Why Do Players Tape Their Ice Hockey Sticks?
One of the crucial elements in ice hockey as a sport is the ice hockey stick. The sport has a stick as its primary equipment which can be wooden or synthetic. The tape jobs on sticks are unique among ice hockey players with each having a distinctive tape style and pattern that works for them. However, this does not mean it is solely for fun or stick decoration. It also influences the playing style of players.
Now, this brings the question “For what reason do pro players tape their sticks”. The answer will be given as we will be exploring the reasons and ways to tape a hockey stick.
Reasons For Taping An Ice Hockey Stick?
There are four main benefits players enjoy from taping their hockey sticks.
1. Increased Grip And Comfort
Composite hockey sticks compose of carbon fibre, carbon and aramid, making them a slippery material, especially in presence of little moisture. The slippery nature reduces the grip strength and power used when performing a pass or shot. And when playing ice hockey, the last thing a player wants is for his stick to slide off his gloves.
To enhance grip, players use tapes (plane tape and grip tape) to create a knob at the top of the shaft. Similarly, the tape is used around the shaft to allow for a firmer and more comfortable grip during playoffs or when decking or stickhandling.
2. Reduced Damage To Ice Hockey Stick
The two major hockey sticks (wooden and composite) get affected during ice hockey games. Wooden sticks were initially the main types of sticks until the 1990s when composite sticks took over.
Back in the day, wooden sticks were taped because they warped easier after exposure to moisture from the ice. Also, the impact of the puck on the wooden variant caused splinters that affected the ease of puck control. Sometimes the sticks ended up broken.
Then came the new variants of sticks that do not warp (composite sticks). However, unlike wooden sticks, the chances of the sticks breaking are higher. If a composite stick has a dent, crack or knick, it would break quite easily.
It is not easy to recognise a crack on a composite stick. Moreover, hockey sticks take strong hits when blocking a shot, making a shot, slashing and even playoffs and this can sometimes lead to cracks.
To correct this, players extended the tradition of taping their ice hockey sticks so it doesn’t have damage in-between matches.
3. Efficient Puck Control
The tape job on an ice hockey stick allows for effortless command over the puck and smooth manoeuvring of the puck in any direction. It does this because it increases the friction between the puck and the stick.
Naturally, composite sticks are slippery making it hard to control the direction and movement of the puck on ice. This is because the puck has a greater chance of sliding over the blade.
However, when a tape job is done to the blade of a stick, the tape provides extra friction between the puck and the stick. To further improve the friction wax is rubbed on the taped stick.
Moreso, tapes provide a slight cushioning effect for the puck during a pass, preventing the puck from bouncing off after contact with the stick.
4. Quicker Stick Pick Up
Ice hockey sticks have a relatively flat surface, which means picking them up when they fall (with gloves) during an intense game can be a bit of a hassle. However, if a tape job is done on a stick, it can easily be picked up at the knob during a fast-paced game.
The taping at the knob provides a bit of lift for the stick above the ice, making it more effortless to pick up. This might just be crucial when your stick falls down during offence or defence.
How Do Players Tape Their Ice Hockey Stick?
The tape job of an ice hockey stick has numerous methods. It depends on your personal preference and what you think works for you. Taping of an ice hockey stick is common on three major parts of the stick.
When picking a suitable tape it is advisable to use cloth tape or other tapes with a grippy surface. Use of paper tape, electrical tape, sock tape and other tapes with a non-grippy surface will only end up removing during gameplay or affecting your grip strength.
Taping The Handle
At the handle of the stick, a knob is made. The knob of the stick is a bulge that serves as a stoppage to the upward movement of the hand and gives a firm grip on the top of the stick.
Taping the handle is quite easy. First, you will need ice hockey tape which will be wound over the top of the handle to create a bulge. To create the bulge, rip the opening of the hockey tape and use a pair of scissors to divide the stripe into two from the centre. (Dividing in this context doesn’t mean cutting a part of the tape out, but halving the width of the tape).
Close one of the two stripes allowing you to use only one side of the tape continuously when taping leave the other half unused (If you want a bigger knob you can do without cutting the tape in half)
Once divided, use one-half of the tape to continually wind the top of the handle, overlapping the tape until you get a comfortable thickness. Typically, going about 10-15 times around the top of the stick will give a good thickness for the knob.
When taping, it is important you ensure precision by taking your time to do it well.
Taping The Shaft
Once you are through with the handle, the next place to tape is the shaft. The shaft is simply a continuation of the tape job on the handle.
Unlike the handle, we won’t be using half of the width of the tape. Once with a hockey tape, go around the knob you made once and then begin to go down the shaft at an angle. You should ensure that the angle is fairly constant to prevent uneven overlapping as you go down the shaft.
In addition, the length of your tape job is based on your preference. Most players like it long, others prefer short and a few others like it somewhere in the middle.
When you have reached your desired length, end it with a horizontal lap about the shaft. Overlapping it horizontally at the end help to prevent the tape from coming off.
Taping The Blade
Talking about the blade, there are two ways of taping a stick. You can begin from toe-to-heel or heel to toe. Whichever method you choose you’ll be guaranteed the same value.
The most common method is starting from heel-to-toe because it allows for a better finish and is more durable.
To start, choose a part of the heel you want to start (preferably beginning where the blade just begins to curve) and continue all the way to the end of the blade. Once you have picked a spot get a hockey tape and wind it continuously at an angle around the blade.
It is important to ensure that the thickness of the tape is constant throughout the blade, the tapes are parallel to one another and wrinkles smooth out.
If there is a part that isn’t smooth around the edge of the blade, you can use a pair of scissors to remove the excess tape. Rubbing wax on the blade makes the blade more water-repellant. You can learn more about taping a blade from this tutorial.
Players Who Broke Their Ice Hockey Stick In The NHL
NHL sticks break during games very often. In some instances, players have lost opportunities to bag a goal or even save a goal because of a broken stick.
Some of the players who have broken their sticks during a game are:
- Andrew Peeke
- Kevin Fiala
- Sidney Crosby (Check out the Achievements, Career and Stats of Sidney Crosby)
- Alex Pietrangelo (broke 2 sticks in a game)
- Conner Mcdavid
- Ian White
- Nikita Kucherov
The way and manner of a tape job vary a lot. Some people like a full tape job, some prefer taping half of the blade, others like white tape and a few are comfortable with black.
No matter the specification you are comfortable with, a good tape job has the same advantage. Giving you a relaxed mind without wondering when your stick will shatter.