The Hespeler UB offset blade was created by Gene Ubriaco and first appeared under the Hespeler name. Hespeler was a part of Gen-X sports, which was acquired by Huffy. The Hespeler name and remaining stock was sold to Forzani. Currently the tech is available from Combat (formerly Ballistic). The thought behind the offset blade is to line the puck up with the shaft, in theory; this supposedly will improve shot speed and accuracy. Other possible benefits could be better puck handling and an improved backhand shot. The following review will include what I experienced with the actual blade but will focus mostly on how the design element that makes this blade different affects performance.
Upon receiving the blade I uttered three words that seem to go along with this design; What the Byfuglien!?! Looking at the blade it looks like any other wood standard-tenon replacement blade until you see the hosel. About one inch below the tenon, the hosel curves dramatically toward the backhand side of the blade. The offset is only about a half-inch but appears more drastic.
Blade Meets Shaft
The Hespeler blade was inserted into a TPS Redlite XN10 shaft and later into an Easton MM Z-Bubble shaft. As awkward as it looked initially, it looks more awkward in the shafts. Upon taping I always give my sticks a few moments with a Smarthockey ball, in my opinion, this gives me a more enhanced feel allowing for a greater comparison on the blade’s feedback or “feel.” The “feel” was, different, it almost feels like it’s coming off your stick while you have the ball in the proper “puck handling” position.
To the Rink
I always take at least two sticks with me to the rink. It’s actually rather awkward to carry, you need to put the stick on the backhand side of the other stick otherwise it’s just awkward. That is obviously just a little annoyance but an annoyance nevertheless. At the rink no less than five fellow players literally said those three aforementioned words; “What the…” You get the point, it’s awkward.
On the Ice
There is definitely an adjustment period with this blade, it just feels different. Typically I skate having my head up; if I lose the puck I can typically find it with my peripheral vision with this blade I had issue locating the puck without looking fully down. Typically this is not an issue with a wood blade as they provide better feedback than a composite blade, this seemed like a product of the design.
Shooting was uncomfortable for me; I found myself having to locate (look down) the puck on the blade to shoot at times, that did not feel natural. After about 30 minutes I was more comfortable but accuracy was off. It seemed as though most shots would miss to the right (right-handed shot), typically if I miss it’s normally hooking it high and to the left. I did find that backhands were slightly easier to get up high, quickly and it felt like my backhands were slightly harder/faster than normal. I had a couple friends try it out and they also had similar experiences, although some didn’t have the consistently less accurate shots that I experienced. I believe this to be a torquing issue because it was soo inconsistent; sometimes I’d miss by five inches, sometimes I’d miss by a few feet. Torquing occurs when the blade twists and flexes which causes a loss in accuracy. In this case I would consider the accuracy issue to be a product of the Hespeler blade itself, not the offset design. I believe the puck handling issue to be a product of the design but this would likely go away with time and use.
In my opinion, the possible benefits are over shadowed by the adjustment period needed to be comfortable with the altered puck position. You can only be so accurate with shots, shot speed and accuracy comes with practice. You should never change your technique to use a stick or pattern, you find your ideal stick/pattern to fit your technique.
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