Reebok has pushed forward in the hockey stick market with their latest release, the Reebok Ai9. With a blend of sick looks, new technology, and plenty of NHL stars backing it up, Reebok hopes to have one of the hottest sticks on the market with the Ai9. Thanks to Reebok, the members of Hockey World Blog were sent an Ai9 to determine if the stick will sink or swim in an increasingly saturated composite stick market.
Specs: Reebok Ai9, Griptonite Grip, Crosby curve, 85 Flex
Appearance and Design: The Ai9 is easily one of the best looking sticks Reebok has designed. The blade of the stick is finished in a slick matte black, but also contains a transparent window which allows you to see the weave pattern used underneath. The matte finish succumbs to increased red graphics as you climb up the taper, and eventually turns into Reebok’s griptonite finish.
The griptonite shaft feels like a traditional grip model, but has a subtle, diamond looking, raised texture on the forehand, backhand, and top of the shaft. This element is also present on the clear version, and definitely adds to the visual appeal of the stick. The shaft fades from black to white as you climb further up the stick towards the butt end. Reebok and Ai9 logos are also extremely prevalent, but blend in modestly to the overall design.
The Reebok Ai9 also features a bit of new technology, including their 2:1 Power Taper Ratio which essentially means the top and bottom of the shaft is going to be twice as stiff as the sides. This is going to provide increased blade stability when shooting, allowing you to effortlessly pick your corners. Additionally, the Power Taper Ratio is going to increase the power and kick on your shots.
You will also find Reebok has changed to a mid kick-point on the Ai9, as opposed to the low kick-point featured on the SickKick series. This change is going to provide additional power, as the stick will take more time to load. This will definitely benefit defenseman taking slapshots from the point, but could hinder players who primarily have a quick release with snapshots and wrist shots.
Balance: Upon picking up the Reebok Ai9, you’ll immediately notice it is a well balanced stick. It feels a bit heavier than some other top of the line sticks out there, but the optimized balance helps the increased weight to go unnoticed. The new Optibalance technology featured on the Ai9 integrates weight at the top of the shaft to improve the balance. The idea behind Optibalance sounds a bit like the adjustable weights featured in the EQ50, but in the case of the Reebok Ai9, you have no ability to adjust the weight. To increase quality control, Reebok is now checking every Ai9 stick before it leaves the factory to ensure it’s optimal balance point. While this might not mean much to some people, others appreciate the little things that the equipment manufacturers do to provide the best product for a consumer.
Feel: As with most one piece sticks these days, the Reebok Ai9 has provided a terrific feel for the puck during the time I have used it. Feel for an ice hockey puck was great, but what surprised me most was the ability to feel a lighter roller hockey puck on the blade as well. Typically I’m used to glancing down at the puck a bit more while playing roller hockey, due to its lightness, but had no real issues with the Ai9. Sending hard and accurate passes was done without a hitch in both places, but I did notice a bit of difficulty catching a few passes on the ice. This wasn’t a frequent occurrence, but led to quite a bit of frustration when it did happen. This could simply be the part of the adjustment to a new stick however, and we’ll have more detail on that in our full review.
Shooting and Accuracy: Shooting the puck with an Ai9, especially slapshots, is an awesome feeling. You can feel the mid flex-point really load up on a slapshot and powerfully launch the puck. I can confidently say that the Ai9 has allowed me to shoot some my hardest and fastest slapshots ever. Fortunately, the accuracy aspect has been spot on as well. Despite using an unfamiliar Crosby curve, I was able to place slapshots up, down, left or right as I pleased.
I did not spend as much time with the Ai9 on wrist or snap shots, but from the experience I did have, I was impressed. These shots tend to be my bread and butter, so I will be all over them in our full review. From an accuracy standpoint, I had the ability to pinpoint specific locations much better than on slapshots, and rightfully so. In fact, as I played a game of 3-bar from about 20 ft. back, I was able to knock off all three bars in only four shots, which is somewhat unusual for me.
Overall Impressions: This is my first long term experience with a Reebok stick, and so far it has truly impressed me. The Reebok design team nailed the look, as it has eye appeal, along with a handful of new features and great performance so far. Balance and feel are terrific out of the gate, and my slapshots have never looked faster. If you’re a Reebok fan, I think you’ll be impressed with what they’ve done with the Ai9. Coming from any other brand, you will be just as pleased with the power and performance found in Reebok’s latest stick.
Although our review starts here with our initial impressions, follow us in the weeks to come as we put this stick to the test in game situations to see how it holds up as we continue to put it through the grind. We will continue to assess many of the areas we have covered here and also get a better feel for the durability of the stick. Keep checking back for more!
If you’re thinking about purchasing the Reebok Ai9, head over to Pure Hockey to grab one. You can get the clear or grip Reebok Ai9 for $239.99, and use the coupon code ‘hockeyworld’ for 10% off select items.