When you think of a hockey stick, chances are it’s a wooden one. However, over the last two decades with several technological advances, the game has adapted to satisfy consumer demand and the introduction of artificial playing surfaces. As a result, a number of different materials are being used to manufacture hockey sticks and not just the traditional mulberry wood that we all envision.
During the 1990s, aluminium shafts were introduced with significantly greater hitting power. This was short-lived however after a number of stick failures resulting in injury. The inclusion of metal in hockey sticks was banned. Since then, other materials have been introduced to create composite sticks made from things like carbon fibre, Kevlar and fibreglass.
In the past, hockey sticks were made from one block of mulberry wood. Mulberry was the favoured choice due to its strength and flexibility. As the game developed though, it became apparent that using one block of wood couldn’t provide the increased curvature required due to the excess stress on the wood. As a solution to this problem, the stick was made in two parts with the handle being bonded to a laminated head piece. This remains one of the most popular choices of stick construction to this day.
Hockey sticks in the 21st century make use of a number of different modern materials for their construction:
Fibreglass: This is a cheap material and offers great flexibility and control. It is made from very fine glass strands that are woven together and mixed with resin to give it stiffness and increased strength. It can be applied to the stick’s head to help prevent excessive wear and tear. Perhaps test one during a training session. For Hockey Drill Videos, visit https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Hockey/
Carbon Fibre: This is a more expensive option and consists of thin strands of carbon woven into strips or sheets. It offers incredible strength and is used in many hi-tech industries. It makes the hockey stick extremely stiff, enabling a lot of power when hitting the ball. It does have one disadvantage in that it is quite brittle and has a low resistance to impact. Therefore, carbon fibre is often combined with another material less prone to breakage.
Kevlar: You might have heard of this material as that which is used in bullet-proof vests and body armour. Its biggest advantage is its incredible strength and flexibility. It is used in combination with both carbon fibre and fibreglass to provide maximum strength to a hockey stick.
Resin: These are glue-type substances that when dry create a tough, wear-resistant material. They work particularly well on ground that is water or sand based and as such are often applied to stick heads that are either wooden or composite for protective purposes.
Which is best?
Most players will have their own personal preference and there are numerous pros and cons to both wooden and composite hockey sticks.
Wood Pros – Often cheaper which is reflected in the retail price. The natural feel is softer, which many players believe feels better on the ball.
Wood Cons – As they are hand-made, it’s often difficult to find an exact match when it comes to replacing a stick with matching performance levels. Wood sometimes provides inconsistencies in quality, density and moisture content. It can succumb faster to wear and tear, take on moisture and split or break.
Composite Pros – These offer greater power and strength in a lighter frame with a larger sweet spot area for ultimate hitting power. The way they are manufactured allows for greater consistency in weight, power and performance. They tend to be more durable, consistent and have a longer playing life.
Composite Cons – Some say they feel harsher with a less refined ball feel and the manufacturing process leads to higher pricing than for a comparable wooden stick.