Hockey Stick History

Since the beginning of ice hockey, hockey sticks have always been a matter of personal preference for hockey players. The history of the ice hockey stick has provided many guidelines and alterations for this equipment.

The history of the ice hockey stick has seen regulations in length. Ernie "Moose" Johnson, an All-Star winger and defenseman, supposedly used a hockey stick that was 75 inches long. Hockey sticks that were too long became interference in the rink. During the 1927-28 hockey season, the National Hockey League (NHL) made a new rule, requiring all sticks to be 63 inches in length or shorter.

The next major change in hockey stick history was the bent blade, which altered the direction and the speed of a slapshot. It has been speculated that Cy Denneny of the Ottawa Senators was the first to try bending his stick during the 1926-27 season. He bent the blade by dipping it in hot water to soften it, then shaped the blade as it cooled. Ice hockey stick history did not change much, though, because of the importance of puck handling and the backhand shot, which was improved with a straight stick.

The first use of curved blades is traditionally credited to Andy Bathgate of the New York Rangers, and to Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks. In the late 1950s, Bathgate twisted the blade of his stick to make more unpredictable slapshots. Mikita, at about the same time, hit a puck with a broken stick that was twisted, which caused the puck to move unexpectedly.

Bathgate, Mikita, and other players began experimenting with various blade bends, which created the "banana blade." Manufacturers began creating pre-bent sticks, which increased the unpredictability of slapshots. Goalies had to guess where the puck was going, and often guessed wrong.

Shooters often didn't know where their shot was going, either. The NHL saw this as a serious problem for potential injuries. In 1967-68 season, the NHL released a rule that the maximum allowable curve on a stick could be no greater than 1 inch. In the 1970-71 season, they decreased the bend to half an inch, where it remains today.

Another important piece of hockey stick history is the type of material used. Originally, ice hockey sticks were made of wood. Since then, with advancements in technology, they have also been made of aluminum, graphite, and fiberglass, to better fit individual playing styles. Also, hockey sticks have been designed as two materials, and are not just a single piece. In the history of ice hockey sticks, players and manufacturers have continued to refine the equipment to play the game more strategically.