- What Is A Hockey Stick Made Of?
What Is A Hockey Stick Made Of?
From Mic-Mac to mishmash — that’s essentially the evolutionary arc of hockey stick construction.
The most popular sticks these days are custom, one-piece composites — typically of graphite, though exotics such as Kevlar and titanium are also used, and occasionally coatings such as nickel cobalt are applied for added strength.
In laminate-style two-piece sticks, layers of glue and wood, fiberglass or graphite — or some combination of wood, fiberglass and graphite — are used for the shafts. That’s a long way from the one-piece, hand-carved hunks of hornbeam formed by indigenous Canadian Mi’kmaqs into the first commercially produced sticks, in the late 1800s.
Going to the Wood Shed
Hornbeam trees, native to Nova Scotia, are also referred to as “ironwood” for the material’s durability and “stinkwood” because of its strong aroma when cut. As the popularity of the game and of Mic-Mac sticks grew, hornbeam supplies grew scarce and yellow birch became the wood of choice.
Those sticks were carved in one piece. By the 1920s, patented designs emerged for two-piece wood sticks, in which the blade is inserted and glued into a joint in the shaft. Wooden shafts were typically laminated birch, maple, aspen, ramin and/or ash, while the blades were usually the same wood as the shaft. Beginning in the 1950s, blades were wrapped in a woven fiberglass material.
Wood sticks typically are heavier than their composite counterparts, a useful trait when trying to dig a puck out of a battle in the corner. They’re cheaper and more durable. However, lighter sticks are widely considered to produce harder, quicker shots — which is why they’ve become far and away the more popular option among serious players.
Briefly, fueled by a 1990s Wayne Gretzky endorsement deal, aluminum-shafted sticks blossomed in popularity. But, by the end of the century, aluminum sticks — usually aluminum shafts with a wooden blade — were supplanted on the pro level by custom, one-piece composite sticks.
A composite shaft more closely approximates the feel and flexibility of wood while retaining the relative light weight of aluminum. A one-piece composite stick can be customized to a dizzying degree, tapering the shaft to lower the kick point (the point at which the shaft flexes), shaft shape (rounded or square), lie, vertical angle and curve of the blade, etc.
Clearly, these are not being carved from a tree. How are they made?
- Carbon fiber threads woven together and coated with plastic resin.
- As many as 15 sheets of carbon fiber fabric are fused together, layered in opposite directions for strength, to form the hollow shaft.
- Blades begin with a hard foam plastic core wrapped in graphite.
- Blades are glued to the shafts.
- A graphite sock is applied to the still-straight blade.
- Several subsequent layers of graphite are glued to the blade.
- A mold — whether custom for professional players or a mass production shape — puts the specified curve and vertical angle on the blade, and bonds the blade to the shaft.
- Excess graphite is removed, and the blades are sanded, buffed, painted and dipped in urethane.
- The graphics are added to the sticks using either decals or silk screens. These may be applied directly to the finished stick, or over a base layer of paint that may be added first to introduce extra color to the stick.