Mission VSi Team 2000
and a bit about the old Proto V
by Surazak Uawithya
Disclaimer: These are my views, and I'm notorious for being wrong. Although occasionally I hit the nail on the head and miss my thumb……
Buying a new pair of hockey skates was forced on me. After almost 3 years of service the chassis on my trusty old skates cracked leaving me with an expensive, all be it smelly, paper weight. There are essentially two choices facing you when you want to replace hockey skates, buy in England or America. For the lower end hockey skates it is as cheap to buy them over here by the time you add on postage etc. You get to try them on and it is easy to take them back if something goes wrong. On this side of the Pond roller hockey is not that huge, so “last year’s kit” means “a couple of years old” before it goes on sale. Thankfully we have our trendy American friends just the other side of The Pond, who think last year’s kit is too un-trendy and that they must upgrade immediately. What does that mean to us? If you look around at the right time you can get kit at half the UK price even after paying shipping and import duties. Andy’s Easton F5 skates are usually $489 but at the time I was looking for mine had been reduced to $129. Andy has also reviewed his skates on LondonSkaters.com here.
The main problem with buying from abroad is getting the size right. It starts to become quite expensive when you open the box and try your new skates on for the first time and discover that they are half a size too big/small. Air mail isn’t cheap. I had previously only ever had two pairs of inline skates, mission Proto V hockey skates and some Nikes, so provided I stuck to the same brand I knew my size. I got on well with my old Missions bar two gripes. The first was that they took a long time to break in and I was Blister Central for a month. The second was more major, a design flaw in the chassis. The old Violator chassis was made in two halves, each was a plate of shaped aluminum with a small tab bent over at the top to allow it to be riveted to the boot. The two halves then had a spacer placed in between and were bolted together. The problem was that under the heel a section off metal had been removed to save weight. This left a narrow strut at the rear of the boot. Also as I previously mentioned the metal was bent at this point so it could be riveted to the boot. This bend is quite tight for the thickness of the metal. For those who understand the material properties of aluminum: failure mechanisms, fatigue limits and a bit of stress analysis will put e-ip and get 1 (or -1 I can’t remember) If you don’t know any of that stuff, consider yourself normal, and please stay that way by not looking it up. Anyway the end result was the chassis cracked. Going back to where I was……
I had a choice of staying with Mission as I knew what size I wanted, or taking a chance and guessing what size I am in another brand e.g. Bauer or Tour. This link is a vague guide, all sizes are in US and please remember the pinch of salt. http://www.hockeygiant.com/inskatfitsiz.html. I opted to stay with the same brand, so I knew the skates would fit. I ordered a pair of Mission VSi Team for $189 (was $400). Mainly because I was feeling a flash git and had spare space on the old Barclaycard at that time.
Starting at the bottom and working up: the wheels were supposed to be Labeda Millennium Grippers with ABEC 7 bearings. Mine arrived with 76a Hockeygiant own brand wheels and ABEC 5 bearings. They are not bad, but having had the old white Grippers I was keen to try the new and improved “Milka Cow lilac” ones. I have taken this issue up with Hockeygiant, they said they had some problems with the original wheels because they kept breaking up. However when I asked why they replaced my $78 wheels and bearings with $38 ones they went strangely silent. To be continued…….
The chassis, a Mission Generator, is now made the some way as most mid-range and above skates are done. Extrude a bar of aluminum with an odd cross section and mill chunks out of it. Although done an a slightly more technical level. Tucked up between the wheels there is some chunky cross bracing. The front sole plate is curved to fit the boot perfectly, also there is the added bonus of single sided axles: quick wheel changes. From an engineering point of view, it looks as though Mission have sort out their problems with dodgy chassis. The new lot look far better designed, but time will tell. The chassis takes the now de facto HiLo 72/80mm wheels. The only other real alternatives to this are Bauer with their rocker (so where’s your review Mike? [It's coming!]) and Easton’s bizarre collection of odd sized wheels, which presumably the designer had lying around at the time in the back of his drawer because nobody else wanted them.
From here on upwards things start to become different. Everything is in the right place, but done slightly differently. The sole of the boot is: “Glass Composite Sensory outsole, thinner, lighter and stiffer than traditional outsoles.” Does exactly what it says on the tin. Mission even supply a top quality foot bed by Superfeet. These have been built up in strategic places with rigid plastic to make a very comfortable innersole which usually retails for £30 alone. The white panels on the upper are: “Glass Composite FiberSkin quarter panels for lighter weight and added stiffness.” They’re stiff, thin, comfortable and …er….stopped my feet from falling out. I did have a few reservations about how comfortable this would be. My old skates were rated 5.3 ( out of ?), these are 7.5. In real terms they are Stiff with a capital “S”. This doesn’t seem to be a problem as they are more comfortable than my old pair even before I had broken them in, but more about that later. The rest of the upper is a combination of leather and shiny plastic. The skates weigh 1370g each, based on a UK size 8 boot.
On the inside, the padding is again different. Mission have used gel instead of more traditional forms of padding on their top end skates. The main advantage of this is that they take almost no time to break in and are a lot more comfortable. Whether this gel will remain soft or harden over the next few years is yet to be seen. Mission also have a skate bake system, which involves warming the skate in an oven and putting it on so that it moulds to your feet. I wasn’t given instructions for this, so haven’t done it yet. Even without this my skates were broken in within only the first few times of using them.
To conclude: If you’re feeling brave or know exactly what size you want, mail order from the states can save you a packet. Particularly if you are going for a mid range or better hockey skate. I paid £215 for my skates including shipping and taxes, the UK list price is a bit over £400. Remember import duty is 2.5% and VAT 17.5%. Some companies e.g. UPS will pay the import duty on entry and ask for a cash/cheque payment when you receive the goods. This saves time waiting for customs to be cleared, but they charge £10 for this. As for the skates: I was surprised about how comfortable these hockey skates were (and still are). They are noticeably lighter than my old pair, thanks to the use of glass composites. I haven’t yet found anything bad to say about them. Go out buy a pair while they are still cheap!
Hockeygiant emailed me to say that the drop in price was to allow for the fact that they had put a cheaper set of wheels on. However this was not mentioned in their adverts, which still show the skate with the Millennium Gripper, as did the order confirmation page that was sent to me. Hockeygiant also said that the skate was originally reduced to $249 and only went down to $189 when they swapped the wheels. Under UK law I have to be given the more expensive wheels, as that is what they were advertised with unless I was advised of this at the point of sale, which I was not. However US law applies, as that was where they were purchased. At the moment I’m not sure about what US law says about these things but I’m looking into it. In my opinion it's completely unacceptable to promise one set of wheels, and then bait and switch to a cheaper set. To further complicate things a friend has just ordered the same skates from Hockeygiant for $189 with the Millennium Grippers. Further updates will be posted.
As usual, this review is only my opinion about these skates, and your mileage may vary. You should always carefully judge whether the skates you intend buying are best suited for you and for the purpose you intend using. Remember that fit and comfort are extremely important, and you may wish to read the inline skating buying guide here on this site.
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