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Traditional Thursday: Traditional For Face Offs?

I got to know Julian Maliszewski at this year’s Ales Hrebesky Memorial, and I asked this dominant face off man why he used a traditional pocket. We got to talking, and I wasn’t shocked to find out that Julian knew a lot about the art of leather and string, so I sent him some questions about his pocket, and face off guys using traditional, and Julian crushed out some awesome answers. He also sent over some photos of the heads and pockets he uses.

If you don’t know who Julian is, check out the video below. He’s the guy in white and blue winning all the face offs!

Ok, let’s get this going with a basic first question. Why do you use traditional for face offs?

It’s personal preference. The feel of a ball in a traditional stick is completely different than that of mesh. Plus it takes time to do, it’s art. You have to string from scratch, create the pocket, and in the end, you’ve put so much time in on the stick that it is an extention of your body.

In regards to facing off, the ball holds a little better in the back of the stick compared to mesh, but it’s more head preference that makes facing off efficient. I’m a bigger guy and I’m super aggressive on a draw so I like a stiff head that breaks in. My staple has been a Proton Super Power for years, but I’ve got a Professor and that has worked well so far.

I noticed that you use sidewall for your diamonds instead of cross lace. What is the advantage of using sidewall? Where did you get that idea?

I got the idea to use sidewall from two different places. The first I got from looking at my mom’s old woodie, and that had sidewall as the webbing. Then I saw a guy who actually used long bootlace for the webbing, so that reinforced the idea. I didn’t want the stick to have the whip it normally does with thinner cord, and I actually got the idea to do 5 diamonds from one of your videos where you talked about 5 or 4 diamonds and different methods/experimenting. It wasn’t the first time I heard about it but it all seemed to fit together at the time.

Wow. That’s pretty darn cool that you watched one of my videos. I’m flattered! How did you learn to string traditional?

I first started stringing traditional a couple years back, copying old warrior Jesse Hubbard manuals or Brine instructions that showed the webbing done in 3 sections. The method I’ve found to work the best for me is stringing the stick asymmetrically, with sidewall for webbing. Eventually you learn the pattern and flow, and everything is repeating.

How long did it take you to ‘master’ the craft?

I definitely wouldn’t say I’m a master, I’m always learning. I have strung some really nice sticks, and some that are garbage. I constantly look at videos and other people’s string jobs to figure out little nuances. You’ll see from the Lakota I cut the leathers for lace, but for the proton and professor I ran the string through the back, this way if a leather rips, or a sidewall, it can be replaced. But if the webbing breaks, it’s toast.

I actually took one of your suggestions from Prague for the professor, and made the opposite side wall one hole higher, so the diamonds wouldn’t sag on the far side as much. (My girlfriend Megan wanted me to have a pink stick, so I said buy me one or buy me a head I want and I’ll dye it, thanks stx for having a warehouse sale! But I took your suggestion and applied it to that one.)

Do you have any tips for aspiring face off guys?

When I played with St. Catharines my roommate/teammate described a face off as the closest thing to a true one on one on the field. It’s a dead 50/50 ball and it comes down to who wants it more. You have to fight and grind, you have to want it more than the other guy. This will sound condescending, but In my mind I want “it” more than you, and I will beat you. You have to play with a chip on your shoulder.

I have a couple of mantras I say on a constant basis before a draw to keep me focused and some rituals before a game, but beyond that I could say do this or that, but there’s not enough space. At the top, everyone has the same technique, the same moves etc, and it’s the mental aspect of the game that truly gets overlooked. But most of all, learn the other aspects of the game, be a well-rounded player, but also excel in another aspect, defense or offense. Being a fogo is all well and good, but in indoor that doesn’t fly. So if you want to stay on a roster you better have something else to contribute.

Care to offer up any tips for traditional stringers?

Look around at other stringers, and their work, see what gets put on sites, what players use, try stringing all kinds of pockets, whether or not you’ll use them there are some cool methods that could help you in your own stringing. And when looking at some one else’s stringing, evaluate the work, and mimi what looks good. Ask yourself does it help/hurt, etc. Then re-evaluate, never settle, and don’t think you’re the best, because someone out there is always better. Stay humble and always keep your mind open.

The old Loyola dog track pocket (aka the Pita) was something different, but it works. Originally it looked weird, like a series of squares, but it was effective. Try new things!