What are Hockey Sticks made of? Hint: Not just Wood!
Whether you play hockey or you are a fan, you may at one point have wondered what material sticks are made with, especially since they don’t look anything like the old wooden sticks from the early days!
So what material are hockey sticks made of nowadays? Like equipment in other sports, hockey sticks come in different materials and those materials affect the way the stick performs. Currently the most common include:
There is not a one-size-fits-all hockey stick as they have other features that also affect the way that players use them.
No longer just made of wood
The early wooden hockey sticks are heavier than the newer composite models, but hockey players like them because they can get a good feel for the puck. Interestingly, when hockey players used wooden sticks, they did not break very often because they were so strong.
Composite wooden sticks
Now in today’s hockey world, wooden sticks are not 100% wood. They usually are laminated and have fiberglass or plastic in between wooden layers.
The composite wood sticks do break because they are not as strong as solid wood sticks.
Once the layers of the stick are glued, the blade is reinforced with fiberglass and/or plastic to make it watertight. Since the blade touches the ice, water can get into the layers in the blade and create small cracks.
These laminated wooden sticks are lightweight and inexpensive, but they are not very durable.
One piece material
Many of the better hockey players use composite one-piece hockey sticks. They are lightweight, durable, but expensive!
The composite one-piece sticks give skaters plenty of puck control because they are so lightweight.
But…what are they made of? The answer varies.
One-piece composite sticks can be made of materials like titanium, carbon fiber, aluminum, and even Kevlar. Most have some graphite in them, too. Some could have wooden components.
Composite hockey sticks can be two pieces or more, too.
The lower priced hockey sticks are often made in two separate pieces, where the blade is made of one material and the stick in another.
How composite sticks are made
When a composite stick is made, a sheet of composite material is molded into the shape of the stick and/or the material is the pushed through a machine to compress it into the final shape.
Fiberglass hockey sticks are strong and flexible, but they are also rather heavy.
The fibers in the material create the flexibility and the resin that bonds the sheets of fiberglass together create the strength.
Fiberglass sticks are actually rather heavy and surprisingly, they are also the weakest of the materials. Most players no longer choose 100% fiberglass sticks simply because they are not as durable.
However, young hockey players usually learn with a fiberglass stick because they are the least expensive of the composite models. Young players do not break sticks as often as veterans, so fiberglass sticks are still ok to use.
Graphite sticks are rather popular because they are are light, flexible, and strong.
The only big downside is that they are expensive. Hockey players use carbon and graphite synonymously. These sticks are made of a carbon that is either gray or black and is soft and malleable. Most people know the material from their pencils – despite it being lead-free.
The graphite or carbon used to make hockey sticks actually comes from fibers found in the pitch that comes from petroleum processing and is mixed with another material, a byproduct called polyacrylonitrile.
The fibers are heated and stretched; this process removes all of the excess chemicals with the exception of carbon. Once the carbon is pure, manufacturers add oxygen to get the composite materials to stick. Eventually, the carbon fibers have oxygen and then a sticky material like an epoxy, urethane, or nylon on it and those fibers are made into a long cloth-like sheet and sent to hockey stick manufacturers.
The hockey stick manufactures take it from there. Some make them completely out of graphite and the sticks are lightweight and amazing to use. Some will add graphite to strengthen wooden or composite sticks with a fiberglass base. Some are mixed with an even more expensive material – Kevlar (yes like a bulletproof vest) to make them incredibly strong.
Even though most graphite sticks are not made of wood, most hockey players say that they feel like lightweight wooden sticks.
Aluminum hockey sticks are also strong and light, but they are easy to break.
On the positive side, they are very affordable and good if you need a stick in a pinch. Many aluminum sticks have shafts that are aluminum with wooden blades that can be replaced. One good thing about aluminum sticks is that do not warp and they are more durable than wooden sticks. But, they are nowhere near as good as graphite or Kevlar sticks.
Aluminum sticks are made like other composite sticks. Sheets of aluminum are folded to get a block. Then, the blocks are cut into shafts before they are run through an extruder to the final shape. The shafts are heated to make them strong. Most are made just of aluminum, so no other materials are added.
Kevlar & Titanium
There are two other incredibly strong, expensive, and durable materials for sticks.
It is possible to buy 100% Kevlar sticks and 100% titanium sticks.
Titanium are the most expensive and surprisingly, they come in varying flexibility ratings. If titanium sticks can be made in a less expensive way, they could become the future of hockey sticks because they are practically unbreakable and very light. Elite hockey players enjoy using them to move the puck up and down the ice.