The History of the Hockey Stick
In the past we have discussed the history of the hockey puck, but ever wonder about the history of the hockey stick? Like when was the first hockey stick developed? When was the first composite stick created? Which brands produce the most hockey sticks each year? Next to skates, hockey sticks are the fundamental piece of equipment used by hockey players across the globe.
Evolution of the Hockey Stick
1800’s – Hockey sticks go back to the 1800’s where sticks were hand carved from a single piece of wood. The first commercial sticks were said to be created by the Mi’kmaq carvers in Nova Scotia. These sticks were made from birch and hornbeam trees.
In the early 1900’s wooden hockey sticks with a straight blade were commonly used as seen here in a photo of the 1917 Queen’s University Women’s team. Notice the straight blades on the sticks?
1920’s – in the 1920’s comes the advent of the two piece hockey stick where the blade is separate and inserted into the shaft of the stick. The Hespeler stick company is the innovator of the two piece stick and patents a design for a two-piece wooden stick.
1930’s – two-piece and three piece sticks are what most of the NHL players use.
1950’s – hockey stick manufacturers begin wrapping the blades in fiberglass to add to the strength of the blade. The Northland brand of hockey sticks become increasingly popular with players.
1960’s – manufacturers begin using fiberglass to reinforce the shaft of sticks making them lighter, stronger and cheaper to produce.
1960’s – Chicago Blackhawk great Bobby Hull is often credited with inventing the curve of the blade of the hockey stick but it was actually teammate Stan Mikita who experimented with a broken blade shaped like a “V” who marveled at how well he could fire the puck with the broken blade. As the story goes Mikita and Hall began experimenting with curves in their sticks by running the blades under hot water to soften the wood and then bending them under a doorjamb. The results of this innovation change the shooting and passing aspect of the game of hockey forever.
1970’s – Canadian hockey stick manufacturers Sher Wood and Canadien dominate the hockey stick market with lighter sticks made of aspen wood that are reinforced with fiberglass.
1980’s – top hockey stick manufacturers include Sher Wood, Koho, Canadien and Titan ruled the market.
1990 – some true innovation as aluminum shafts are developed and tested by NHL players. The movement was started by none other than Wayne Gretzky who signed an endorsement deal to use an HXP 5100 aluminum shafted stick made by Easton. The late 80’s saw initial use of aluminum shafted sticks, but it was Wayne Gretzky who made them popular in the early 90’s.
Mid-90’s – the first composite blade is introduced. Players such as Anaheim’s Paul Kariya are able to score 50 goals in a season by using a composite blade on their twigs.
2000 – again Easton is at the forefront of new hockey stick technology with the development of their Easton Synergy which became the first popular one-piece composite stick. Colorado’s Joe Sakic is an early adopter of the technology but within five years 90% of NHL players are using composite stick technology. Goalies around the NHL begin complaining as everyone’s shots become harder, faster and a little more unpredictable.
2011-2012 – composite sticks are what pretty much every NHLer and major pro hockey players are using. While a few still use a composite shaft with a wooden blade most have made the switch to a full composite hockey stick. On notable exception is Edmonton Oiler Ryan Smyth who continues to use a wooden blade in a composite shaft.
2014 – minor hockey players across North America also adopt the composite sticks for parents and players that can afford them.
Researched in part from this great article by Dave Feschuk on the evolution of the hockey stick.
The history of the hockey stick is quite amazing and technological advances have made the hockey players main tool better than ever before.
Here are some facts and history on hockey sticks that you may or may not be aware of.
Hockey Stick FAQs
What is a hockey stick? A hockey stick is the main piece of of equipment used in ice hockey to shoot, pass, and carry the puck. Hockey stick can be made of a variety of material including wood, plastic, fiberglass, aluminum and composite materials.
What are the core elements of a hockey stick? Hockey sticks consist of three main components: the blade, the shaft and the end (also referred to as the butt end) or “handle” of the stick.
When did players start taping their sticks? Players began taping the blades of their sticks in the early 1900’s. The main reason was for protection as sticks were made of wood in those days.
Why do players tape their hockey sticks? Players tape their sticks for a variety of reason including
- taping the blade of the stick to provide better grip on the puck
- taping the stick blade to protect it from wearing
- taping the handle of the stick to allow for a better grip
- taping the blade to provide better stickiness for the puck / puck control
- taping the end of the stick to provide a handle or grip
- taping the shaft so they can write their name on it
How many sticks does an average NHLer use during a game? This depends on the player but most players will have anywhere from three to six sticks on the bench during a game. During the 80’s it was estimated that Wayne Gretzky used approximately 700 hockey sticks per season. If you do the math, in those days the NHL season consisted of 80 games so that means Gretzky averaged nine sticks per game.
Who are the leading manufacturers of hockey sticks? There are a number of hockey stick manufacturers out there. Leading producers of hockey sticks include: Bauer, CCM, Easton, Pro Stock, Sher-Wood, Warrior, Graf, and STX just to name a few. Composite hockey stick companies can be found here.
Do they still make wooden hockey sticks? Yes, many of the main manufacturers still produce wooden sticks including Sher-Wood, CCM, Bauer, Easton and WinnWell.
Are composite sticks better? Well it depends on what you are looking for in a hockey stick. Composite sticks are lighter and have more flex resulting in a whipping action and harder shot. Then tend to break easier depending on the weight being places on certain parts of the stick. Here is a great comparison between composite and wooden hockey sticks.
How much does a hockey stick cost? This depends on the size of stick, type of stick, age of player etc. Wooden hockey sticks can range in price from $10 to $60+. Composite sticks are more expensive and can range from $50 upwards to $400.
Additional Information on Hockey Sticks
Canadian Hockey Stick Manufacturers
Wikipedia Listing: Ice Hockey Stick https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_hockey_stick
TheSportser.com Post on the Best Hockey Sticks of All Time – http://www.thesportster.com/hockey/top-15-coolest-hockey-sticks-of-all-time/