Since its start, the game of hockey has evolved immensely. In the beginning, players used to wear little to no protective gear, and the skates and sticks were very elementary. Now, thankfully, all players are required to wear protective pads and helmets made out of thermoplastic.
One element that's also changed over the years is the hockey stick. At times, the gadget was and is still difficult for players to manage on the ice. If it's so difficult to control, what do hockey players do to their hockey sticks?
Why do hockey players blowtorch their sticks?
We know this sounds odd, but trust, it's not. It's actually an incredibly beneficial method for helping the players gain control over their sticks during games.
Around an hour or two before a game, players assemble to heat their hockey sticks with a blowtorch. Brave Stick Hockey reports, "This enables [the players] to customize the blade’s curve to their own personal liking."
Many hockey sticks were straight blades in the '50s, which led to players heating the stick and bending the blade themselves, "often by wedging it under a door," says USA Today.
However, this type of hockey stock became too dangerous for the sport. USA Today continues, "The sticks — known as banana blades — became so unpredictable and dangerous that the NHL quickly put a limit on the amount of curve a stick could have."
We know how hockey players heated their sticks, but why did they do it?
There are several advantages to having a curved hockey stick.
Brave Stick Hockey states, "Hockey players decided to start curving the blades of their sticks decades ago as they found it was easier to raise the puck off the ice with a more pronounced curve."
The New York Times notes that a flat and straight blade "keeps the puck low to the ice." The publication continues, "Players settle on their ideal curve by heating the blade with a blowtorch, bending it under their feet, then sticking it into a bucket of ice."
The bend in the hockey stick can change the trajectory of an athlete's entire game. With a more defined curve, the player has a better chance of targeting the upper part of the net from a further distance. Their chances of scoring are higher, and their speed increases.
Composite sticks have changed the game of hockey.
Instead of the original one size fits all, there are now customizable composite hockey sticks for players. The practice of blowtorching your own stick is pretty much out the window at this point since players are instructed to give exact specifications on their hockey stick.
USA Today continues by affirming, "Now players get their sticks already custom fit, with precise specifications on everything from the curve of the blade to the shape of the shaft, ready to go right out of the box."
The science behind a hockey stick has evolved so much in such little time. Now hockey players rarely have to do anything to their own when it arrives.