate flex.
  2. Stickhandling and Passing: Stick flex also influences a player’s ability to control the puck. A stick with the correct flex can enhance stickhandling and passing accuracy. The right flex allows for better control and feel when handling the puck, especially in tight situations.
  3. Comfort and Feel: Players often have preferences for stick flex based on comfort and feel. Some players may prefer a stiffer stick for a more rigid feel, while others prefer a more flexible one for a smoother, responsive touch. Finding the right balance between comfort and performance is crucial.
  4. Position-Specific Needs: Different positions in hockey may benefit from specific stick flexes. Forwards who take quick wrist shots may prefer a lower flex for a quicker release, while defensemen may opt for a higher flex to generate powerful slap shots and passes from the blue line.
  5. Player’s Strength and Style: A player’s strength and playing style also influence stick flex choice. Stronger players can handle stiffer sticks and may benefit from higher flex ratings. Conversely, players with less physical strength may prefer a more flexible stick to maximize shot power.
  6. Youth and Developmental Players: For young and developmental players, choosing the right stick flex is crucial for their growth in the sport. Youth sticks often have lower flex ratings to accommodate the lower strength levels of young players. It’s essential to select a stick that suits a young player’s age and size.
  7. Adaptation to Playing Conditions: Ice conditions, temperature, and playing surfaces can affect stick performance. Players may need to adjust their stick flex based on these factors to maintain consistent shot performance.

Below is a good example of how a different stick flex can impact the same hockey stick:

Finding the Right Stick Flex

Finding the ideal stick flex involves a combination of factors, including player preference, playing style, position, and strength. Players should experiment with different flex ratings to determine what feels most comfortable and effective for them. It’s essential to consider individual playing needs and adapt as skills and strengths develop.

Additionally, consulting with experienced coaches, teammates, or professionals at hockey specialty stores can provide valuable insights into selecting the right stick flex. They can offer guidance and recommendations based on a player’s specific requirements.

Recommended Hockey Stick Flex

Below is a simple chart to help you find the right hockey stick flex, based on your size and age:

Hockey stick flex chart guide