In this review, we'll take you through the latest set of gear that we've tried - the new Brian's Custom Sports Sub Zero Pro 2 leg pads, catch glove and blocker. Unless you live under a rock or just haven't been paying attention, you've seen that Brian's has gained a lot of traction in the NHL lately, and quite a few NHL goalies are sporting Sub Zero Pro 2 sets this year including Craig Anderson (OTT), Antti Raanta (CHI) and Jaroslav Halak (STL). The innovative "SZ2" line has quickly been gaining traction with amateur goalies as well, as evidenced by the large number of custom orders that we've been placing with the "Kings of Custom" since the gear debuted in October 2013.
This time around, we've enlisted the help of two of our best, most trusted regional goalie specialists to accomplish this task - Jim Martin (based out of our Edina, MN store), and Chris Hart (based out of our Downers Grove, IL store). Jim is the most sought after goalie gear resource online and in Minnesota, and has been testing gear from various manufacturers for years. Chris has quickly established himself as the go-to goalie gear resource in Chicago based on his knowledge, integrity and exceptional customer service. In the pictures above, Jim's set is on the left, and Chris' set is on the right.
JM: I choose the stock "1-3-4" flex zones. The new "Hyper-Flex 4" boot offers great flexibility while the rest of the pad is rigid...just the way I like it! The softer book break allows me to easily load my push leg in lateral movements. The stock flexes offer a great "V" shape to the pad, not the dramatic "S" shape that the original Sub Zero model had. NOTE: I had my boot length shortened by .5" because I wear a size 7.5 skate. I recommend this for anyone with a size 8 or smaller skate, as it enables the goalie to get a clean push in lateral movements without the boot toe getting in the way.
CH: The leg pads have a similar feel to the original Sub Zero leg pads but there have been several changes made. I went with a 33+2 and the stock "1-3-4" flex profile. This flex setup eliminated the pre-curved shape that existed in the first generation Sub Zero pads, and it makes the pad play a little taller. The "3" flex is an external break below the knee, and the "4" flex is the new "Hyper-Flex 4" boot. This is a much softer boot break than Brian's has had in the past. It allows the pad to sit a little closer to the top of the skate, and I felt this eliminated the sometime sloppy pad movements I have experienced with pads that have a stiffer boot break.
The picture on the left above compares Jim's 33+1.5 Sub Zero 2's with a 33+2 CCM 500 pad. The picture on the right compares Jim's Sub Zero 2's with his 33+3 Bauer Reactor 6000's.
CH: A quick note on Brian's sizing. Prior to playing in the SZ2's, I've been playing in Reebok 34+1 pads. Though both pads measure 35" in total, the SZ2's ended up being about 1" taller on my thigh than my Reebok's were. Granted, the Reeboks have settled somewhat, but those considering the SZ2's should know that Brian's pads tend to be shorter in the shins yet taller on the thigh rise. Unless you've got really long femurs, I don't know if you'd ever need more than a +2's with these pads.
CH: If the flex and profile changes weren't enough, Brian's also tweaked the inside edge of the pads. They changed the seams and made it flatter and harder for what they call a "Super Slide" panel. Super Slide may not be descriptive enough for these pads! You fly around the crease in these things! I have used these pads on all types of ice, from really smooth, hard ice to really soft, cut up ice, and the SZ2's performed the same on both. Smooth, explosive, and effortless are the best words to describe how you move in the pads. I know that I have made several cross crease saves that I would not have made in other pads that I have worn.
JM: The new reinforced Super Slide panel gives the pad a perfect seal to the ice when in the butterfly and effortless lateral pushes around the crease. I noticed improved lateral sliding right away.
CH: New this year is a wider knee cradle, for those that wear larger knee guards, and a thicker knee block. The wider knee cradle can easily fit the largest knee guards. I wear Reebok P2's and had no problem with fitting the elastic strap around my knee. I still had plenty of room in the cradle and the pads rotated smoothly. I have, however, strarted wearing the strapping a little differently. When I visited the Brian's factory with our Total Goalie staff back in September, I was talking with pro rep Chris Joswiak about larger knee guards with this pad. He suggested attaching the knee cradle strap down by the calf, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well this works. Strapping this way really opens up the knee cradle but the pad is still very secure. I have been wearing my pads for about 10 ice sessions and have not had one problem with it. I have never felt as if my knee were going to slide out and miss the knee stack. I feel that strapping like this allows for the pad to rotate around my leg more quickly and smoothly.
JM: The wide knee cradle offers plenty of room for my Bauer Supreme knee guards . Unlike the first generation Sub Zero pad that had the outside knee flap, this one does not flare up into the pants. The new thicker knee block makes me feel taller and more stable in my butterfly.
CH: On the backside of the pad, you can see that Brian's kept the Smart Strap system. I can't say this enough, but this system works! I was amazed when I wore the original SZ pads, and the SZ2 just proves that this strapping system is here to stay for the long term. I have about 30 hours on ice with my set and not once have I ever felt that the pads were loose or unsecure. In fact I feel that the lack of traditional leather straps help the pads rotate better while moving into the butterfly position. There is also a larger area to velcro the Smart Strap as well.
JM: Just like my G-NETiK leg pads I still love the Smart Strap system. I am able to dial in the perfect tightness for a custom fit unlike traditional strapping. Most of the games that I play are LATE at night, so being able to get undressed in under 5 minutes is another great benefit to the system.
CH: The leg channel of the new SZ2 received a makeover as well. The "Hex-Air" material feels very rich and soft. The idea behind it is to provide comfort in the butterfly, and to increase air flow in the leg channel. I can't say for sure that this works, but the material is indeed very comfortable and I can say that I've never felt as if I've overheated while wearing the pads.
JM: The new "Hex-Air" material is very comfortable and it helps me feel even more stable when I'm in my butterfly.
JM: The boot channel has a bit of depth to it. The new Primo material lines the boot and no longer squeaks when your skate moves around in the channel (original Sub Zero owners know what I'm talking about!). The toe tie offers an offset option which I prefer to use.
CH: The boot channel is slightly offset, like the original Sub Zero. It is also lined with the the Primo high abrasion material to help with wear and tear in this high friction area. I also prefer to use the offset toe tie option.
The stock toe taper on the SZ2 is an 80 degree setup - which is more square than the 78 degree setup on the original Sub Zero. I don't have the widest stance out there, but it is still fairly wide and I have had no issues with sliding out. In fact, I like the more square toe. I feel as if I get a little bit of extra coverage around my feet when in the butterfly.
LEG PAD CONCLUSIONS:
JM: Overall the Sub Zero Pro 2 leg pads are great for goalies that like a rigid core but didn't like the boot stiffness or dynamic "S" curve of the original Sub Zero. The new SZ2 model is a combination of light weight, great balance, and enhanced lateral sliding. I can't say enough great things about the quality and craftsmanship that Brian's puts into this product.
CH: The Sub Zero Pro 2 is a great pad for those goalies that play more of a blocking style. At 4.5lbs a pad it really makes life easy on those goalies that are constantly moving from their upright stance to the butterfly and back again. I don't believe that equipment makes a player better - it only allows the player to perform to the best of his/her abilities. The Sub Zero Pro 2 pads do just that.
JM: There is no denying that Brian's is best known for their incredible catch gloves. Heck, I still have my Brian's Air Hook from 1999 in my garage! The designers at Brian's did not disappoint with the new Sub Zero Pro 2 catcher. The G-NETiK from last year was well received, with most goalies saying that it would just "swallow pucks up". I agree with this opinion and found it to be true in my own G-NETiK trapper. The SZ2 is a continuation of that great G-NETiK glove with some even better features.
I felt that the palm of the G-NETiK, although very protective, was too thick for my liking. The new Sub Zero Pro 2 has a thinned out palm while still retaining more protection than most of it's competitors. Because of this thinner palm the SZ2 catcher has great off the shelf closure. The single-T pocket is deep and wide, and when combined with the skate lacing pucks almost never pop out when the hit the pocket.
CH: The Sub Zero Pro 2 has a one-piece cuff for superior protection and predictable rebounds if you take a shot in close and can't catch it. Although not as large as the G-NETiK trapper, the SZ2 pocket is still huge and swallows up the puck. I felt the G-NETiK palm, while very protective, was a bit too thick for my liking as well. I had a pro palm put in for my SZ2 and was worried that it might be too thick as well, but when I recieved the glove all of my worries disappeared. The pro palm has the perfect amount of padding to be protective from hard, heavy shots but not too thick that it's hard to close or "feel" the puck in the glove. With the way that Brian's pre-breaks in the gloves before shipping, my glove felt totally broken in by the third time I was on the ice with it.
JM: The T web has been thinned out dramatically from the original Sub Zero, reducing weight and allowing the glove to seal completely to the ice when covering the puck.
CH: There is also plenty of HD foam protection on the back of the glove so if another player wants to poke around with their stick, you will be protected.
CH: Brian's decided to keep the floating cuff from the G-NETiK glove. This allows for great mobility so you can hold your glove in any position and still keep the face towards the shooter. They also put their "No Slip Grip" material on the inside of the wrist cuff and in the palm. This material actually gets tackier as you sweat. The finger stalls and palm are also lined with the X-static material, which is an anti-bacterial liner that helps keep the glove "stink free". After about 30 hours of use, I haven't noticed any stink so it must be working!
JM: The floating cuff really allows me to square my glove out to the shooter without restriction.
CH: When you open up the glove you see that there is quite a bit of adjustability. The Sub Zero Pro 2 has the traditional leather loops for the pinky finger and thumb. There is also a 2" elastic band around the tops of the fingers that really keeps them snug in the glove. I like a tighter fit, so I use the 1" Velcro strap that sits over the middle of the back of the hand. With this strap pulled tight I feel like my hand is totally secure in the glove and won't come out for any reason. Just to be sure though, I also pull the wrist strap fairly tight.
JM: One of my favorite features on the G-NETiK and now SZ2 catchers is the 2" white elastic band that runs across the back of my fingers. I feel that this elastic is snug enough to make my hand feel locked in, but is very comfortable and not restricting in any way.
CH: The SZ2 has a 40 degree break in the palm, different from the 35 degree break in the G-NETiK trapper. The Sub Zero has more of a full hand closure (G-NETiK has more of an index finger to thumb type closure); I like this because I feel that I have more control of the glove and that I get a better seal when I snap it shut.
CATCH GLOVE CONCLUSIONS:
JM: Overall the Sub Zero Pro 2 catcher is a black hole for pucks. This is easily one of my favorite gloves that I have used to date. The 40 degree angle closure feels so natural on my hand and makes closing the glove that much easier. I love my SZ2 as much as I love my old Air Hook from 1999!
CH: Brian's really hit a home run with this glove. It's a complete tear down from the original. They decided to take some features from their widely populr G-NETiK catch glove and made incorporate them into the new design and have made what I feel is the best glove that I have ever used.
CH: The blocker still has a light weight feel of the original Sub Zero blocker but has had some changes made to it as well. The blocker feels very well balanced on your hand. It has a neutral hand position, so your hand doesn't feel too low or too high. I like a neutral hand position because I feel it gives me the best position to direct the puck where I want it to go when it hits the face of the blocker. I like to deflect the puck low and into the corners and I am able to consistently do that with the SZ2.
JM: The centered hand position gives the blocker a good balance point. I play a bit of paddle down and have no issue getting the front edge on the ice.
JM: The HD side board is thick and offers good protection. I often find myself turning my hand to the side and using the side board to cover my 6-hole on tight shots. There is no clunky index finger protector to get in the way of holding your stick.
CH: There has also been an upgrade in protection for the side of the hand. A bigger HD board offers superior protection for those that like to turn their hands out to close the 6-hole. I find myself doing this more and more when I play and I have not had an issue with protection.
CH: The finger protection has also been upgraded to accordion style layering of HD foams. This allows complete protection without sacrificing mobility.
CH: There is a large opening at the cuff that allows for full wrist mobility, whether extending up to block a high corner shot or going paddle down. You don't have to worry about feeling restricted.
JM: The "No Slip Grip" and cream nash palm are comfortable. I originally felt that the elastic holding the finger protection to the palm of the blocker was too tight, causing the palm finger to twist. After a few uses, however, the elastic stretched out and I no longer have that feel of the finger twisting or pulling.
CH: The nash and No Slip Grip on the palm are comfortable and have been holding up well (I tape the top of my paddle for extra grip on my sticks and have blown through some lesser quality palms before). The antibacterial X-static material that Brian's uses in the gloves are a nice addition. I can't tell for sure if it works, but I would say that my gloves definitely don't stink so I guess it's doing it's job!
JM: Overall the Sub Zero Pro 2 blocker is comfortable and has a nice balance point. I'm not very picky when it comes to my blockers, but I do prefer the center balance point of the SZ2 to the higher offset hand position of the G-NETiK blocker.
CH: I think the Sub Zero 2 Pro blocker is Brian's best blocker to date. It's a great combination of lightweight mobility and plenty of protection.
So...what are you waiting for?!
There's not much left to say - the Sub Zero Pro 2 gear lives up to the hype, and the enhancements made for 2014 give it a perfect balance of light weight and pro level protection. You can learn even more about this gear by checking out the product videos located on our Total Goalie TV YouTube page, you can check out the Brian's Sub Zero Pro 2 Customizer to start creating your unique set, or you can choose from one of the many great stock colors from our inventory.
We'd love to read your feedback as well. Feel free to post any comments or questions in the discussion box below. If you have any further questions, please contact us anytime.
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