A new player in town…

There is a new player in town and it’s an interesting one though Decathlon! Little do people know that they happen to be a major force in global sports retail, is launching its own hockey range and it’s first effort is very promising.

Decathlon have been in the UK for nearly 20 years but are still relatively unknown as a brand. However further afield the company is synonymous with sport especially in Europe. You may have seen B-Twin bikes and Quechua tents becoming more and more common around the UK and It looks like Decathlon Hockey new brand ‘Kipsta’ could become increasingly present too.

The aim of the game for Decathlon is “to make hockey accessible to the many”. UK Hockey Leader for Decathlon, Simon Webb, told the hockey family that… “As long as I can remember hockey has been an expensive sport, making it hard to play in the first place and harder still for parents to justify supporting their kids as they grow in the game. I’ve seen friends stop playing because kit is too pricey, and that’s before you consider club membership fees. £200-400 for a top of the range stick is just too much for a lot of us”. We are delivering sticks of the same standard at about a quarter of the price.”

The Sticks

It’s not just the top of the range sticks though that catch the eye. The entry level sticks for kids and adults make the game far more accessible and most importantly affordable. A child’s wooden stick is around £8 and an adult wooden stick around £12. You’d be justified to be a little skeptical about the quality but having tested them out the quality is quite high. Backed up with a two-year guarantee*

Decathlon is offering as much as it can in it’s first year and aims to bring the total cost of kit down. The RRP for popular hockey brands means just to get the basic package together you are spending around £100 for a stick, glove, shoes, mouth guard and shin guards if you’re lucky enough to shop around but Decathlon offer this at less than £50.

Their stick range starts with the FH100 a 100% wood stick with a standard bow. It may be rudimental but it seems to be quite durable and for that price, £7.99 for the kids stick, it’s going to help make it easier for people to take up the game. This then rises to a more mature set of graphics for a 50% wood and 50% fibreglass stick this comes in as the FH110, a 100% fibreglass hockey stick for £25 which would normally set you back £60-80. It comes with a standard bow that works well for beginners.

The next level up is the mid-range sticks which are FH500 and FH510. The difference between the FH500 and FH510 is that the FH500 is a midbow and the FH510 is a low bow. Both sticks are priced at £65. The basic composition of the sticks are 50% carbon, 45% fibreglass and 5% aramite. These could disrupt the market a lot as most of us are used to paying £80-£200 for similar levels of stick, could these change thing?

It’s refreshing to see that unlike other high street retailers Decathlon haven’t forgotten about the more serious hockey player and have a top of the range stick which they call the FH900. This is a 95% carbon, low bow, 2 year guarantee*.

Hitting with it on the reverse is like a dream pings off beautifully and is weighted really well too. Graphics wise there are two versions red or yellow option. On both sticks the curved side has a black finish that is similar to the carbon braid style a few brands have used and the flat/face of the stick a solid colour red or yellow the length of the shaft. Again the price point is incredible, £110 is the RRP compared to £250-£400 for a similar standard product from many of the main brands.

Both the FH500 and FH900 come with a better grip than the FH100 and FH110 but that’s understandable considering the level its aimed at although all the grips are very good. On the Mid and Top of the range sticks the grip is unlike any I’ve used before and I would say it’s a hybrid of a traditional and a chamois grip. It’s certainly more tactile than others. It’s good to see that they have opted for a premium grip on the top models as with some brands the grip that comes on the stick is sometimes usable. It actually compares well to the Adidas grips that have been out in the last few years.

The kids sticks come with an option of Piranhas or Unicorns. Perhaps a bit cliched but who doesn’t like unicorns I’d be sacred of piranhas though, to have that but the response from the kids who I showed them to at my club was positive. So fair enough!

Check out the stick range here

The Footwear

Decathlon also do extremely affordable footwear. The range starts with the entry level FH100, £20 for children and  £25 for adults and the FH500 which is only for adults at £50. As pointed out before the FH100 is very much an entry level shoe that helps you enjoy the game on a budget. It is a fraction of the price of many brands so will undoubtedly serve those on “Back to Hockey” and at school level.

The FH500 who’s grip and support compares well to the AdiPower range by Adidas. The FH500 also comes with a “sock” built in which helps put the shoe on, many football boots are going down this route due to the ease of wearing them. I had little confidence it would help but once I got used to it I realised it actually helped make a better fit for the shoe.

The sock built in to the shoe gives a better grip of the foot and reduces the energy you waste in slipping. Both men’s and women’s also use Kalenji K-Ring (Kalenji being Decathlon’s running brand), meaning they are fine for neutral, pronators and supinators. At less than half the price many of the astros out there, this is a very tempting prospect.

Check out the footwear range here!

The Gloves

The glove range is limited to one model in three colours. It’s a hard-shell design with an open palm. It’s easy to control the stick wearing it as your palm is exposed and at £8 it is again highly competitive. I personally prefer a full hand glove and there is no right hand glove, however from what we understand this is expected in future years from Decathlon but for most this is going to be great. Plenty of kids are worried about breaking their hands playing, so at such a low price, this will hopefully be popular.

The Bags

Finally we get onto the bags and to be honest I am pleasantly surprised. The range only comprises of two different types, however the price and capacity are impressive. The entry level bag is only £15 and can carry up to two sticks and has pockets for shoes, shin pads, belongings and so on. Ideal for kids at school or your first bag at club level. This compares well to the typical £30-40 bag you find around these days.

The second bag is a huge, it can hold 3-5 sticks comfortably, with compartments for shoes, clothing, wallet and phone etc. again the price point is startling at only £30 it definitely is a great bargain. Most main brands seem to be priced from £45-75 for a similar size. Graphically they are not the most eye catching but they do the job.

And Finally…

We have been told that the quality of the products is rooted in their development. Simon Explained that “These have been developed by hockey players, for hockey players, across the world. We have had kids and adults, beginners and elite players contribute to the development.”

Jill Boon, one of the stars of the recent World Cup in London, has been a key part of the project. She has used her Decathlon “Kipsta” stick for two seasons now and is very happy with how it feels and plays. Kipsta Hockey sticks are also used by other players include former Hoofdklasse players and current Overklasse players in the Netherlands.

The company have also launched a unique ‘Ask an Expert’ concept, allowing players and parents to speak with sport experts internationally. They can then receive advice from those who know the sport best. By simply going on the website a “chat” box will appear when there is someone free to help, a network of international Sports Advisors, more commonly known to us as Retail Assistants but there is one very big difference, the Decathlon Sports Advisors actually have relevant and expansive sport and product knowledge which will be at your fingertips if you choose to use the feature, go on try it out, we did and found that they were very good.

Simon Webb is hoping that most Decathlons stores will have astroturf laid down by the hockey section so customers can test out the products before purchasing. The company is also supporting parents and customers with video content online to help aid the process of selecting a stick that is the right size, understanding when and why you need hockey shin pads or shoes, and how to fit a gum guard. “The aim is to remove the barriers for people to stay in the game. By providing this content on our website any parent or player can understand quickly how to make the right choice and enjoy the game safely.”

With the likes of Barrington Sports going into administration and subsequently being bought, and the high street a difficult place for independents to survive this is a welcome step for hockey. One to keep an eye on in the coming seasons!

We will be doing an in depth review of some of the products on offer by Decathlons ‘Kipsta’ Hockey Range in the coming weeks, so look out for them on the website.

Check the full Range Here!

*All Decathlon products come with a minimum of a two year guarantee. So if it is faulty they will replace it. To access the guarantee you need a Decathlon account to store receipts electronically, or you can keep the physical one. Please not that this guarantee doesn’t extend to damage through general wear and tear or miss use of the products.