More than any other piece of equipment or facet of the game, the stick is what players fret over most. Whether hard-working defensive defencemen or top scorers in the league, they are most consumed by their stick. It is the instrument most players connect to success or failure. Indeed, on off-days an NHL dressing room can be crowded with stick reps from various companies meeting with players and fine-tuning the stick to a player’s specifications. Once these sticks are crafted into a perfect style, the player has his own “pattern,” as it is called, which is then sold across the country to the average Joe playing shinny with friends.
The stick has many nicknames: twig, cue, and lumber among them. But the crafting of one to a player’s needs can be complex. The shaft can be heavy or light, stiff or flexible. The lie can be high or low; the blade straight or curved. The stick can be made of wood, graphite, or a composite. It can be one piece or two. And, of course, there is the intangible “feel” that a player can’t describe or design or write down on a piece of paper.
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Once the player receives a batch of sticks, he then fine-tunes them even more. He’ll shave the top and wrap tape around the knob in a particular way. He’ll blow-torch the blade a bit here and there, or shave the toe. But once he finally has the stick in game-ready shape, it becomes alive, almost like a brother or lover. The hard work is done, but the loving is still required to make it perform.
Literally every player has a superstition associated with his stick, but here is a generous sample of what various players past and present have done with their most prized possession:
• Daniel Briere talks to his stick.
• Vincent Lecavalier won’t let his stick touch the ground.
• Pierre Mondou carved the letter G on all of his sticks for luck, the G standing both for goals and gagner (win).
• Joe Nieuwendyk sprinkled baby powder on the blade of his sticks before each game.
• Stephane Richer made sure that his number 10 was stamped on all of his sticks.
• Petr Svoboda would put his stick in the same place during intermission and wouldn’t let anyone else touch it.
• Darryl Sydor always liked to lean his stick up against the same black scuff mark on the wall. One time, the arena crew painted that wall, covering the spot. The next day, Sydor remade the scuff mark in the same place.
• John Tavares gets five sticks ready the day before a game. He puts four at his stall and a fifth near the skate sharpener.
• Darcy Tucker prepares only one stick per game because he believes the others might get jealous.
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