BIOMECHANICAL INVESTIGATIONS OF PERFORMANCE CHARACTERISTICS OF VARIOUS TYPES OF ICE HOCKEY STICKS

  • Wayne G. Marino
Keywords: composite, wood, and aluminum shafts, statics

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: The primary non-skating skills employed in ice hockey all involve use of a hockey stick to some degree. The importance of the stick is obvious in offensive skills such as shooting and passing. It is less obvious but equally important in defensive skills such as checking and face-offs. The selection and use of a stick depends on several factors which vary according to the level of hockey an individual is playing and on the skill level of the player. Cost, appearance, feel, performance, and durability are all areas that might be considered by various players. However, for those performing at elite levels feel and performance are likely the most significant factors. The stick must feel right in the hands before a player will consider using it and it must perform up to required standards in skills such as shooting and passing. The variables contributing to how a hockey stick feels and performs include primarily: weight, centre of mass location, shaft flex, resistance to twist, and breaking force. Together, these factors will determine the success of a manufacturer in promoting and selling a particular model. At present, there are three primary types of ice hockey stick. The traditional stick is made of wood with a wooden blade being glued to a wooden shaft. Variants include fibreglass wraps that cover the blade or perhaps layers of laminated wood and fibre glass pressed into the shaft. A second type of stick incorporates a hollow aluminum tube (perhaps filled with foam to dampen vibrations) into which a wooden or composite blade is inserted at one end and a wooden plug at the other end. When the blade breaks it is replaced by another without the necessity of discarding the shaft. The third type of hockey stick is similar to the aluminum tube except that it consists of a hollow tube comprised of composite materials such as graphite and kevlar. These materials are combined with resins and fibreglass to form a shaft into which a blade and a plug are inserted. At amateur levels of play all types of sticks are in common use. At the professional level, aluminum sticks have been phased out over the past two years and with the rare exception all players use either wooden or composite graphite sticks. The differences between the three types of sticks that might contribute to performance and Afeel≅ have been a topic of concern for manufacturers of hockey sticks for the past several years. Baseline information on stick and shaft characteristics is important to future design and modifications of hockey sticks. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to evaluate characteristics of various types of hockey stick shafts that contribute to the feel and performance capacity of the stick. Professional hockey players and highly skilled amateurs select sticks intuitively on the basis of Afeel≅. In this study, large samples of wood (N = 40), aluminum (N = 32), and composite (N = 55) hockey sticks were evaluated for the following characteristics: weight, centre of mass, flex strength, torsional resistance, and breaking force. Although the sticks were sampled from several manufacturers, the test protocol followed a standard procedure used by Louisville Hockey to test for performance characteristics and quality control.