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JR Boucicaut

Alkali Hockey CA9 Skate

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Product: Alkali CA9 skate

Size: 8.5

Background: Playing for 16 yrs, been using almost exclusively top to second tier Mission skates since 2004. The last year-ish I have been in Mission T9s and Revision Vanquishes. The wider forefoot with average-narrow heel fit had my name all over it. Big thanks to JR and Justin for making this review happen.

Initial Impressions

This is Alkali’s top skate, and opening the box this morning there was no doubt about it being a top end skate. Even with the subdued color scheme of mostly black with pops of yellow the whole skate still has a nice wow factor with the glossy quarters. Construction looks to be top notch, no stray stitches or odd gaps around the outsole/boot connection. The eyelets look bombproof, which may be a small thing up front but it can matter later in the skate’s life. The tongue is a solid, nice felt tongue like you’d find in the Supreme/ Upper end Mission skates with a nice lace bite guard running right where it needs to be. Not a super long tongue, but long enough to go tongues out and have it still look good.

The fit is exactly as described, wide forefoot with a wide toe box and a snug heel pocket with nice foam ankle padding. One small yet extremely nice detail is the top of the boot has a little bar of padding like the TotalOne ice skate comes with to prevent the boot quarters from digging in and possibly cutting. I’m right at the depth limit for these, which is pretty normal for me. My feet are slightly wide as well, measuring E on a Bauer Brannock device. There are no initial pressure points though which is a nice change as usually the toe box at a minimum will give me a spot of bother in new skates.

Sizing was almost spot on with pre-Bauer Mission sizing. I was wearing 8.5 in my old Boss Blacks, 8 in my current T9s, 8.5 in Revision and an 8.5 in the CA9. Weight is very very close to the T9 in hand, with the CA9 feeling either slightly lighter or slightly more evenly distributed. The boot is slightly taller than current Mission, but with the more aggressive forward rake to the boot it seems to work comfortably as it doesn’t have the ski boot feel some taller boots can have. The forward lean doesn’t make it feel like you’re totally nose diving, but it certainly makes getting on the balls of your feet the natural feel with these.

The components under the boot are just as top notch. I wasn’t a huge fan of my last experience on Addiction wheels, as I was having some slipping occur. Maybe this will be different on all 80s, if not it’s easy enough to throw some different wheels on. The swiss bearings roll nicely enough out of the box, but the only bearings I’ve ever felt much difference with are the Bones Super 6 currently in my Missions. The difference is more longevity than performance at that, so I’ll see how the stock swiss hold up and change them out only if needed. The Magnesium chassis is solidly built with axles similar to the Mission one sided axles. I’m extremely glad this axle system is the one that won out as the one piece, screw directly into the frame axles tend to be more problematic in the long run than the two piece/ one tool axle setups. The included skate tool with the Alkali logo for the handle is a nice looking tool and has a surprisingly comfortable grip.

I will be on these three times weekly, one day coaching two days playing on average, so plenty of rink time in the future of these skates. Given the height increase on the boot I may throw some shorter laces on them and drop down an eyelet, but I’m starting with them as is and laced to the top.

Here's a side by side with the T9s

IMG_0032.jpg

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First skate impressions

Took the CA9s out to coach tonight. It's definitely a different feel coming from the Vanguard chassis, but the skates did respond very nicely overall despite the awkward first skate feel. It's going to take a few skates to get dialed in. Cutting, stopping, overall movement was really good though, starting from a dead stop is where the biggest challenge is so far. The boots are really comfortable, but I'm definitely dropping the top eyelet to see if that helps with getting the first step down. All in all I'm fairly impressed with my first go in these, but coaching kids is not quite the same as putting the skates through a real game.

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First game impressions

Well before I get to that I want to touch on the moldability of the boots. My LHS guy was a little concerned when I told him 9 minutes in the oven (logo on the box states 9 minutes), but the effect was unlike any other inline boot I've ever baked. The boots feel like slippers now with how well they took the bake and molded to my feet.

Now then, playing in the skates tonight wasn't too bad for what I was expecting. The awkward feeling is still there but diminishing quickly. Speed in general feels slightly better than the Vanguard, but I don't feel as quick just yet. Turning quickly feels a bit more crisp and tight. All in all it's no worse than any other change of brands (chassis systems in particular) I've ever gone through, just an adjustment period to work through.

Several players were really impressed with how good the skate looks and the weight and finish of the skate. I'll keep updating with each use, I think significant feedback is a few skates away once I've totally adjusted to the new feel though.

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So another practice coached and game played today and I'm really starting to feel comfortable on the CA9s. The transition to the new feel has actually been fairly easy, though I'm still not feeling quite 100% capable on the skates. A few times trying to go from low speed to a sprint I still feel some slight stumbling like it's just not transmitting through my legs and feet quite the right way.

While I've been quite impressed with the overall package of the CA9 skate, I do have a couple personal nitpicks to level as some criticism (and I have little nitpicks about any stock skate I have tried so this is by no means me trying to pick on this product) First is the volume around the top three eyelets feels just a bit snug. If there was just a little more room right there I think it'd be perfect. As it is they will comfortably fit probably 95% of people who try them on, I just have higher volume in that area of my foot and have had issues with a lot of different skates. The CA9s are just enough to wear without issues or pain

The second small nitpick is the chassis mount location. It comes with a slightly forward bias. Obviously with the intent of making the rake of the boot so far forward to keep you on the balls of your feet you do want plenty of wheel underfoot. My personal preference has always been as centered front to back as possible and wouldn't mind seeing the chassis mount moved back 3/16-1/4 of an inch to get it a little more centered.

Again these are just my personal preferences/observations and do not have any negative reflection on the skate as it comes out of the box. As long as the boot durability turns out to be good I feel like these are the best boot on the market. The all 80 chassis while certainly not ground breaking has been a good solid choice that doesn't disappoint.

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Another coaching session and I'm feeling really confident on the skates. My previous statement about chassis mount location may not be any true issue at all as I think part of it may just be the slightly more forward lean makes it feel like there's more up front. I think I hit on why the first few skates felt awkward, the chassis has a slightly higher rise from the bottom of the boot. It was a very similar experience when I first tried the Revision skates which also have a slightly higher rise given the 100mm wheel. I remember seeing a note a couple years back about Bauer raising the clearance on the Tuuk holders for the ice lines to enhance turning and can imagine this may have factored into the slightly higher rise. Whether or not that's true, the CA9s do feel quite adept with cutting and sharp turns.

It's beginning to feel a little redundant saying it, but the skates are really good. While it's always great to have shiny new skates, I'm definitely trying to keep a critical eye to keep the review as honest and accurate as possible. I can't find any shortcoming or fault with the product, which isn't a huge surprise given how much experience went into founding the company in the first place.

Aside from boot durability the next big test I see is the next tournament I play in, either two or three weeks from now. The liner on the boot is billed as a microfiber, but it looks, feels and smells like Clarino of some type to me. I have found Clarino style liners to have a deficiency in wicking with heavy use compared to some of the other synthetic liners, so 3-4 games in a day should see how it performs.

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So another game in them tonight and the skates keep on doing what they've been doing: feeling more comfortable with each use. My skating is pretty natural and fluid on them at this point, and the boot comfort is amazing. I'm really glad I decided to have them baked despite feeling pretty good out of the box.

Crashing into the high slot from just inside half court tonight to hammer a goal home felt natural and timed perfectly, with the skates being forgotten (in the best way where instead of thinking about my skating I just sprinted in). Pursuit on the defensive side felt better tonight than it has in a long time as it also felt natural and again not thinking about the skates themselves.

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Playoff game tonight and my skating felt crisp and solid. The nimble feeling is really starting to come through on these now, something I wasn't quite expecting as my previous go on an all 80 chassis felt fast, but locked to the floor.

I did notice a small creaking noise coming from the right skate as I stride on it, but that's really not of any concern as this isn't the first pair of skates I've heard the creak/squeak come from before (including the T9s doing it on the left skate) and it doesn't affect performance or comfort at all. Just a small thing really, but I want to be very thorough in this LTR. All in all though I'm really happy on the CA9s and each time I play I get at least a couple guys asking about them and wanting to check them out.

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Time to catch up after a break between leagues and me missing doing replies after my Wed and Fri games. Nothing too new to report from those nights. I played in a four game tournament earlier today, and got to see the liner's wicking performance in action today. The tournament ended up being two sets of back to back games, so the skates and liners in particular were working overtime. While they aren't the best liner I've ever used, they did well soaking up for over an hour at a time. With a two game break between the sets I got to see how well they would dry in a standard temp locker room. The skates held on to the moisture a bit, but they didn't get the slimy clarino feel to them so it was just the cold, damp feel which is fairly normal.

The other item of any interest was I laced all the way back up to the top today out of years of habit, but the skates have broken in a bit more with the initial bake and use, and there was no hindrance of mobility. I play on just lacing all the way up from here on as it presented no problems whatsoever.

At the end of the day my feet are as sore as they ever get at the end of a tournament day, and the comfort was there all day while playing.

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Another slightly late update for this week, I had a long stretch of days being on the skates. After the tournament Sunday I had games Monday and Tuesday nights, and prior was Wednesday and Friday playing and coaching.

After all the skating my feet felt pretty good, no significant hot spots or soreness. On my Monday night game I didn't get the top eyelets quite tight enough and did have part of the reinforced material of the boot interior along the back of the eyelet row rub a little bit on my left ankle. Again my little nitpick about wishing for just a touch more volume along the top two or three eyelets, but I also have very high volume needs through that part of my feet, moreso on the left foot. I snugged the laces down as much as I could and it resolved the rubbing. Something I'll just have to keep in mind.

All in all though I'm still real impressed and very happy on the CA9s.

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Back on the skates after a week and a half break. I decided that since the rubbing started once I started lacing all the way up that I'd drop that top eyelet back down. While the rubbing seemed lessened by this, it's still there. To reiterate though I have thick, high volume ankles, so I fill out the whole boot and cuff and am just shy of passing the pencil test on the left skate while just passing it on the right. I'm not sure what to cover up with to help prevent this issue, but this is the lone issue I'm having. The skates perform well, and are still looking good which says a fair amount since I find myself blocking a fair amount of shots.

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So to keep this updated, I've been keeping off the CA9s to let my ankle heal as it was opening up and bleeding on the rubbed spot. Other than the lesser volume in the cuff (which I'm probably in the 5-10% of volume needs that high) the skates are fantastic. Getting close to the 60 day mark for a standard review, I'm going to try and get a couple more good skates in before that.

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Due to the rubbing issue I reached out to Justin to see what he had to say. All I can say is Justin is an absolute class act when it comes to taking care of people, which I'm sure is why several high level roller players are on board with the brand. After a couple emails I sent the pair I have been using back to see if I just got a fluke pair and a fresh pair was sent out to me. If anyone is on the fence about trying the product, I hope this example of taking care of the player pushes you firmly over to picking up some gear. I hate to be the guy who complains about a pair of skates to demo, even with a valid issue, but Justin didn't bay an eye to offer to make it good for me.

In the meantime while we sorted things out, I went back to the Vanquish skates. They're comfy, broken in and the C-Note chassis is still a favorite of mine. Putting my foot back into the CA9 though is just worlds apart with how light they are. I don't put a ton of stock in straight up scale weight compared to how the weight feels on the foot, and while the Vanquish is well balanced despite being heavier, it is a definitely noticeable difference between the two. I'm looking forward to getting back onto the CA9s and keeping the LTR going.

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Back on CA9s tonight, but a couple new things. First I didn't have time to get to the shop and get these baked, so it was an hour at the house yesterday fiddling with laces and wearing them to get them worked in a little. Honestly they feel really good out of the box too, no pain points or significant pressure. Secondly, I was feeling kind of meh about the Addiction wheels. They haven't been bad, but they didn't feel remarkable either. I decided to try out a set of Hornet Splits on the skates, and I really don't like how they felt tonight. The Addictions by comparison feel much better, so they're going back on and I'm leaving them alone.

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Playoff game tonight and dang it all if we had just one sub yet again, so another long night in a string of long nights recently. Still haven't gotten to the shop to bake the skates, so a couple skates now as they come out of the box. It's the usual break-in process as any high end skate with a few places that just aren't comfortable yet, but there's still no hot spots to speak of either. The bottoms of my feet felt a little sore after the game, but that's pretty normal with a new skate or new insoles for me.

This pair does look slightly different to me as I can see the asymmetrical cuff design better with this pair. On an extremely high note there's no indication of the same rubbing, there's not even a hint I'll be dealing with it down the road either. The rubbing was the only flaw I found to date, so color me impressed all over again. I said it up front and I'll say it again, these skates are a home run.

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So another handful of uses after a week off between leagues, consisting of 2 league games, coaching and three tourny games in the last five days. I did decide to mess with different wheels one more time by putting on some Revision variants and I'm a happy camper now. I never did have this pair baked, so they've been all broken in just by wearing them and it hasn't been too bad of a process. I'd still suggest anyone getting a pair to do the bake because of how formable the skates are though.

As far as comfort and performance go, nothing too new to report there. My feet don't hurt after playing and the skates perform. One thing that has really impressed me is how tough the quarters are. The glossy finish looks and feels like it might scuff and wear quickly, but it's held up beautifully with next to no marking. I took one clapper off the side of the toe box that I felt and stung for a minute, but otherwise I haven't felt any of the other shots I've blocked.

All in all, still loving the skates

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Well another game tonight and youth practice to coach tomorrow, and I feel like there's not a ton I can say (yet again). The skates are doing their job well. One thing that came to mind earlier is the tight volume I felt in the upper cuff of the first pair isn't present in the replacements Justin sent to me. That means they are on par with skates like the Missions I used prior as far as having a comfortable, just enough volume there for me. The asymmetrical cuff is more pronounced on this pair providing a good fit and comfort.

I have no qualms about recommending Alkalis products to any of my friends. The only thing I haven't been thrilled with was the wheels, which is A. easily remedied and B. puts me in the minority or preferring something other than Addictions. Otherwise I just can't knock the skates on anything

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I haven't been able to update in a while due to a separated shoulder keeping me from playing, so the only recent use of the skates was my daughter's school skate night. For a two hour session, the skates were pretty comfortable throughout and my feet felt no worse for wear at the end of the night

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Well it’s been 6 months with the CA9s, and despite not being able to play much the last several weeks due to my shoulder I have had the chance to skate still and reach I think a reasonably good conclusion of the skates.

Overall I am still real happy with the CA9s as a top tier skate. They have softened some in the upper cuff, but are still quite supportive throughout. The quarters were very glossy straight from the box and have since become very matte, but there’s no real gouging or major scuffing on them as there would be on a more exposed nylon or PU leather material. Granted I don’t tend to blow boots up I usually instead soften them to the point that I don’t feel supported by them anymore. The CA9s are holding up pretty well in that regard as other than the top of the cuff (which does need some gives to it for skating in general) the boot is keeping its stiffness pretty well.

For the money I think these are the best. They cost the same as Tour EX-1’s have and are imo a better all-around skate, and at $50-$100 less than Mission and Reebok top offerings with a more customizable fit thanks to the super-reactive quarters it’s tough to want to shell out the extra money. In fairness the Mission skates do have thicker quarters with more padding so that could play into a longer lasting boot, but you’d have to be on the bigger side like me to see a difference. I don’t think the CA9 would have as great a formable property though if the quarters were thicker.

I will be adding a standard format review to the site for the skates, and if anyone has any questions feel free to PM me

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