A Brief History of the Hockey Stick

Posted on January 24, 2012 by

Ice hockey sticks are approximately 59.1 inches (150cm) to 78.7 inches (200cm) long. The blade is slightly curved in one direction, either way, to aid in retaining or lifting the puck of the playing surface. The goaltender has a slightly modified stick. The lower part of the stick is wider, the angle is smaller and the blade is slightly curved toward the direction of the play. Fun Fact; Hall of famer Moose Johnson famously used the same extra-long stick, which gave him a 99-inch (2,500cm) reach, his entire career.

By the way, the picture to the right shows the Micmak indians in Nova Scotia, making hockey sticks from the hornbeam tree in the 1880′s. I have no idea what a hornbeam tree is but my research showed that they don’t use that anymore.

There have been very few changes in the stick since the beginning. In the 1960′s, the players began curving the blade of the stick, which dramatically changed the physics affecting the players’ shots. The original sticks were made of wood. Today in the NHL, only a handful of players still use wooden sticks. Other materials used are, aluminum, fiberglass , graphite, Kevlar (which is used for bullet proof vests) and titanium. Graphite has become the most popular building material for sticks used in the NHL.

The properties that make up a stick is the lie, the flex, the blade pattern, the curve and the tape.

The lie of a stick refers to the angle between the shaft and the blade.

Hockey stick shafts, much like golf club shafts are highly flexible, and this flexibility is the key component to their performance. Hence the word flex describes the amount of force required to bend stick shaft a certain amount.

Until the early 1960′s, hockey stick blades were typically not curved. However, in the late 1950′s, New York Ranger center Andy Bathgate began experimenting with”breaking” his stick blades to impart a curve. Soon after Chicago Blackhawks forwards, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull stumbled upon the “broken blade”, and subsequently began asking their stick manufacturers to create sticks with the pre-curved blades. By 1967, the NHL began to limit the amount of curve a stick blade could legally have. In the NHL today, the legal limit is 3/4 of an inch (19mm). In the modern game, the emphasis on shooting accuracy has largely eliminated any preference for extreme blade curves. However, hockey still retains illegal stick rules which has become a cause of debate. The argument is that since blade curve does not impart any significant advantage, that penalizing is not necessary.

Lastly is the tape. Most players apply a knob of tape, which creates a gap between the shaft and the ice in the event the stick is dropped, making it easier to pick up the stick. Some players use a regular cloth tape instead of friction tape, while Wayne Gretzky used friction tape then applied baby powder to lower its adhesion.

So there you have it! Everything you wanted to know about the hockey stick but were afraid to ask. Ain’t hockey grand?


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