Isaac Garcia – Senior Designer, Hockey Sticks
“At some point, you have to draw the line and go with it.”
Every stick design comes to a point where you have to just say, “yes,” this is it for this year and you draw the line on development. The reason is because development and design of new sticks is a constant process for Warrior. I don’t sit down at my computer after our latest stick has released and start over for the next stick. It’s a continuous flow of ideas, designs, technology, etc. until you reach a deadline for production.
The stick process is about making the correct advancements and improvements in an amount of time that still allows us to get the stick to consumers at the right time of year. That’s the biggest challenge for me because I’m always looking for ways to improve our sticks.
One of the biggest factors I take into account when designing is to understand the relationship of the stick to the player. That, again, was a main focus when I started the Covert QRL design process back in 2014. If I don’t understand what the player expects from a stick, it’s kind of like designing in the dark.
For the QRL, we (Warrior) knew we already had a great, quick releasing stick in the QR1 but we wanted to make the release even quicker. I knew we could get there if we figured out the right variables.
Based on the feedback from our group of testers and the NHL players, I knew that the QRL didn’t need to be lighter. Warrior is in a good place in terms of stick weight, almost like we’ve found the perfect spot for feel, but also for quick release. A lot of people don’t realize this, but weight influences a stick’s release. The key to quick release is maximizing the entire event of release, not making the stick ridiculously light. If the stick doesn’t have enough mass, it can’t load properly and activate the quick release technology. Weight is key.
Other feedback indicated that there was a desire for the stick to “do a little more.” Yeah, that’s vague but it basically means the player wants the stick to fit 100% of their game.
Armed with that info, I went to work on the Covert QRL.
To improve the quick release, I had to dive in and better understand the materials in the stick. Understanding how the materials behave and interact with each other leads to finding the best combination. With that, we developed Minimus Carbon.
Minimus Carbon is basically a tighter weave that takes the gaps out between the layers of material. The result is a final product that is stiffer and doesn’t distort as much as standard carbon weave. What does that mean? It means the stick fibers provide a tighter snap on release and improves release time. It means Lightning Quick.
What Minimus also did was let me explore different methods for the layup of the stick. And because those fibers are stronger, I was able to find a method that maintains the quick release but also added strength to the stick for impacts such as slashes, blocked shots, etc. that may happened during play. Carrying the Minimus weave up higher on the shaft, which you can actually see on the finished QRL, achieved that.
Speaking of higher on the shaft, when you see the QRL, you’ll probably notice that the Dagger Taper has changed to Dagger Taper 3. So, what’s the difference? Well, you won’t be able to tell just by looking at it because the shape is exactly the same as before. The differences are all on the inside.
The composition and materials used in the T3 taper have been upgraded and improved. Again, this is all part of the continual stream of development at Warrior. The previous Dagger Taper wasn’t bad. It was very popular and players loved it. But I felt a need to stabilize it so it performs even better than before.
The Dagger Taper 3 development goes back to that feedback of the stick “needs to do a little more.”
The QRL can’t be a one shot stick. A wrist shot stick. It has to perform and deliver that Lightning Quick release in every situation. The new, more stable taper does that with incredible consistency, on all types of shots. When you play hockey, you can’t decide that you’re only going to take wrist shots, can you?
When it came time to start testing the QRL technology with our test groups, the sticks came out a lot lighter than I had originally anticipated (390 grams). That wasn’t good. Players don’t trust super light sticks. If it’s too light, they can’t feel it in their hands and they don’t trust that it will perform or last.
So, I had to go back and add weight to the QRL. Remember what I said earlier about a stick having enough mass to fully activate the quick release features? I had to get back to that optimal weight. With a couple tweaks I got it dialed in to that sweet spot for weight, feel and performance.
That meant it was time to send it to our testers. Our test group is comprised of high-end players at all different levels…college, junior, pro and NHL. The secret is that I never tell them what is different about the stick. I just give it to them and wait for the feedback to come. Their reactions are usually the most fun part of the entire process. When those emails or texts come in and they’re simply:
“Enormous clap bombs!”
That’s when I know we did the job and we’ve got a great stick ready to go.
Now that the Covert QRL is set to hit the market, I’m excited to see the reactions come in again. I really think people are going to love the improvements in feel and the incredible release.
Right now I’m working to perfect the next generation of sticks, which you’ll see in 2017…but I can’t talk about that.