After reading BASE’s last blog article on stick length, some of you may have been surprised with how much you learned. I know I learned a ton while writing it. However, if you thought that was informative, buckle up for this blog post, because you’re about to learn a whole lot about rocker. Speaking of – when’s the last time you heard rocker being discussed by a hockey stick manufacturer or a mainstream equipment reviewer? Sure, rocker made a brief reappearance when Scott Bjugstad explained the popular Kreps curve’s toe rocker, but nobody really mentions it otherwise. Whereas other manufacturers have given up the hope that ‘regular Joe’ players can understand rocker and appreciate its importance in selecting a pattern, BASE Hockey is here to fill the gap and allow you to maximize your stick’s performance.
What are we talking about?
First things first: What is rocker? In simple terms, it’s the contour on the bottom or leading edge of the blade (the part of the blade that touches the ice). In other words, it’s the ‘curve’ of the underside of the blade, which determines how the blade lies or ‘rocks’ on the ice. You can get a quick appreciation of rocker if you put two patterns side by side and compare the shape of the underside of each blade. Take this side-by-side comparison of the BC27 Kovalev Pro (right) and the BC77 Coffey (left):
These are our two patterns with the most extreme rocker. The red lines give an idea of the rocker of each blade in three different zones: the heel, the middle, and the toe. Notice the sharp, square rocker of the heel and toe of the BC77, compared to the much more curved and smoother rocker of the BC27’s heel and toe. Notice also how the BC77 stays relatively straight through the middle of the blade, while the BC27 continuously curves slightly. All of these differences may seem cosmetic, but they provide a radically different feeling and performance on the ice, and they’re each suited to very different types of players.
Why does it matter?
Many of the mysterious performance quirks and issues you feel when using your stick may stem from improper rocker for your playing style. Have you ever felt your blade twist open on a shot, resulting in a fluttering puck and less accuracy? Have you ever found it hard to stickhandle on the extreme ends of your range of motion (in your feet or way out beside you)? Do you ever miss passes under the toe or heel of your stick? These problems may be caused by a variety of factors, but they can all be explained by rocker.
Watch: Evgeni Malkin’s BASE Hockey fitting session unsurprisingly revealed that his rocker enables powerful shots.
Rocker affects every part of stick performance, including stickhandling, shooting, passing, and pass reception. It’s hard to control solely for rocker, since players will most often focus on a pattern’s curve, loft, or even lie when choosing between patterns, but it’s equally important to take rocker into account. There are general rules for rocker – the most important being that a more ‘dynamic’ player who uses a variety of stickhandling moves and shooting angles and who holds onto the puck will probably prefer a more rockered (smooth/curved) blade like the Kovalev Pro, while a ‘straight-line’ player who prefers quick touches of the puck and consistent power shots will probably be better off with a less rockered (flat/square) blade like the Coffey. However, since there are varying degrees of rocker, and since rocker affects so many different aspects of play, it’s usually not that simple. Rocker also interacts with other stick attributes, such as length, lie, and blade stiffness.
How rocker works
Picture a meat cleaver (the knife equivalent of the BC77) and a pizza cutter (like the BC27). While the cleaver excels in cutting straight lines in powerful chops, the pizza cutter can carve graceful curves with precision. The meat cleaver maximizes the amount of blade touching the cutting surface at any one time, while the pizza cutter only touches a very small portion of its overall cutting surface to the pizza. The amount of stick blade surface touching the ice determines how flexible or constant your pattern will be, with a flatter rocker putting more blade on the ice at a time to maximize power and consistency, and a more rockered blade only touching part of the blade surface on the ice to allow the player to keep at least some blade contact in many different stickhandling positions.
Pictured: A meat cleaver and pizza cutter are suited to very different cutting tasks.
For a much closer metaphor, consider a skate blade radius. A smaller radius (e.g. 9’) will allow the skater to turn in sharper circles and be more agile, while a larger radius (e.g. 11’) will provide more power and acceleration in straight lines. Like skate radius, rocker can also combine different attributes by using flatter or more rockered sections together in the same pattern, like a composite skate radius that features a short radius near the toe and a long radius near the heel. To return to the knife comparison above, a ‘composite’ rocker will be like a chef’s knife, with a curved tip for precision cutting and a straight middle and base for straight-line chopping. However, unlike skate radius, rocker is much harder to fine-tune, since the pattern you pick has a predetermined rocker that cannot be modified.
Rocker and shooting
Rocker is a very underrated aspect of shooting, since most players will naturally focus more on the curve and loft of their blade. Usually, patterns will feature more rocker near the ‘pocket’ of the blade (the more curved section where pucks naturally tend to settle on the blade) and less rocker outside the pocket, which naturally guides the puck towards the pocket and allows you to cup the puck when it’s in the pocket. However, some patterns break this rule to offer specific advantages or suit particular playing styles. For example, the BC77 Coffey has a very deep and open mid-toe curve, but a very flat rocker and square toe. Unlike other toe curves with tapered toes, the BC77’s square toe makes it harder to cup the puck, but if you’re consistent in how you shoot, it maximizes blade surface on the ice to provide more power as you dig the toe into the ice.
Pictured: The BC77 Coffey has a square toe and heel to maximize power and consistency.
Unlike the BC77, the BC01 Hossa Pro follows the rocker vs curve rule to optimize shooting from the pocket. Indeed, the BC01 is straight and closed near the heel, with a drastic curve and loft right at the toe, forming a classic toe pocket. Its rocker matches this profile, since it’s flat and square at the heel, but starts curving more and more near the toe. This allows you to either cup the puck in the toe pocket to rip wrist shots off the toe, or fire backhanders off the straight portion of the heel. However, if the backhander is your weapon of choice, look no further than the BC14 Shanahan, with its square heel and very straight blade that make it the deadliest backhander curve available.
Pictured: The BC01 Hossa Pro’s rocker is optimized to suit its curve and loft.
Rocker and stickhandling
The effects of rocker are more intuitive while stickhandling. As we’ve seen, more dynamic stickhandlers who pull off moves throughout their range of motion will probably prefer more rocker, while straight-line players who minimize puck touches and don’t need to dangle may like the consistency of a flatter rocker. A rockered blade like the BC27 will allow you to reach out far away from your body and still get a little bit of blade on the ice, so if you’ve got good enough hands to catch passes and stickhandle with minimal blade-to-ice contact, it gives you more range of motion. A flatter rocker like that on the BC77 is more forgiving for stickhandling and pass reception but makes it harder to pull off dynamic moves.
Pictured: The proper rocker will ensure adequate flexibility, consistency, and range of motion.
Rocker can also interact with lie, since the lie of your pattern is just an average measurement from the toe to the heel of the blade. For example, while the BC28 Kreps is listed as lie 5, it will feel like a lie 4 when stickhandling or passing on the heel, and a lie 6 when shooting off the toe. The rockered toe provides a higher lie, while the heel rocker allows you to push your stick blade way out in front of or beside you. If you’re looking for more consistent lie, the BC01 Hossa will stickhandle like a lie 5 and shoot like a lie 5.5, since the rocker is concentrated at the toe and not the heel.
Pictured: The BC28 is more rockered than the BC01.
If you’re a regular reader of the BASE blog, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme at the end of almost every article: These attributes are highly dependent on each player’s style, mechanics, and preferences, so it’s best to try out different patterns until you find the rocker that works for you. Since rocker is a very tricky blade feature to evaluate, your best option is to come in for a fitting session with one of BASE Hockey’s expert fitters, who will observe your stickhandling, passing, and shooting and show you slow-motion video of your shot to determine the ideal rocker for your playing style.
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