Thursday, April 9, 2009

Supreme One95: Behind the Glory

We recovered the black box. Inside would lay the answer to our quarrels, an end to the rumours and the beginning of a new era. A life changing innovation? Hardly, but to us the latest promo from Bauer had our heart rates redlining.

“Power reigns supreme,” was etched into the side of our long black treasure chest, with the date ‘12.15.08.’ Our collective ecstasy in welcoming the newest member in Bauer’s Supreme stick family was shattered like a brittle pane of glass. After all, the leafs were still in playoff contention, meaning it was early October and the 12.15.08 release date was still months away. The evil genius’ at Bauer fixed a four-digit combination to secure the goods until mid December; building the ‘hype’ they called it. Meanwhile, we waited in agony, yearning for a chance to test the pricy one-pieces.

Of course I had an opportunity for a sneak preview this summer when Montreal Canadiens defencemen Ryan O’byrne diligently worked on his One95 sticks in the shop. Nope, instead I took the opportunity to rib him over the purse snatching fiasco.

12.15.08 eventually arrived with the One95 seeing the light of day before flying off our store shelves like free beer at a frat party (Thank you Pierre McGuire). Clearly the next generation of the legendary Bauer Supreme line has taken everything into consideration, from performance to looks and even the feel of the stick have all been addressed.

Aesthetically, Bauer listened to its players in designing a simple yet recognizable stick. Player feedback indicated a desire for a matte black finish to the lower third and blade of the stick. Several NHLers including Sam Gagner, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa spray painted this area in past seasons, but wont need to with the new supreme One95. The stick itself cuts down on glare and has a sharp yet clean look to it, “probably the best looking stick I’ve ever seen.” Said Blackhawk forward Patrick Kane.

By staying away from the flashy graphics that adorn most one-pieces, Bauer needed a way to make their product recognizable. To achieve this, Bauer stole a page out of Nike’s golf line that uses a distinct yellow stripe on the bottom of the shaft to catch the eye once the golfer has finished his swing. Similarly, Bauer wanted consumers to “see it on TV when a player scores and raises his stick. We wanted something simple to help a [player] perform, but once they score you want people to know he’s using a Bauer.” Said Evan Baker, product line manager of Bauer sticks.

The appearance of the stick is not the only difference between the One95 and other Bauer models. While Bauer’s Vapor XXXX stick focuses on a quick release through a low kick-point, the One95 offers more ‘power’ with a mid kick-point. What does this mean exactly? Well, the One95 can offer greater power when taking one-timers and teeing up clappers by having a larger loading zone (mid kick-point). However, Bauer has made changes in the construction of the blade to make it an all around threat. Using a dual density foam in the blade, Bauer was able to create that soft puck feel of a wood blade, but keep the rigidity by using aero grade stiffness material.

The overall responsiveness has been echoed by several pros, “I love stiff sticks, but I also like to walk the line and get away those quick snappers.” Said Kings defenseman Jack Johnson who “can still get good whip when you don’t have time to tee one up.” Even the league’s sharpest shooter Alex Ovechkin has made the jump to the One95 along with several others including Vancouver’s Sedin twins.

Another aspect that influences performance is the overall feel of the stick. Whether it’s what grip or texture is used or the weight of the stick, it just has to feel right in a player’s hands. The One95 incorporates a new tactic in improving the grip of the stick. The “Stick’um” models use an enhanced grip only on the corners of the shaft to save unnecessary weight in coating the entire surface. This reduction in weight helps keep the stick balanced from blade through shaft. Simon Gagne acknowledges this improvement and believes, “the balance of the stick is number one. This One95 feels very good.”

As Bauer Rep Randy Senges recently told me, “sometimes they just seem to get the technologies right.” And a few months in, it’s safe to say, “Power reigns supreme”.