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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cycling the Puck in Hockey

You have probably heard the term "cycling" before. Cycling is an important concept to understand, especially if you are a forward. Cycling is a strategy used in the offensive zone to maintain your team's control of the puck. In order to cycle effectively, your players must keep their feet moving and their heads on a swivel. In a nutshell, cycling is performed by controlling and moving the puck, usually along the boards deep in the zone, as you and your linemates rotate in and out of the corner, slot, and top of the circle while the defenders give chase. The goal is to protect the puck and keep it moving so that the defenders are forced to chase you and your linemates. Eventually, the defenders will tire out or one of your players will open up for a pass in a shooting lane.

There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you cycle the puck effectively:

  • Keep Your Head Up – You should always have your head up in every situation, but it's crucial when you're cycling. Keeping track of your linemates and the opposing team's defenders is the best way to anticipate plays before they develop. Keeping your head up will also allow you to protect yourself when your opponents try to line you up for a check.

  • Move Your Feet – It won't do you any good to stand in one place and pass the puck back and forth with your linemates. A sitting target is easy for any player to defend against, but a moving target is always an offensive threat. Have you ever noticed that it's much more tiring when you're stuck on a long defensive shift than it is when you're out on a long offensive shift? Use it to your advantage by making the other team skate hard to keep up and you'll find yourself with some great scoring chances.

  • Communicate – One of the best ways to keep your awareness up is to communicate with your linemates. Let them know when a defender is on their tail or when they should brace for a hit. Call for drop passes, let them know if the puck is in their skates, and give them a heads up when you're heading to the slot for a quick shot. Sometimes it's best not to call out every move you're going to make so that you can keep the defenders guessing, but use your best judgment and communicate whenever it's beneficial.

  • Use Good Body Positioning – Good body positioning is the key to puck-protection. You should use your legs and arms to ward off defenders and keep your body between them and the puck. Protecting the puck does not require you to do a bunch of fancy stick-work in order to maintain control. It comes down to keeping yourself and the puck in a position where you have the upper hand as you maneuver.

Remember that you shouldn't cycle just to cycle – do it with purpose. The point of cycling is to create scoring opportunities by maintaining possession of the puck with good puck-protection, quick feet, and great communication. As soon as the defenders make a mistake, and you or one of your linemates gets into scoring position, make the most of the opportunity and get the puck to the net.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inline Hockey Wheels, Bearings, Axles & Spacers

At Hockey Giant, we get a fair amount of calls from customers who have questions as they're looking for wheels, bearings, axles, and spacers. There seems to be a bit of confusion when it comes to matching up the various parts. We'll attempt to shed some light on the subject by identifying each of the individual parts and the variations that you'll come across as you look at different skates and chassis models.

The core (aka "hub") of the wheel is the center, plastic part into which the bearings are inserted. There are two different core sizes available: 688 micro-bearing core wheels (pictured on left below) and 608 standard bearing wheels (pictured on right below). As you can see, the hole in the middle of each wheel is a different size, therefore they require bearings of different sizes. There are essentialy 4 different types of spacers: Standard 608, Micro 688, Floating Standard 608, and Floating Micro 688. They are labeled in the image below. There are 3 different axles pictured below as well: 6mm Axle and Screw, 8mm Axle and Screw, 8mm Axle Bolt.


The tree diagram below starts with the wheel type (608 Standard or 688 Micro) and then identifies which spacers and bearings will be needed based on your axle type. Most axles, whether 6mm or 8mm, have a female end into which the male screw is inserted, although some axles (usually just 8mm) have threads on the end of the bolt which screw directly into the chassis threads. In any case, the mm size of the axle and the wheel core type determines which type of spacers will be needed in order to properly mount the wheels to your chassis.

Most inline hockey skates are assembled with standard bearing wheels on the chassis, but there are of course some skates that are assembled with micro-bearing wheels. Since micro-bearing core wheels are currently being phased out you might consider making the switch to standard bearing wheels, such as the Labeda Addiction XXX Inline Wheels or Rink Rat Hornet Split Inline Wheels just for the sake of future availability and compatibility.

Get your Inline Hockey Wheels, Bearings, Spacers, and Axles today at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Benefits of Wearing Hockey Performance Apparel

Performance apparel is becoming much more popular among players of all ages and skill levels. Performance apparel is offered in two fits: compression and loose. Fit is a matter of preference, but in order to reap the true performance benefits of under apparel, the compression fit is the way to go. When you wear compression shorts/pants, shirts and socks, bloodflow is increased and your muscles recover more quickly. Most performance apparel is also hydrophobic, which means it will keep you cool and wick away sweat.

There's a difference between constriction and a healthy amount of muscle compression. If your compression apparel is too tight, your bloodflow will decrease and your muscles will grow weak more quickly because they will not receive enough oxygen to recover as you play/practice. Compression apparel should fit tightly and comfortably. So make sure that if you decide to wear compression shorts, pants, shirts, or socks, you get the proper size. Otherwise, you might as well just not wear it at all.

Loose-fitting performance apparel is moisture-wicking, breathable and comfortable, but it does not provide the benefits of muscle compression. It's a great choice for players who simply prefer this type of fit over the compression fit. Players have been wearing regular t-shirts and boxer briefs under their gear for years, so it's not like you'll be at a severe disadvantage if you choose to go this route, but you might want to try the compression fit before dismissing it because there are certainly a few benefits to wearing it.

Every manufacturer has been increasing the number of performance apparel options that they provide each year. Whether you prefer to wear Bauer, Reebok, Easton, Shock Doctor, or Under Armour, is totally up to you. But it's nice to know that you have options. Each of these manufacturers have performance apparel shirts, shorts, pants, and socks, as well as shorts and pants with integrated jocks and Velcro sock tabs. The all-in-one jock shorts and pants are very convenient and give you one or two fewer things to forget each time you pack your bag to head to the rink.

Like any other piece of equipment, hockey performance apparel gets pretty smelly if you don't wash it. Make sure you take a look at the tags to find the appropriate cleaning method. Most hockey performance apparel can be tossed into the washing machine, but make sure you take out your cup first, and like I said before, check the tags.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Hockey Shaft & Blade Combos

These days, most hockey players are opting to use OPS sticks rather than two-piece blade and shaft combos. Some say it's because of the weight difference; others say it's because they feel like the low-kick flex point is more consistent. I grew up using wood sticks and eventually made the change to two piece shaft and blade combos. That was back in the days of the original Easton Ultra Lite shaft – a breakthrough in its own right for that time.

For years, I've been using shafts and blades and I've always been pleased. For some reason I decided to switch back to wood sticks for a while, which was fine, but I had trouble finding one that held up as well as the old Bauer Supreme 3030 sticks I used to play with. At that point I decided to try out a few OPS's. I wasn't disappointed with the performance of the sticks, but when I started breaking blades, I thought, "If this was a shaft/blade combo, I wouldn't be out $200 right now."

I don't have anything against one piece sticks, but I'd like to offer a few reasons to consider using a shaft/blade combo instead. Everyone has their own set of preferences when it comes to sticks, so what works for you may not be the best fit for the next guy.

Upsides to Using a Shaft/Blade Combo

  1. The most obvious upside to using a shaft/blade combo is that when you break a blade, that's all you have to replace. It's much cheaper to replace a $30-$40 blade than to replace a $200 stick.

  2. Cross-brand options – When you buy a Bauer OPS, you get Bauer blade patterns. When you buy an Easton OPS, you get Easton blade patterns. When you buy a shaft and blade separately, you have the option of mixing and matching the blade and shaft that work best for you. Maybe you like the TotalOne Shaft from Bauer, but you want to use a Synergy ST Blade from Easton... Not a problem.

  3. Durability – This may have just been my own experience, but I've noticed a serious difference in durability between Shaft/Blade combos and OPS's. Not all OPS sticks, but many of the ones I've used have broken in a relatively short amount of time – much less time than the Shafts and Blades I've used. I don't have any science to back this up, but it might be the difference in torque distribution that causes a one piece stick to snap more easily than a shaft. Perhaps the material overlap of a shaft/blade combo acts as a form of reinforcement?

In any case, shafts and blades may not be the current trend, but there's certainly an argument to be made for them. There are plenty of reasons to give it a shot. Just keep in mind that shafts and blades come in "tapered" (.520") and "non-tapered" (standard .620"). You must only match tapered blades with tapered shafts and non-tapered blades with non-tapered shafts.

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