There are a few basics that every hockey player must have. They have to have the right skates, gloves, pads, and helmet, but the most important piece of equipment is their stick.
Every player has their own preference on length, weight and curve of the blade to get that perfect fit, whether they are a defensemen or a a high scoring forward. Nothing matters more to a hockey player than his stick
"I've been using the same stick for nine years now, so (I'm pretty particular)," Predators forward James Neal said. "Usually, I tape two new ones for every game and see how they both feel, and then I go with the one I like the best."
After using the same sticks for nearly a decade, Neal knows exactly what he wants. Even as Easton manufacturers newer models, Neal sticks with what has served him well throughout his nine year NHL career.
And when he gets going on one of his patented scoring sprees, the attachment to those sticks grows even stronger.
"Sometimes when you have a good one you really like, it sucks when it breaks," Neal said.
But it was a break of another kind that led to perhaps the most unlikely goal of the Predators' postseason run.
After some early postseason struggles, veteran center Vernon Fiddler was looking to switch things up when the Predators went to St. Louis for round two. He started experimenting with one of Kevin Fiala's stick in practice and felt an immediate comfort.
"I was just trying Kevin Fiala's stick in practice and I liked it," Fiddler said. "Then he goes and breaks his leg that game and I had one of his sticks."
So Fiddler took the stick to the ice and ended up scoring the game-winner in a 4-3 victory over the Blues in game one. The stick stayed in Fiddler's hands after that.
"I've been using it ever since, so I hope I can get a couple more goals out of it," said Fiddler.
It's a scenario other players, like Neal, can't even imagine trying, especially in a playoff game. Old habits die hard, and when you've been using the same sticks your entire career, you don't change easily.
"No, I can't (imagine doing that)," Neal said. "I could never use somebody else's stick on the ice, but I saw Fidds taping them up and using them, and then (he) scored, and hasn't looked back since."
As for Neal, his Easton's will be ready for game three of the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins Saturday night at 7 p.m., taped up just the way he likes them.
"I'm using some older sticks right now," Neal smiled. "So hopefully they keep going."