I have a favorite stick. It's a lightweight composite stick that has a fairly whippy flex. It is not babied. It takes low-80's slapshots. It poke checks. It gets slashed and stepped on and slammed into the boards. The most important and impressive fact about this stick is its age: I've been using it for 5 years. I figure I've put well over 1000 hours of ice time and several thousand shots on this stick and it still responds the same way it always has. Sure, the stick has plenty of dents and dings but it hasn't broken yet. So, if the technology exists to create a stick that is incredibly durable and remains lightweight and responsive, then I have a question:
Why can't CCM make a stick that lasts Alex Ovechkin more than one shift?
Before you kill me in the comments, I know Ovie is stronger than I am (by about 1000%). He gets stick-checked and slashed multiple times a shift by equally strong players. His wrist shot is harder than my slapshot and his slapshot is faster than I've ever driven my car. He demands an incredibly lightweight stick that can help him score goals. But at times this season, it looks as if his sponsor and stick manufacturer, CCM, has ignored their poster boy by providing him with a product that doesn't meet the simplist of needs: survive a shift.
So, what's the cause?
For the most part, Ovechkin seems to break his sticks on the shaft, just below his bottom hand. 230+ pounds of Ovie, leaning onto a 1"x 5/8" stick shaft is enough to flex the stick past its design limits until it snaps. Because Ovie needs to release his shot from a wide variety of positions, he uses a relatively flexible stick for a player his size. Unfortunately, there seems to be a trade off: increased flexibility = decreased strength. This isn't always the case as many other players prefer whippier stick flexes and don't experience the same incidence of stick breakage. Brett Hull used what can best be described as a pool noodle for much of his career and didn't seem to break as many sticks as Ovechkin. Granted, Hull was quite a bit smaller in size than Ovie.
Based on the specs provided by CCM, Ovie's U+ Crazy Light stick weighs 415 grams, so it is indeed 'Crazy Light'. The copy from CCM reads:
The U+ CL stick features a 360° inter-laced full woven carbon outer wrap with optimized additional carbon layers to provide improved strength, thus providing the best durability a stick in this performance category can have.
At some point, doesn't the stick need to actually perform to fit into a 'performance category'?
For much of this season, Caps fans have wondered if Ovie has some sort of injury. He looks tentative at times and never seems to take one-timers any more. What if it isn't an injury? What if Ovechkin simply doesn't trust his hardware in big situations? Would you rather have a non-shooting Alex Ovechkin with his stick on the power play, or an Ovie skating back to the bench for a new stick?
I realize that pro sticks often come off the same production lines as the sticks you and I can buy off the shelf at a local hockey store. But if special attention needs to be paid to your premier spokesman's needs, wouldn't you do so? Isn't it worth spending more money to produce Ovechkin's sticks in a way that they withstand his one-timers, when every goal he scores is an endorsement of your product?
Early in the 2008-09 season Ovechkin tried out the products of a few rival stick manufacturers, using a Bauer One95 for part of that season. Perhaps it's time Ovie raided Alex Semin's stick rack again for some new twigs.
Semin hasn't been using them.