Lighter, thinner, FASTER: the new CCM Extreme Flex 3 pads
Lighter. Thinner. Faster.
Those three words sum up the new CCM Extreme Flex 3 pads that hit the shelves Friday. Add in a reshaped glove with a bigger, deeper, puck-swallowing pocket and it’s no wonder Extreme Flex 3 remains one of the most popular lines in the National Hockey League and beyond.
While the improvements to the glove are certainly worth noting (and will be covered in detail in another story soon), the biggest difference in the new Extreme Flex 3 line is definitely the pads.
Actually, the biggest difference is the use of a new material CCM has labelled Speed Skin, but while it is used in the glove and blocker as well, the greatest impact is on the pads.
So, what exactly is Speed Skin?
Since Extreme Flex has always been focused on quick, agile, flexible, active goalies like Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby (perhaps not coincidentally, the three finalists for this year’s Vezina Trophy in the NHL), CCM focused on a finding a way to improve speed in the crease for its third generation of the line. The answer they came up with was Speed Skin.
CCM was already working with goaltenders like Jonathan Bernier who preferred to use what they called “Emboss” material (other companies call it “Weave”) on the inside edge of their pads because they felt it slid better along the ice. But they had concerns about durability of the glossier “Emboss” compared to “Clarino,” the synthetic leather used on most pads, so CCM worked with the same company that supplies them with both materials to come up with a better option.
They came back with Speed Skin, which comes from the same microfibre and has the same thickness as Clarino, but with a different coating texture that is laboratory tested to reduce friction.
From a distance, the difference is barely noticeable:
Up close, however, the more textured finish becomes readily evident:
In addition to new raised logos on the outer roll (above), blocker and glove that really pop, the new, more-textured Speed Skin material has less friction than standard synthetic leather surfaces.
It makes sense that less friction = faster sliding.
So does it work? The truth is we would need to build a butterfly sliding robot to properly test the effects on the ice but the early anecdotal evidence and feedback from testers, including some Canadian University (CIS) goalies who have been in the new Speed Skin material for 18 months, suggests that, yes, the Speed Skin pad slides better. Goalies said they had to adjust their pushes to avoid sliding through their intended destination in the new Extreme Flex 3 pads, a sure sign they were sliding better.
Perhaps the most telling feedback came from a tester that had been in the Bauer Supreme OD1N 1S pads, which have been praised at every level for their sliding, all season and came in expecting the CCM to feel “sticky” in comparison but was pleasantly surprised to report no difference in Extreme Flex 3.
Again, it’s all anecdotal at this point, and InGoal Magazine is currently working on a more subjective testing for a full review of the Extreme Flex 3 pads. But the early feedback is positive.
Which brings us to durability. It’s a hot topic anytime something new is introduced, and understandably so given the investment required. Again, the reality is we’ve only had these pads for a couple of months, but CCM said abrasion testing in the lab showed the new Speed Skin material to be more durable and there have been no signs of premature wear among the goalies using it in the CIS. They also applied a more durable, abrasion-resistant version of the material in traditional high-wear areas like the binding along the bottom of the pad, and the edge of the new double-T pocket on the glove.
The new Speed Skin material, which wasn’t available to NHL goaltenders last season, isn’t the only change in the new Extreme Flex 3 line. The new pad is also thinner and lighter than its predecessor, following in the direction of the new CCM Premier pad that debuted last season, improvements made in collaboration with Dr. Ryan Frayne, who has since completed his PhD and moved from a biomechanics lab at Western University in Ontario and is now working out of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Weighing in at 5 pounds, 2 ounces, our 34+2 test pad is the lightest Extreme Flex yet.
CCM calls the pad’s new core OWD (Optimized Weight Distribution), and InGoal Magazine testers weren’t the only ones that noticed the difference right away on the ice.
InGoal Magazine already went into great detail about the strapping and configuration changes and benefits in our complete review of the new Premier line, but we’ll summarize them briefly again:
- CCM didn’t just thin out the face of the new Extreme Flex 3 pad to reduce weight; they shifted the weight across the face of the pad, moving the balance point from the center to the inside edge and closer to the bottom of the pad when a goalie is on the ice, to help improve stability and seal. It doesn’t take a biomechanics degree to figure out the part of the pad goalies have to move the most as they go up and down in the butterfly is the top, and since the bottom of the pad stays closer to the ice and is lifted the least, it makes sense to have more of the weight distributed there.
- While there is considerably more flex in the Extreme Flex 3 pad compared to the Premier line, including a flatter 90-degree boot break instead of the stiffer, more upright 60-degree boot break in the Premier line, the Extreme Flex 3 maintains the one-piece moulded core construction that has long made Lefevre-designed a gold standard for structure and durability. For the Extreme Flex 3 line that means allowing for some of the torsional flex that active goalies like Price and Bernier want in their pads, but not sacrificing stability across the face of the pad, a trend as the face of pads have gotten thinner and thinner in an effort to reduce weight.
- New strapping: Like the latest Premier pad, the new Extreme Flex 3 comes stock with a single strap at the top of the calf, and none at the bottom. Far from simply reducing weight by removing a strap and corresponding buckle, Frayne’s research proved this setup gets the pad to the ice faster. Using high-speed cameras and kinematic marker sets, Frayne discovered the pad can actually get to the ice before the goalie’s knee, a function of separation between the knee stack and the pad as a goalie drives his knees down, but something that only works with the right set up:
“Obviously the knee pushing is going to drive the pad down and that’s the main point of contact for dropping to the ice, but when you drive the pad down, the pad actually releases away from the knee before you make contact with the ice — it doesn’t stay in contact with the knee straight to the ice surface,” Frayne said. “What we noticed is when guys tied the top strap too tight it restricted that motion to what the leg is doing, but as soon as you loosen that strap off you can create a little mobility and push the knee into the knee stack and it initiates the downward motion. The pad actually starts to pull away from the knee about half way down to the ice, which is a really cool effect that we never would have expected to see.”
Frayne’s research also quantified the value of running the elastic knee strap down to the outer calf wrap rather than wrapping it around the knee, something Price has been doing in his CCM Extreme Flex pads for years. Price’s preferred method allows more of that separation between the knee and the pad as the goalie drives to the ice, which was why the Premier pad did not have an outer flap to attach the Velcro kneestack strap to. However, as noted during the InGoal review of Premier, some goalies still aren’t comfortable with Price’s method because it feels like the pad hangs down a little too much. So the new Extreme Flex 3 comes stock with an option to satisfy both preferences: a removable outer knee flap:
In addition to the ability to switch between strapping the pad up Price style (on the left above), or with the elastic around the knee (right), goalies can choose to remove the white Velcro flap on the outside of the knee completely or, as many NHL goaltenders do, leave it on to fill a little more space visually and provide a thin extra layer of protection around the when sealing the post in an upright stance.
As some of our more observant readers may have already noticed, the straps themselves are new too.
CCM felt it was important to maintain strapping with a fixed end point, pointing to Frayne’s research as proof that elastic-only strapping created less stability in how the pad moved both in dropping to the ice and recovering from it, something he compared to a car suspension bottoming out. The new CCM straps are a composite that is lighter than leather but more durable than nylon alone.
The Extreme Flex 3 also comes with a new bootstrap angle option for goalies that like to run it through the heel strap on their skate instead of down under the skate and through the cowling. And since many have followed Price’s lead and removed the bootstrap altogether, it is also removable.
The leg channel is designed for a tighter fit since the Extreme Flex line has always been designed more for goalies who like to feel pad against their leg and have it move with them, as opposed to the looser-fitting premier line that is designed to move around the leg.
With that in mind, the elastic calf strap on the Extreme Flex 3 pad is anchored at the bottom by a “Y” strap to add to that connected feeling.
The segmented calf wrap and flat inside edge helps goalies maintain that feeling without sacrificing mobility, stability or ice seal, and a thinner face means even more landing area on what was already considered the industry’s best kneestack:
Add it all up and the new Extreme Flex 3 offers all the established features that made this pad the most worn by NHL regulars this season, combined with new performance benefits from Speed Skin.
Stay tuned to InGoal Magazine for a closer look at the blocker and glove over the weekend, and for more testing updates as we try to further quantify the benefits of the Speed Skin material.
In the meantime, you can check out the new line in person at retail this weekend, and get to work customizing your own set on the new CCM Customizer.