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Why Do Hockey Players Tape Their Sticks?

Posted by Brett
hockey stick being taped in the foreground with out of focus player in the background

There are actually several answers to the question – why do hockey players tape their sticks? First, players may tape their stick to protect it from wear, tear, and damage. Secondly, players tape their sticks to change how the stick feels and how the player handles it. Lastly, taping a hockey stick can change the control and interaction between the stick and the puck.

To learn more about each of the reasons players tape their sticks, keep reading. Then check out KwikRink Synthetic Ice.

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Taping hockey sticks for protection

Back in the days of wooden sticks, wrapping friction tape on your hockey stick was a way to protect the stick from ice melt so that it didn’t warp.

A warped hockey stick makes it challenging to execute the perfect pass. Wooden sticks also are prone to splintering, and taping helped to prevent that from happening.

As the game moved from wood sticks to composite sticks, and with the development of synthetic hockey ice, protection from warping due to snow and ice buildup became less of an issue.

Protecting the blade is still essential, however, and taping the stick still prevents the blade from chipping or breaking.

Taping for added stick and puck control

Another reason players tape their hockey sticks is to increase their control over the stick and the puck. Composite sticks can feel slippery. Taping the handle can improve the player’s grip on the stick.

Often a player will use tape to create a knob at the end of the shaft. This knob helps to prevent the stick from slipping out of the player’s hand and makes the stick handier to pick up when dropped.

More tape added to the shaft improves the player’s grip on the stick, which makes it easier to control the puck.

Adding tape improves the contact between the blade and the puck. The taped surface of the blade makes it easier to control the puck and accurately shoot a pass across the expanse of the rink to a speeding teammate.

The contact provided by the taped surface can also make it easier for the player to put more spin on the puck. That may be the difference between the puck spinning into the corner of the net or landing in the goalie’s glove.

After taping their stick, some players add a coat of wax or mink oil to the taped stick. If you are playing on natural ice, the wax layer can protect against snow or ice buildup. It can also allow for a little more friction between blade and puck, helping the player to control the puck better.

How do hockey players tape their sticks?

The most frequently used tape for hockey sticks is cloth tape. Most people are familiar with the cloth tape used in the past for medical bandages. The tape used today to wrap a hockey stick is very similar.

There are many techniques for taping hockey stick blades. Probably the most common is to wrap the tape across the blade. Players may differ on how much tape to use, the amount of blade to cover, or the width of the tape. All will affect the blade surface and, therefore, how it interacts with the puck.

Wrapping tape around the blade does cause some additional drag between the stick and the ice, which some players find makes stick handling more difficult.

One alternative is to place a single strip of tape across the length of the blade, which does provide some additional control of the puck without creating the friction between the ice and the stick.

As a note of caution, it is unwise to retape over a previous tape job, or it will weigh down your stick with the watery tape of the prior effort.

close up on hockey players sticks on ice with goalie out of focus in background

Where to use each taping technique

The single strip method may be particularly useful when skating on the synthetic ice sheets that are becoming more common and are available in all sizes from custom practice areas to home ice skating rinks, to full-scale training centers.

Fully taping the blades is beneficial when skating on traditional ice where the player wants to avoid warping due to water damage or as extra insurance against breaking and splintering.

In the final analysis, hockey stick taping may be more art than science. There are as many ways to prepare a hockey stick for action as there are hockey players. Some of the best players in the history of the game took different approaches.

hockey players in random colored gear lined up sitting on a bench holding their hockey sticks

Do all hockey players tape their sticks?

If you look at the stick that Bobby Orr used to score the winning goal in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup, you will struggle to find any tape. He didn’t really like using it and gradually reduced the amount he used over his career.

Whether science or superstition, stick taping is an integral part of hockey. If you are facing off at center ice in the NHL or a subscriber to the NHL Center Ice television package, understanding the intricacies of the game will enhance your enjoyment of it.

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