Pros: Exotic materials, great looking light weight high performance
Cons: Significant cosmetic damage is not uncommon after a couple years
CCM seems to have been a half a step behind their major competitors at times. Their 2002 Tacks line was well short of their usual quality, and while the 2003 CCM product line was back up to par, they didnt turn to many heads. The Vector has changed that and is without a doubt the most talked about hockey skate for 2004. The question is did CCM make a great skate in the new Vector Pro, or just a flashy looking mediocre product?
The Vector Pro Boot
Obvious at a glance, the boot in the Vector is a big change for CCM. The Vector line is loosely based on the moderately successful, though well made, Externo line. Still it is obvious even through casual observation that this is a very different boot.
The exterior of the Vector Pro is not a typical skate material. Most skates employ a ballistic nylon or synthetic leather in their uppers. The CCM vector actually uses a lightweight metal alloy mesh for the exterior of the upper. CCM claims this upper as five times more durable than ballistic nylon, the previous acme of hardiness. While the Vector Pro hasnt been on the market long enough to determine this first hand, I have no reason to doubt this claim.
The liners of the boot are a hydrophobic, anti-bacterial that CCM has exclusively this year. They call it Ultima Dry. It appears to be a very good product, is comfortable and should prove durable as well. As it is hydrophobic, it will not absorb perspiration. This will lead to longer boot life and help the boot to remain light through skating.
The tongue on the Vector Pro is of the traditional felt lined variety. It is a pro stitched tongue, meaning there is a piece of fabric sewn around the outer edge. Pro stitching keeps the edges of the tongue from tearing. This will help the tongue last a good deal longer. The Vector Pros tongue is fairly stiff to offer good lace bite protection.
Boot outsoles on the Vector Pro are a composite material for maximum stiffness and durability. They also feature rounded edges to maximize skater lean without the boot hitting the ice. (When the boot sole hits the ice, your blade comes off the ice and you fall). Composite soles last longer and hold rivets better. This extends the life of the boot as well as the holders. Ventilated outsoles help moisture exit the boot, increasing the life of the boot and lowering the stink factor.
The toe is uncovered plastic on the exterior, so there is nothing to come loose making the toes prematurely ugly.
CCMs wedge is notably absent on the Vector line of skates. The Reflex bar, which was one of the only downsides of the Externos is gone as well. Instead, the heel lock is accomplished through the use of an eyelet that is attached slightly below the stay. It does the job without any of the annoyance its predecessors caused.
The Holders and Steel
CCM opted to use a design based on their Externo, E-Blade holders for the Vector Pro. The E-Blade RPL, features a nearly identical holder to the older E-Blade, however the steel is scalloped like the blade used in the 2003-04 Pro Tacks. Unlike some other designs in which lightweight runners have been a big sacrifice in strength, CCMs scalloped steel has not resulted in drastically greater breakage. In fact I have not seen a single case of this design breaking.
The E-Blade is a much-improved holder in comparison to the older Prolite holders that CCM traditionally uses. The Prolite has many deficiencies, with a horrible tendency to flex too much during skating and break too easily. In comparison, the E-Blade holders are among the sturdiest on the market.
The E-Blade RPL maintains the profile of a traditional CCM skate with a not too far forward, not to far backward feel to the lean. One improvement in the Vector Pros E-Blade RPL, is the increased height from the ice. By adding 1.5 millimeters to the steel, CCM ensured a greater angle of turning without the boot striking the ice. They also built in 10 or 12 extra sharpenings by putting the extra steel on the blade.
The hardware on the E-Blade is very good. Bolts to remove the blades are easily accessible. They are sturdy enough to get the blades tight without worry about them breaking or stripping. Loose blades are rarely a problem in any CCM holder.
The steel uses an 11-foot rocker. Some former Bauer/Nike skaters might have a tough time adjusting to this slightly longer contour as Bauer/Nike uses a 9-foot rocker. It is possible that this will be an added expense, costing about $50 to have the skate blades re-contoured.
So what makes this skate different that the competition?
The interior of the CCM Vector Pro is something of a hybrid between traditional and soft boot technology. The ankles are nicely padded with a gel-like material to give good comfort and quick break in. However, the foot area of the skate is more of a traditional fit.
The amazing thing to me is how comfortable and light these skates are. The weight is very similar to a Bauer Vapor XX. Yet there is comfort gel in the CCM skates that ensures a very comfortable fit and quick break in.
Vapors are very narrow, and the CCM Vectors fit like a traditional CCM skate. They are ample for average to moderately wide feet. Skaters with very wide feet will have to order a EE width in the Vector, but it will be a huge improvement over Bauers still too narrow EE width Vapors.
Now the Vapor XX is a very stiff boot, again very comparable to the Vector Pro. Both skates do have a relatively quick break in time. However, the Bauer also has a very quick break down time. I never enjoyed selling a Vapor to anyone as I found them a waste of money. Bauer sacrificed any durability they had in their other skates to make a lightweight skate. If you were playing in the NHL and getting them for free this wasnt a big deal. But most normal people dont want to shell out over $400 for a skate that will last less than a year. I had more people unhappy with the Vapors than any skate I have ever sold. Literally dozens of Vapor XXs got sent back to Bauer months after they were purchased. So why do I bring this up? When CCM makes a skate that is in the same weight class, you might be asking what they sacrificed to do it.
The Vector doesnt have any deficiencies that I can see. In all they took Bauers mistakes and improved the concept. CCM looked entirely outside of the box in the production of this skate. Rather than trying to make traditional materials lighter or stiffer, they used metal alloy on the boots, making the skate stronger AND lighter. By scalloping the top of their steel rather than the middle, CCM assures much longer blade life in both strength and sharpening. While it is still early in the Vectors life, I dont foresee any of the numerous problems that the Vapor XX skate suffered from.
I havent skated in the Vectors, but I did try a pair on after getting a few emails about this skate. I also have a couple of guys on my teams that are using this model. This skate is as comfortable as anything that I have tried on. The people I know skating in them have enjoyed them more than any skate theyve ever used. Both guys claim that they had no break in issues whatsoever.
Three of the guys in the shop that I worked in were opening boxes when I stopped in the other day and pulling out the new Vector Pros that they ordered as well. With eight guys working in the shop (two of whom just got new Nike V-12s less than six months ago and had no interest in new skates), thats a pretty good percentage vote right there from people who really know about skates.
I would overwhelmingly recommend the Vector Pro over the Vapor XX. It gives every indication that it will hold up and be a good skate long after the Vapor is in the trash. This is a premium skate intended for top-level recreational skaters and elite players all the way up to the NHL level. If you dont fit that profile, save some money and consider a more appropriate Vector Skate. All of the models are well made.
The Vector Pro is the best skate CCM has made to date.
I've heard a few reports of numerous eyelet failures on the Vector boots from other parts of the country. I am dubious about the validity of these claims as we've seen absolutely none here since the introduction of the boot. CCM changed to their "Hercules Eyelet" the year before the inception of the Vectors. It was a greatly improved eyelet and has been very sturdy. Nonetheless, there are two possibilities that might contribute to this which I feel are worthy of mentioning.
First, it is apparently more likely to happen in areas that are very humid as boots that are often skated in don't have the opportunity to dry. Drying boots between uses will make them last substantially longer and certainly will contribute to weakening the eye stay in general.
Second, improperly lacing the boots during a heatfit can easily pull an eyelet out of any skate. Laces need to be pulled up and through the eyelets to tighten the previous one. Pulling in on the first eyelet puts a great deal of undue stress on it while it is in a vulnerable state during the heatfit.
Neither of these problems is a flaw in the boot, but instead a flaw in the use of the boot. Both conditions will pop eyelets in any skate. Further, losing an eyelet isn't a huge deal. It runs about $5 and 5 minutes to get one replaced if it is done shortly after it breaks.
I've been seeing a number of Vector skates that have been used really hard by big skaters. After about two years of hard play they tend to look very, very ugly. Much of the "bling" that is sewn on the sides of the skates is tearing off, specifically the silver patches at the toecap and on some skates the silver badging on the ankles.
While skates with 500 plus hours of hard use will sometimes look like they are on their last legs, the functional portion of these skates was mostly intact. There is one issue that I've noticed which was more than cosmetic. This was the lace locks actually being knocked off the skate once in a while. Fortunately, CCM did have enough forethought to make these easy to replace.
While the majority of damage I've seen is cosmetic, it is significant. I am lowering the overall rating of the Vector Pro by one star for this issue.
? Scott Noble Unauthorized use prohibited
A few of my other reviews you might find helpful:
General Buying Guide for Ice Hockey Skates
Nike THG V-Force
CCM Pro Tacks 2003/04
CCM Vector ZG 130 with T-Blades
Bauer Vapor XX Skates
Thanks to openroad for adding this item so I could review it.