Anyone who plays hockey has most certainly come across one of these ads — some small-market company claiming their stick is just as good as the ones from the big boys, but for half the price. And with the cost of gear these days, you really want to believe them… but can you?
Well, if you’re talking about the XV3 from Hockey Players Club, you can.
Follow our site and you’ve heard of HPC before. It’s like the Dollar Shave Club, but only for hockey players. (And let’s face it - most hockey players don’t shave. Especially if you’re growing out that sweet playoff salad!) We’re big fans of HPC’s tape subscription. You won’t catch us being that guy in the locker room always borrowing tape. If you’re not already a subscriber, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Tape is expensive… especially when you’re out and have to buy a roll at the rink!
But I digress. We’re talking twigs. More specifically, the XV3.
We told you a while back it was coming. Remember? Due to some unfortunate weather issues, the shipment was delayed. Otherwise this piece would have been published last month. But skies cleared and sticks arrived, and we got down to the business of putting the XV3 through its paces.
Our buds at HPC were kind enough to ship us three sticks, and we tried to vary them a bit so that we could get a good mix of test dummies… er, volunteers to help us out. We took three different flexes, two different curves, and both types of finish, and hauled them around to see what people thought. Fortunately, we were able to get a pretty diverse group of subjects to provide us with some solid data.
The XV3 has two things going for it that other ‘budget’ sticks don’t — selection and convenience. With sticks in stock, your order can be at your door within a matter of days. We can’t say the same for the rest. In order to keep their prices dirt cheap, they keep their stock limited so the chance that your exact stick is available at the time you need it is a shot in the dark. Not so with the ‘X’. Stock may be sparse during the holidays (so order early), but any other day you should be good.
But the odds of finding that perfect twig is pretty darn good. Again, the XV3 stands out by its shear number of choices… provided you’re an adult. With four curves, six flexes, and two finishes, you’ll be hard-pressed to not find something to suit your game.
The selection gets smaller as the players do, but that’s not as big an issue. A youngster’s game is still developing, and the curve means very little at this point. Flex, however, is far more important, and that where HPC shines. A hundred and twenty bucks may seems a lot to spend on a stick for your 7-year-old, but if the proper flex helps them develop correct mechanics and a good feel for the puck, is it really too much? Plus, you’re bound to get some of that investment back by selling it to another young player when yours outgrows it with plenty of life still left in it.
Impression: We’d like to see a couple more curves and two or three different lie, but not at the expense of affordability.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but the XV3 doesn’t have to worry about that. While some might feel the silver is a bit too flashy for their liking, the color scheme is subtle enough that it works. Just the right amount of swag without overselling it. Even my boy - who prefers his sticks to be about as black as my coffee - warmed up to the ‘X’. If there’s any knock against its looks, it’s that there may be a tad too much self-promotion (although the HPC logo on the back of the blade is a nice touch!) but that could just be personal bias. No one we spoke with had a similar take.
HPC claims that the XV3 is made from the same carbon fiber as the higher end sticks from the big boys. Any skepticism you might have will quickly fade once you get your mitts on it. The X feels like a big-dollar stick. It almost begs to be played with. No one can blame you if you do. Weight and balance are outstanding. It didn’t take long to for the XV3 to feel like an extension of your hands.
My personal preference is the regular finish, and I found the XV3 to have a very soft feel to it. Not too slick, but enough give to let it move smoothly through your hands. Those who prefer a tacky finish will find it has a solid grip but without making you feel like you’re glued to it. No matter which way you lean, we think you’ll be pleased.
Impression: Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but sexy enough to make you take notice.
Taking the XV3 out for a spin
When you’re taking a new car out for a test drive, you don’t lay the hammer down in the dealer lot. Savvy shoppers know to ease into it a bit. Hit a little traffic and a few stop lights. See how she does under routine conditions like your daily commute. If she doesn’t handle the grind well, there’s no sense in opening her up on the freeway.
Fiddling around in the garage, on the synth, and in practice, the XV3 is quick to impress. A responsive stick with a good feel for the puck, the XV3 handles with class. According to our guinea pigs, the ‘X’ responds just as well receiving a pass on the backhand as she does taking a full-blown slapper. After a slew of stick-handling, passing, and shooting drills, our subjects couldn’t really find anything they didn’t like. The ‘X’ did everything we asked of it. In game situations, the XV3 was like an old friend — trustworthy and dependable.
Impression: No surprises with this stick. You can count on the ‘X’ to get the job done.
Of course, no review would be complete without seeing how the XV3 stacks up against the competition. Our subjects’ current sticks are as varied as their experience, and the ‘X’ fell on the spectrum right where you expect it would. The younger players and the beer leagues liked the upgrade, and felt like they were playing with a high-end twig. Across the board, the XV3 outperformed its cheaper counterparts regardless of manufacturer.
Compared to some pricier sticks, the ‘X’ held its own. As one reviewer put it, “Almost as good as my Bauer 2S. Better when you factor in the price.” While she couldn’t match up with the pro stock sticks in our arsenal, we wouldn’t expect her to. The XV3 is billed as a “top of the line stick but for half the price.” Based on what we experienced, she delivers as promised. For 150 clams for a senior stick, you’ll have a tough time finding a better value.
Head to Head: A
Impression: Unless your buddy is the equipment manager for the Blackhawks, you likely won’t get a better bang for your buck.
Judged on its own merits, the XV3 rates a solid B+ to our panel. With its quality, performance, and selection, the ‘X’ will likely satisfy the needs of 90% of players. The ‘X’ is easy to like and fun to drive. If money is your only concern, you can certainly find cheaper options out there. But if you’re willing to spend a little cash on a decent stick, you owe it to yourself to consider the XV3. And if you really want to have some fun, let your beer league buddies try your ‘X’ before you tell them the price…