People have been bending their sticks and poles for ages but the current popularity of stick bending and it's affects in the states can be tracked back to their use during Gary and Paul Gait's dominance of the College game at Syracuse and their consistently legendary play since. If you look closely at the picture of Gary Gait to the right, you will notice, where we've marked with arrows, that the stick bends the entire length of the shaft.

Photo by Dave Preece
The Gaits and some other Canadian and Gait-influenced American stars do this for increased ball control on fakes and when cradling and dodging. Gary uses the STX Viper when he plays indoor lacrosse and still uses the bent shaft with the non-offset head. Paul Gait now uses an offset head, the DeBeer Shockwave, and does not need to bend his pole anymore. He is known for stick-baking and bending, as well, and has likely bent his head to facilitate his preferred slant. But he says that the bend never assisted in scooping and even hindered scooping at times. He also says it does not increase his shot. But he swears by it, when it comes to cradling, faking and keeping the ball in good position for shooting.

The Brine Edge, used by most college players, was the first to offset the head in an effort to emulate the benefits of stick bending, but within the confines of the NCAA rules. The stick was fabulously popular and has been the best selling head over the last few years. The Edge still does very well, even though every manufacturer now has a model with an offset or canted head. "So far this year, the Edge is second. It always sells well", says Mike DiSimone. This year's Warrior Revolution is the top seller right now at DiSimone's Lacrosse Unlimited Stores on Long Island. "The Proton's only been available for about three weeks, while the Revolution got a good head start this year, and the Edge just keeps selling."

Lax World's Thad German tallied things up for E-Lacrosse in March of this year, "The Edge still rules but the Revolution and Proton are getting close. We can't keep the Proton on the shelves", German says. "The Octane was hot all summer. And the Octane with the new scoop (same scoop design as the Proton) is selling very well. The Revolution has done very well since the World Games and the kids all want that pocket (the Casey Powell pocket). The Shockwave was doing very well for a while but has died down a little. It's funny though. Whatever is new, or on the cover of E-Lacrosse or the Baltimore Sun sells. We've noticed that a picture of a player on the Sports page of the Sun, that shows the stick, will prompt more phone calls the next week for that stick.
When the picture of Loyola's face-off guy last year, Jamie Hanford, was in the Sun with a Shockwave, everybody called the next week asking what it was and buying it. It really is influenced by that kind of exposure. The PLH-2000 helmets are taking off and sales are good. A big Part of that is the promotion of the product on E-Lacrosse since the World Games".
While many older club players still use the straight heads and many youth coaches recommend them for beginners, about 80% of heads sold through Lax World's catalog are offset. The offset head has gone from fad to trend to standard. STX makes an offset pole, the CO2 R-Force Composite for those want to keep their straight head and convert to the offset style. It is reviewed in an earlier Stick Science article.

While the surge of offset heads, including the Octane, eat into the dominant market share Brine has enjoyed with the Edge, none of them really quite captured the feel of the bent pole. They all offset the head but leave it running parallel to the shaft. When the pole is bent with a straight head, like Gary Gait's STX Viper, the head actually points further back than the parallel Edge, Shockwave and Octane. The new STX Proton captures the tilt more effectively by more than 1/4 inch.

The pictures to the right illustrate the difference in tilt away from the parallel of the shaft between the Brine Edge (top) and the Stx Proton.

STX's promotional language for the stick includes "Extreme open sidewall design for improved aerodynamics and reduced ball rattle". Ball Rattle? Just when we were about to shout "BALL RATTLE?", we got an e-mail from some kid asking what stick to buy to cut down on ball rattle. We did not notice any ball rattle when testing. As for aerodynamics, it's easily the lightest of the offset heads as STX has abused the concept of the open sidewall. It's like no sidewall. There is very little plastic used here, even though the side wall is a full 2" high. Even with less materials used, the stick proved tough and flexible and we had no breaks testing in mostly cold conditions. Aerodynamically, the stick must be one of the best because there's nothing to provide resistance, but we don't have a way to measure drag factor when shooting. Truthfully, we hand tested all the offsets against an old Barney and couldn't tell the difference between any of them at our meager 70 to 85 mph shot speeds. We assumed that the claims of aerodynamic greatness of all the latest sticks are referring to the act of shooting and not just running with it or carrying the stick to practice. In any case, we have never seen a kid who's faster than his stick so don't sweat this detail when buying. It's so much more important that when doing a one handed "crab" pick-up, the Proton is money. Most offset heads are "even money" on funky garbage grabs.
But what about the standard, boring two-handed scooping capabilities of the Proton. Talking to kids shopping at Bacharach Rasin, we heard pre-approvals and cautions. Some feared the head's downward angle would catch the turf on tricky ground balls. But in our testing we found the scoop to be tough, but supple and flexible enough to scoop through bad angles and hard uneven turf. The scoop mouth is almost a half-inch wider than the Edge and still not as wide as the Octane, which has the same scoop style with another half-inch of scoop mouth area.
Our defenseman gave the proton rave reviews when scooping on the run and shooting with a long pole. Less follow through seems to be required when we comparison tested it with other offset heads with similar pockets on a long pole.
If your cradling game finds the ball against the top of the pocket and the shooting strings more often than it sits on the rubber stop, you should try the Proton. With a hard mesh or a tight traditional pocket, even if the pocket is very deep, like the one shown, the Proton delivers a righteous fake and very little whip when shooting. Our testers all liked the hard mesh version and we even got a competitor's employee to admit that with the hard mesh, the stick threw very well with a deep pocket.
The truth is that a soft mesh in any offset head is prone to whipping on shots unless a third shooting string is used and the same is true here. But if you have more than three shooting strings in your soft mesh, you should try a hard mesh anyway. The hard mesh is rapidly becoming a favorite of many college players and is a standard option on the Proton, Octane and most of the heads made by other manufacturers. It's our preferred stringing for the Proton.

We saw about ten guys using it at the UMBC Cornell game and spoke to some of them. Reviews were all good and the players had switched to the proton from both offset and straight heads.
Can STX's Proton challenge the Edge this year for market dominance. STX sent Protons out to the major lacrosse colleges, hundreds of high school coaches, and have aggressively promoted the head on E-Lacrosse and in print magazines. So, If Thad German's exposure theory is correct, STX is giving the Proton it's best chance to do just that.

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