Friday, October 3, 2014

Holy Palms? I have all the answers here!

Did you know that those annoying holes in your glove occur because of the tape on the top of your stick? Yep, the combination of the adhesive and the abrasive fibers in hockey tape is excellent for making short work of your gloves. We'd all probably agree a little extra ventilation isn't the worst thing. Less material also might mean there is less glove to smell bad. But the eventual result is that parts of your hands start sticking out of your gloves, and that's not comfortable or safe.

I feel your pain. I used to blow through a pair of palms in about 9 months. This wouldn't have been so bad except that it took me 8 months to break in the typical pair. To make things worse, the hockey industry goes to great lengths to ensure they're no longer producing the gloves you like when your old ones wear out. Which forces you to try something new which takes another 8 months to break-in. It's a cycle of bitter disappointment.

Of course you have several choices to fix this issue. Just playing until the gloves turn into really odd wrist bands is a common one, though not one I personally endorse. Duct tape is neither unheard of or comfortable. Buying a new pair of gloves every nine months happens, but it's expensive. Fear not! I have three better options:

  1. Fix your worn out gloves
  2. Try a Command Grip
  3. Change your tape

Fix your worn out gloves
Yeah, we can fix your gloves with a brand new palm. Our typical turn-around on a full re-palm is two days. Repalming replaces the entire palm including the fingers and thumb.

We offer a couple choices on palm material. Traditional Clarino palms with reinforcement go for $30 per glove. Clarino is the high end synthetic suede material that most gloves come with. If you're getting a year out of your original palms, you'll get about the same from this type of palm.

We also offer digital leather palms. Digital leather is an engineered material which was designed in response to NATO and British Defense Ministry requirements. It is exceptionally comfortable and insanely durable. I had a pair of digital palms last two and a half years. In fact, both gloves fell apart and I still didn't have any holes in the palms. It's $36 per glove for re-palm with digital leather.

Try a Command Grip
Tacki-Mac makes a product that most of you probably always thought was just for people too lazy or dumb to tape their own stick. What you didn't know is that it is made to offer excellent grip without destroying your glove palm. The Command grip wears out over a several months without putting holes in your palms. It's pretty easy to install and replace as well. They come in a vast array of colors and cost $5.99 (much cheaper than a new palm.

Change your tape
There are a couple options for taping the top of your stick which are much better than traditional hockey tape. Powerflex has been an option for a long time. However, the issue with Powerflex is that it gets squished in your bag and lumped into one big mess with no end to start peeling from. This makes me sad.

We've started carrying cohesive gauze tape. Cohesive tape only sticks to itself and miraculously does this without adhesive. This makes it a a great choice to keep your gloves from wearing out. I'm not convinced that it works as well as the Tack-Mac grip, but it does also come in a vast array of colors and is installed with a technique which hockey players should be well accustomed to using.

So there you go. We can fix your old pair and you can save your new pair from an untimely death. There is one more possibility which came to mind . . . you could retire from hockey when your gloves wear out, but we'd all think less of you for it.

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© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change seems difficult. . . but is it really?

OK, most of them aren't this bad . . . some are close though
Being old school carries its own brand of cool. There's a certain respect reserved for a guy who shows up with a Cooper helmet, Daoust Skates and a pair of all-leather Flak gloves that ride halfway to his armpits. When he falls on his head and ends his adult hockey career with a concussion abetted by his twenty-five-year-old helmet, that respect quickly turns to pity. We don't have to like it, but sometimes we have to suck it up and make a change.

I'm dealing some change at Rocket Skate right now. I've had two employees who have been with me for three years each. Sophie is a recent college grad who took her first career job in Georgia (a tad too far for a commute to Lafayette, Colorado). Ally is beginning her college career majoring in music and playing women's hockey (which doesn't leave much time for work). I'm proud of both of them as they move forward in life and embrace change themselves. On the other hand, it's difficult for me to replace their six years of experience. They're also like family after three years which is even harder. So yeah, I'm feeling a bit resistant to change right now.

If the protection in your gloves is bamboo things have changed
Of course that's not the kind of change that I mean to discuss here. More relevantly, new elbow pads have been on a lot of minds lately. I've had a number of adults and kids in the last few weeks who looked at elbow pads and simply couldn't make a decision--to the point that it's even amusing. With most of them trying on half a dozen models before becoming frustrated since nothing felt like their old pair, it seems like they just might be Primadonnas, right?

Actually I can totally sympathize. We get really attached to our old gear. It's familiar, it's comfortable and, in general, humans dislike change. I myself clung to my first pair of elbow pads longer than any other piece of my worn out gear. Unlike current models, they had no bicep protection. They were literally half of what elbow pads are now. When I finally bought a newer models I quickly developed an irrational fear of this newfangled addition. They were as uncomfortable as a that pea I once endured under 15 mattresses. Thus they hung in the garage for many weeks, unused.

Eventually, I was run down by a rather large player twice in a row. On the first bump he managed to re-position my elbow pad. In an act of impressive dexterity he managed to crush me a second time as I was still readjusting that elbow pad. The second collision sent me down and knocked me on my still un-padded elbow in the process. A big fan of not having broken elbows, I wore the new pair the next time I played. I was fearful I would be a drooling pool of insanity before the game was over. I forgot that I had new gear on by the second shift.

So what's the big deal? Why are we so opposed to change? I have guys who refuse to try a composite stick even though some of them in the shop are as cheap as a wood stick. Do they realize they're using hundred year old technology?

There are other guys clinging to the shreds of what were a nice pair of skates twenty-five years ago. I'm sure they're comfortable. So are a pair of slippers, but you cannot skate in slippers. You can barely skate in a pair of skates that are so old they offer all the support of a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops.

I constantly see helmets from brands that haven't existed for ten or twenty years, shin guards that adults first used in junior high and gloves that look like they should be autographed by Rocket Richard or Gordie Howe.

The craziest part of it is many of these guys are perfectly willing to shell out $5000 for a new mountain bike. I might be old school when it comes to bikes. My thought is for that amount it should have a gas tank with the word Honda or Yamaha on it. The closest thing to a pedal you should find on a bike that expensive should be a kick starter.

We all know hockey isn't cheap. But that's just part of the problem. Fear is often the biggest factor--specifically fear of change.
"But I wore that helmet in my high school championship!"
"Great! By all means put it in a polycarbonate box on the shelf in the den, but don't keep using it to protect your brain!"

New gear feels different It's true. But it also has a lot of advantages over your old stuff. Here's a few things to thing about:

  1. Helmets have about a five year lifespan For years they've had a sticker with an expiration date. If your old bucket doesn't have this sticker, your helmet's protective capability is significantly below par. Use your brain on this one while you're still able to decide how much your cranium is worth. If it's worth nothing, keep using an antique.
  2. Wood sticks are actually more expensive The last time I played with them, they lasted me three to five weeks before the blades were reduced to wood chips (it's illegal to play with a chipped blade;the ref will kick you out eventually). A middle of the road composite stick costing $99 will last me about six months--almost five times as many games as the $35 wood stick. Composite feels better and works better too.
  3. New protective gear is better It's lighter, more protective, more comfortable and smells much nicer than what you're using now. It's going to take you two or three shifts to realize this, then you will wonder why you suffered through the old gear for so long.
  4. Skates have come a long way Even in the last last few years there have been significant advances. The softer your skates, the more of your energy is wasted. You're sacrificing mobility, agility and even stamina playing in a worn out skate. Many older skates are so worn it's impossible to turn tightly. You might not be a good skater, but you can be a better skater if your skates aren't holding you back. We even sell some phenomenal skates featuring perfect fit with ZERO break in time.

Interestingly as I was driving to work on the day of Sophie's last shift, a snow white dove flew across the street right in front of my car. I've been around for a while and I've never seen a white dove in the wild (let alone in suburbia). Even if you aren't a spiritual person, you likely know that the dove is a symbol of peace. While this one didn't have an olive branch in its beak (as far as I could see), it did feel like a little reminder from the Almighty that everything was going to be alright. I've found myself reinvigorated and excited about the challenges of training and developing my new employees, who I fully believe are going to be awesome at their job.

So here's the bottom line. Stop being afraid! For the sake of all that's good, you're a hockey player! Why are you afraid to try something new? I'm gonna make it easier for you too. Just mention this article during August 2014 and I'm gonna give you 10% off one piece of new gear just for acting like a hockey player by being brave. I'm pretty sure you're not going to regret it. Much the opposite, it might reinvigorate your tired hockey game. Personally, I seem to go on a scoring tear every time I get a new piece of gear.

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© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.

Monday, January 27, 2014

VH Footwear: The last skates you’ll ever need to buy?

Rocket Skate recently became one of the first dealers for VH Footwear’s hockey skates.
I know what you’re thinking--what the heck is VH Footwear? It wasn’t long ago that I wasn’t sure either. I did some research and ordered a pair of the skates for myself. While the VH brand isn’t well known in hockey, carrying them was a no brainer decision once I spent about 5 minutes on the skates. There’s nothing on the market at any price that even comes close to these skates.

VH What?
VH Footwear founder Scott Van Horne has his master’s degree in biomechanics. His thesis was, “The Biomechanics of Skating.” He probably knows more about how your feet and legs work when skating than you might ever want to know. In case you don’t care about his education, he’s also got a great chunk of experience to go with it. VH is fairly well known for high end cycling shoes. More importantly they are the top brand for speed skate boots. In fact, more than half of current speed skating world records were attained in a pair of VH speed skate boots. That makes him a skate guru as far as I’m concerned.

You might be thinking speed skates aren’t hockey skates. You’re correct and I applaud your skills of deduction. However, in 2009 Scott Van Horne was the skate designer on the MLX project formed by David Cruikshank. As a skating coach for NHL players, Cruikshank was appalled at poor fit of even high end hockey skates which kept his NHLers from achieving their full potential. Thus MLX was created to improve the fit and performance of hockey skates. By 2010, MLX with Mario Lemieux as their spokesperson had a dozen NHLers the Van Horne designed MLX skates. By 2011 the MLX brand was purchased by Easton. After a significant decaffeination of the product’s finer points, what little was left of the MLX became their flagship Skate selling at $800.

After the MLX experiment, Van Horne launched his own hockey boot in 2013. Even introducing his skates late in a shortened the season, several NHLers were skating in them before the playoffs ended. The current 2013/14 season has at least half a dozen NHL goalies in VH skates and two or three times as many skaters.

What’s so special about ‘em?
There are a number of features VH skates boast that no other skate can match. They are the lightest boots on the market today. They are the only one-piece carbon fiber boot on the market. While other composite boots are not moldable, the VH boots are the most moldable boots ever made (and the best fitting as the result). VH features the industry’s best warranty and is the only brand offering post warranty manufacturer repairs. No other brand offers the level of customization or quick turnaround on custom boots available to the general public that VH does.

With weight being championed by every brand, VH’s hockey boots are the undisputed king. They aren’t just light; they are staggeringly light. I weighed my pair of size 9 VH skates at 726 grams in a size 9 with 10% taller than standard Step Steel. Compare this to Bauer’s second place APX2 skates at 766 grams with Fusion runners to put into perspective just how amazingly light these boots are. The VH boot, one size larger that the APX2 with the same lightweight Fusion runners would be a whopping 90 grams lighter than Bauer’s best effort! If that doesn’t astound you, let me put it this way. Some entry level composite hockey sticks approach the weight of a VH skate with the Fusion runners installed.

While weight is what everyone talks about in skates these days, the single most important factor in any skate is fit. If someone made a pair of skates that weighed 50 grams but fell feel tight as a vise or loose as sandals, weight is irrelevant. Nothing on the market can even come close to the fit of VH’s boots at the moment. While competitor’s composite boots fit a limited number of foot shapes, the VH skates are simply the most moldable skates ever. When heated up, they become so soft, the shape can be easily manipulated with bare hands. In fact the heat molding process is different than with any other skate. Once warmed up, the skates are laced loosely and wrapped in an ace bandage. The pressure from the ace bandage is enough to pull the entire boot into the shape the player’s feet including arch support.

After molding the skates fit perfectly. Zero break in time is great, but these go beyond that. The best description of how they fit is a sock. There is a comfortable pressure all over the foot. There are no hot spots or gaps in the fit. I bought a pair of VH goalie skates, played in them twice before getting back to my broken in, good as new Graf G35 player skates. The Grafs, which I previous thought were a nice pair of skates, suddenly felt like a pair of shoe boxes taped to my feet. They simply couldn’t compare to the fit of the VH skates. That’s why I now own two pair of VH skates (and no Grafs).

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to buy a second pair of VH skates. I’m to the point with the rigors of age and bad knees where I don’t know if my hockey career will last another few years or another few months. While the fit sold me on the fact that I needed a new pair, the promise of durability sealed the decision. VH Footwear’s 6 month warranty is double that of all the major skate makers. The big boys tend to beg off many issues by covering only materials and workmanship; VH’s warranty is “will fix with the damage without question.” If that isn’t enough, once the warranty has expired, if anything fails, you can send a picture to the company for a repair quote.

While VH doesn’t recommend custom skates for anyone without serious issues, they do make a full custom boot. The heat-molding is so good that it will perfectly encompass feet from the widest to narrowest, allow for most bunions, spurs and other freakish deformities you may have. One of the best things about the skates is the ability to heat fit them more than once. If you do have a deformity the size of a doorknob, we can always warm up a pair and let you try them on with no obligation.

In the event that they don’t fit, VH can make you a special pair to accommodate that hideous growth. Custom skates start at $899. As long as you’re at it, you can have the skates made in any color when you do customs. You know you always wanted a pair of red and yellow hockey skates, right? Turn around time is as little as two weeks on customer orders. The only other brand that offers custom orders takes two months if you’re really lucky and up to six months if you fall more in the normal range.

Another nice feature is that you can have any holder you’d like installed on the skates. Whether you’ve always been on Bauer, Graf, or CCM, your skates can be ordered with any brand of holder and runner that you’re used to skating on (even Easton). This makes the transition a little easier from your old skates to the new ones.

The Bottom Line
VH is simply producing the finest hockey skate ever made. Comparing them to the next best skate on the market is like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to a 1963 Corvette. One is the most technologically advanced ever made; the other is pretty but inferior and out of date. With other brands pushing their top of the line skate prices up between $750 and $899, VH Footwear is an amazing bargain with a starting cost of $799.

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© 2014 Scott Noble. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in whole or part is strictly prohibited without the author's prior express written permission.