The first thing you notice about the new Brian’s OPTIK2 pads, beyond an edgy new graphic, is the incredibly thin profile and matching light weight. Our InGoal Magazine test set came with 34+1 pads that weighed in at just four pounds, 11 ounces.
That shouldn’t come as a shock to those who paid attention to the original OPT1K launch two years ago. After their G-NETik and SubZero pads started to look more and more like each other, with popular features blended across both lines, Brian’s set out create a distinct new line by replacing SubZero with OPT1K in 2017. If that original OPT1K was about defining a new and different direction, the new OPTIK2 is about refining it, including enhanced seal and stability in the pads without compromising the improved sliding that set the original apart, and a more consistent break in a glove already praised for easy closure and a puck-swallowing pocket.
InGoal Magazine is in the early stages of field testing the new OPTIK2 line with a wide variety of goalies of every age and skill level, but we have had it long enough for some things to jump out clearly, so think of this as an overview with some first impressions mixed in. Despite being the second generation of this line, there’s lots of exciting new features to break down.
The OPTIK2 pads continue with the same minimal, almost non-existent, outer roll that debuted on the first generation OPT1K, a feature we frankly expected might generate more questions than it ultimately did. The reality is outer rolls were added to provide structure to the stuffed leather pads of yesteryear, and fears about pucks getting chipped up and over a pad without one seem for the most part to have been unfounded. Instead some goalies found it a bit easier getting onto the post in reverse-VH, and praised it for more consistent rebounds and actually looking wider. Besides, eliminating the old thicker outer roll allowed Brian’s to not only reduce the weight and create a cleaner graphic with the OPT1KK line, it let the company to vary the flex profile of the pad internally, without having to add or alter breaks on the outer roll.
Brian’s used that to make a significant (and immediately evident) change to the OPTIK2 profile.
Whereas goaltenders could choose between a stiffer “FLY” or a softer “FLX” core in the original OPT1K pad, the new OPTIK2 standard is what Brian’s is calling its MAX core, and it combines a flexible boot break with a noticeably more pre-curved profile above the knee. This entirely new core may have more curve above the knee, but it’s also more rigid throughout, and has been built to hold that new shape longer, rather than getting floppy in the thigh rise over time.
Where the old FLY pad came with a 90-degree taper, which is effectively no taper or a straight line down the inside edge, and the
FLX pad had an 80-degree taper, angling in along the boot, the new MAX core comes standard with an 84-degree taper, Brian’s most popular offering over the years. They will still offer the straighter, stiffer FLY core and more rounded, flexible FLX break as well, but expect to build 80 to 90 percent of the OPTIK2 line with the new MAX profile core, one that seems well suited to a pad designed for a prototypical “butterfly” style.
If the thin profile and curve above the knee are the first things that jump out when goalies see the new OPTIK2 pad for the first time, stability and balance were the first comments once they take them on the ice. Brian’s re-constructed the calf wrap, laced in the inner edge of the knee, and updated the strapping, all with an eye towards improving seal and stability on the ice.
We’ll start with the calf wrap, which now has four layers sitting under your lower leg. The first is a hard layer wrapped in Primo, or OPTISLIDE material, which improves how the pad slide (more on that later), and it is loosely attacked to an outer calf wrap with the calf straps running through it (again loosely). Between that wrap and the strapping anchors on the back of the pad sits a soft pillow, attached by Velcro that makes it easy to move (or remove). Next is a segmented inner calf wrap that sits next to the inside edge of your leg when you drop to the ice. Add it all up, along with a big, leveled knee stack, and the result is it just feels easy to sit in the butterfly and feel balanced, stable and supported when you’re down on the ice.
The back of the pad is soft and cushioned and the outer wrap is inset from the edge of the pad, creating a bit of a snug fit around the calf (the straps can be easily lengthened under that inner calf wrap), but the pad still rotates without a problem dropping into the butterfly. In fact, that easy rotation and connected fit was commonly noted by early testers.
In Episode 41 we went through the new Brian’s Optik2 with Cam from The Hockey Shop
Of course, the added cushion between the lower leg and the ice theoretically also means more pressure on the ice when you’re on the ice, but it doesn’t appear to be at the expense of the improved sliding that debuted with the original OPT1K pad. Following in the path blazed by Bauer and continued by CCM, Brian’s sought to use new materials to reduce friction and improve sliding, and came up with a winner by using Primo, a rich-looking material with an almost carbon fiber-like appearance they were already using in higher wear areas on the inside of their pads, along the inside edges and calling it OPTISLIDE. Vaughn has since followed suit and used essentially the same material to improve how well their pads move along the ice.
Materials put a premium on wear and sliding. Brian’s Primo material, previously used in high wear reas now appears on the sliding surfaces as OPTISLIDE.
While goalies have been using weave on the inside of their pads for years for similar reasons, it didn’t wear as well, and the beauty of Primo is it was already being used in high wear areas because it is more durable. Once they got positive feedback from NHL goalies like Antti Raanta and Jaroslav Halak, adding Primo at retail was an easy decision. The only downside was limited colors (silver, black and white for OPT1K) but they’ve added red and blue for OPTIK2.
One of the biggest improvements in the original OPT1K pad was a significantly upgraded knee stack quickly noted by testers at the time, with roughly 1.5 inches of extra room compared to previous models, and a “leveler” tab to keep this larger knee stack balanced and stable.
The knee stack maintains the angled corner that debuted in the original OPT1K pad, but Brian’s added some No-Slip Grip material to the outer edge of the landing area, and kept the knee strap running through the top layer of the block, with the length easily adjusted using the Velcro base. On the other end, there is a laced in outer flap for the knee strap to attach to, and it can be easily removed by goalies who prefer to attach it to the Velcro tab on the outer calf wrap (Carey Price strapping). The calf straps have been modified. Gone is the crisscrossing “double-X” strap from the original OPT1K, replaced by a more traditional double-thick elastic knee strap and a Y system down around the calf anchored by Velcro on the outer wrap.
The boot strap remains nylon, and easily adjusted or removed, but Brian’s did make a couple of other noteworthy strapping changes: building in a spot for their new version of the “Professor strap” around the back of the knee and significantly improving their custom toe tie.
Let’s start with the new Smart Cord Toe Tie, which comes standard on retail pads. While it appears similar to other bungee systems (though we do especially like Brian’s wraparound Velcro tab for this application), the difference is the addition of a leather tab at the toe that can be removed or adjusted depending on how tight you want your skate up against the pad. For goalies used to having a gap between their skate and the pad, the leather tab allows you to create an adjustable gap, essentially giving you a balance between the old way of doing it and the more connected elastic system (but without having to tie a bunch of knots in the lace). It’s a good enough upgrade that goalies have started buying it as an accessory for other pads, but of course goalies can still choose from Brian’s other options (their original elastic Smart Toe, a standard skate lace for those that like knots, or even a sliding toe bridge) on custom orders.
Similarly, Brian’s new “Control Strap” will be for sale as an accessory, and while their version of the old Ben Scriven’s “Professor Strap” may not come with OPTIK2 pads, they have built in a spot that makes it easy to lace in the new extra strap once you buy it as an accessory.
The OPTIK2 knee stack is available in a stiffer foam option that proved popular, and every set of pads comes with kneepads that can be worn independently or attached to the back face of the pad with a Velcro tab that is hidden inside both the pad and the kneepads.
The big news with the original OPT1K gloves was the addition of the BOA System instead of Velcro strapping. Used in sports and industries by big brand names like Adidas Golf, Billabong surf wetsuits, Burton snowboard boots and K2 ski helmets just to name a few, the easy-to-use dial system made it really easy to lock your hand into the glove and keep it snug throughout the game, rather than having it loosen with time. There are two BOA dials on the glove, one over the back of the hand, just below the knuckles, and another at the wrist. While most test goalies kept the wrist strap looser on the original OPT1K, and we expect that to continue with OPTIK2, Brian’s floating cuff allows you to tighten it up without losing the ability to cock your wrist and keep the face of the glove open and pointing at the shooter, even in a fingers-up position.
The biggest change on the OPTIK2 glove is adding a stitched-in break in the palm.
The original OPT1K glove tried to offer options with two palm breaks – one was 40-degrees like the SubZero glove, and the other was a 35-degree break of the G-NETik glove — that allowed goalies to choose which one they wanted to break the glove in with. Unfortunately, it led to some inconsistency in the break, so Brian’s has gone back to a fixed 45-degree break in the new OPTIK2 glove, with the fingers pulling in towards the base of the thumb when it closes in a manner similar to a CCM 590 break or the stock break in the new Bauer Vapor line.
The OPTIK2 glove continues to include parts of what has become known as the “Darling spec” because of the personal preferences of the former Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks goalie. It’s essentially a squared edge at the end of the fingers, which helps form a better seal against the pads and pants, but where some old Darling spec mods basically involved cutting off that extra rounded edge, the OPTIK2 is designed to maintain maximum coverage area.
A lot of that coverage comes in a deep pocket that looks and plays even bigger because they used the popular thumb piece from the G-NETik glove preferred by so many pros and beer leaguers fell in love with, with a steep, concave angle that funnels pucks into the pocket.
That massive, deep pocket, along with some of the best wrist mobility on the market are what Brian’s gloves have become known for, and the trend continues with the OPTIK2 glove.
The binding-free blocker also uses the BOA system over the wrist, and while it might feel like overkill to some, there certainly doesn’t seem to be any harm in locking it in and being able to adjust it down to the millimeter, even if few goalies are going to crank it down tight.
If you do lock it in, however, it won’t overly affect your wrist mobility because, like the glove, Brian’s has positioned the strap in a way that still allows goalies to easily cock their wrist. That mobility is enhanced further, it seems, by the hand being positioned further up the board on the OPTIK2 blocker, which also expands the reach of the board beyond the fingers.
The OPTIK2 blocker maintains the beveled edge that started in the last iteration of the SubZero line four years ago, and helps it stay about 20 percent lighter than a G-NETik blocker.
The palm sizing, which changed a little in the OPT1K blocker, and that too continues in the OPTIK2 blocker, with a slightly snugger feel standard. For those that find it too snug, you can still custom order an XL palm like they used in the last SubZero and of course goalies with small hands can order both the glove and the blocker with intermediate hands for a better fit.
The protection improved in the original OPT1K with a removable pillow that runs along the thumb and an increased edge running around the finger tips that can also be adjusted with a Velcro-and-elastic strap that allows you to dial in how close you want that edge to your fingers. All of that continued with the OPTIK2 blocker, but they’ve also added a layer of foam around the edge of the index finger for extra protection on pucks riding up the shaft of your stick.
They say a blocker is a blocker but the OPTIK2 has improvements in protection and mobility, and properties that make it distinct from the G-NETik blocker, which in a lot of ways echoes the ongoing theme of the entire OPTIK2 line. It’s different, and unique from Brian’s other line, giving goalies who prefer a stiffer “butterfly” pad something designed just for them.