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What The Heck’s Flex?

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The answer to the above question is fairly straightforward: The flex of a hockey stick is the measurement of the amount of pressure required to bend the stick one inch, expressed in pounds.

Which begs another question: Why do I care?

Simply put, if you’re using a stick that’s too stiff for you to bend, your shots will lack power. If you’re using a stick that’s too whippy, your shots will lack control.

Finding the Right Flex

For the average player — a mythical creature like a unicorn or a happy No. 2 goalie — the flex of your stick should be roughly half your body weight.

That, however, is a very rough estimate. Variables influencing that number include:

  • Your height and body mass
  • The type of player you are (offense? defense? playmaker? sniper?)
  • The shot type you most often take (slap? wrist? snap?)
  • The length of your stick

Many players adjust the length of their sticks by sawing away a bit of the end of the handle. The trick is to do so without raising the flex too much, making your stick unacceptably stiff.

A sample chart produced by Bauer suggests you will increase your flex by six to 10 pounds for every two inches by which a stick is cut down.

And, yes, the terminology can be a little confusing. “Increasing the flex” actually means making the stick less flexible, as a higher flex number indicates greater force required to make the stick bend.

Speaking of confusing, there’s also the kick point to consider. A stick’s kick point is basically where it bends the most while being flexed.

Wood sticks flex like a bow — which is to say, the kick point is in the middle. Composite sticks can manipulate the location of the kick point, and the trend in stick manufacturing is to get that kick point as close to the blade as possible for quicker-releasing shots.

Picking Your Poison

No matter what, you will be making a tradeoff of one sort or another when settling on a flex. Will you choose power over control, or vice versa?

Using that half-your-weight figure as a starting point — say you’re a 180-pounder — you might want to move above or below a 90 Flex stick.

A stiffer stick’s attributes will include winning puck battles along the boards and face-offs, and producing more powerful shots. A lighter stick-flex will give you more touch in sending and receiving passes, controlling the puck and getting shots off quickly and with precision.

The guess here is that, if you’re a winger, you’re going to drift toward the low end of your flex spectrum — all the better for those snap shots you tend to take. If you’re a center, you’ll want the best of both worlds — a balance of stiffness for face-offs and flexibility for touch. Defensemen? The stiffest they can handle, generally, for maximum annoyance to the opposition and maximum force on slap shots.