[The first in our series of "Ask Coach Oshie" articles featuring Timothy Oshie, father of Blues forward T.J. Oshie. Feel free to send him your questions at the email listed below and look for them to be answered here.]
Hello Mr. Oshie! Your son T.J. is my favorite player right now (I think pretty much every Blues fans favorite). How humbling of an experience was it to hear the entire ‘Scott' crowd chanting "Oshie!"?
I could hear the chant while watching the NHL Center Ice package from my residence in Grand Forks, ND, after his NHL Goal of the Year vs. Vancouver, then again with his huge hit on Rick Nash Part 1. But I first witnessed it in person on Friday, April 10, 2009, in front of a sold-out Scottrade Center crowd. It was the night the Blues clinched a berth in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs in defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-1. It goes without saying I was filled with emotions knowing how hard T.J. had worked throughout his young life and the sacrifices and adversities he had endured on his hockey journey.
The message I pass on to all the young athletes is to always be a good, solid person (solid hockey person = solid hockey player); one who your friends and teammates can always trust and rely on; to be the greatest teammate you can; to be humble and compassionate in your successes; to have dignity in defeat.
Thank you Jimmy for your question today. You are the first Blues fan to ask a question on "Ask Coach Oshie."
Coach Oshie, How does the curve (and shape) of a stick affect the puck handling and shots by players? Does the players position determine the curve and shape? I know defensemen use a longer stick than forwards, but what about the blade? I have noticed that some goalies have ‘flat' blades while some have quite a curve to it. Is that simply a personal preference than actual performance?
Here are my beliefs, then I'll give you some more scientific conclusions: Everyone is completely different when it comes to the likes of the curve (on the blade) and the shape of it. Personally, I preferred the rounded blade rather than the square style. For me, it's much easier to toe and drag the puck, meaning showing it to a defenseman then bringing it back tight inside your body to get him/her to commit first so you can go by the defender if they try to poke check it off your stick. Also, the stick has more feeling with the rounded curve on the top of blade.
Forwards will use shorter sticks to keep the puck in tight for play in close areas while defensemen will usually prefer a longer stick to give them that extra edge to deflect or poke the puck off your stick.
On the goalie side of things, again, total feel and performance of the goalie stick is important. If a goaltender has a flat blade chances are it could be easier to control the puck when it comes to deflecting it to the corners on a save. But, I will put the disclaimer in right now, I've never taken instructions from a professional goaltender or coach. Closest thing would have been my fellow coach at Warroad High School, Coach Dennis Fermoyle. What he did teach me is that the more complex you get with the puck stoppers, the better. A more curved blade for a goaltender will allow them to get the puck up, off the ice and will increase the velocity of the pass to the teammate. A great puck-playing goaltender will always keep the opposing coaching staff on its toes to be careful on dump-ins while the opposing team makes a line change (non-NHL goalies can play the puck anywhere on the ice). So again, it truly comes down the personal feel and preference.
Now, here is some more scientific reasoning: Sticks today come in a number of materials that in themselves can be overwhelming. These range from wooden, fiberglass to full Kevlar. Sticks have come a long way from the days when Christian Brothers Hockey Plant (Warroad, MN, had to put the plug in as that's our family's hometown) introduced a fiberglass sock on a wooden stick to make it stronger. Younger kids (age 11-12 under) will also find little or no benefit from the more expensive one-piece and two-piece sticks. Parents, you can save your money for something better than your child's bragging rights at practice because unless a child is regularly breaking sticks in normal play, they should be using a wooden stick.
The pattern, or curve, of a stick or blade is the most personalized part of buying a stick. Patterns used to be labeled by their descriptors: curve, loft and lie. Today, all but a couple brands have completely done away with this system in the age of corporate sponsorship, using player names instead to differentiate patterns. The most important factor in the selection is the lie (the angle of the blade to the shaft). If this angle is wrong, the blade will not sit flat on the ice and will cause undue difficulty in stick handling and shooting. If possible, look for a stick with skates on. Many shops will also have a box to stand on that simulates the height of skates. Make sure that your stick is flat when you are at skate level and in a playing stance. If you have a stick or blade that you are confident is the proper lie, it is always a good idea to bring it for comparison when you are looking for a new one.
The loft is just like a golf club. The more open the face of the blade, the easier it should be to get your shot airborne. If you find your shots going six feet over the goalie's head, it's time to look for a blade with less loft.
The curve is described as one of three types: heel, mid and toe. This is the place that most of the curve in a blade is concentrated. Which of these you chose will be as much personal preference as anything you buy in hockey. Changing curves will affect your shot and is something to experiment with before settling in on that expensive one-piece stick.
Very young children will be best suited with a straight blade stick. Most youth sticks come with a minimal curve at most, but I would stay away from even these. Often children this young haven't even determined if they will play left or right-handed. A curve will only impair this decision. It offers no assistance to players this young regardless.
Thanks again Dan.
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