According to US retailer Total Hockey, 3.2 million composite hockey sticks are being manufactured each year. Each and every one of those sticks are eventually destined for landfills: they don’t break down, they can’t be recycled, they just stay there, forever. As hockey parents, can we really let this happen? I think we can’t. We need to stop buying composite and say YES to wood.

I’m Guilty. But I’m Gonna Change.

About three years ago I apparently missed a conversation my husband, Guy, and our son Nic, had about hockey sticks. I’ll admit, I’m not always listening to everything they talk about (and maybe I wasn’t even there).  But when I got this Tweet as a reaction to my post about composite sticks breaking like twigs, Guy said, “That’s exactly what I’ve been telling you all along. Composite brings no benefit to minor hockey players.”

Apparently I’m the one who brought composite into the household. Before I did that, we were green, and we had, like Teebz’ hastag, said “YES” to wood.

But I had to go and get one of those high falutin composite sticks with the name of my kid’s favourite player on it.

Guy said I got sucked in.

This poster of Wayne Gretzky and his Titan 2020 is on sale at eBay

This poster of Wayne Gretzky and his Titan 2020 is on sale at eBay

According to Guy, something happened to hockey consumers when the stick manufacturer Titan started selling the “Titan TSM 99” – a Wayne Gretzky signature stick with a fibreglass-enhanced blade, back in 1978. Gretzky played with a Titan 2020 in his early years with the Edmonton Oilers and, of course, all the kids wanted to be just like him. The Gretzky-branded hockey stick caught on like wildfire.

Even though that hockey stick was twice as much money as all the other sticks at the store, kids would beg, bargain and plead with their parents to get them one. My husband had one as a Bantam, so did nearly every other kid on the team, but he – like many others at the time – paid for it himself, with his hard-earned paper-route money.

I tried to tease him back, saying HE got sucked in, but he told me that stick lasted for three seasons, so I went back to typing.

Titan wooden stick

Titan TSM 99 – Wayne Gretzky signature stick – available on eBay

Of course, today, kids are still star-struck and buying sticks with their favourite player’s names on them, but most of those sticks are composites.

We Let Composites Waltz Right In

A thread on HFBoards last year debated the question, “Did the NHL consider allowing only wooden sticks?  In asking that question, Canukelele points out that baseball stayed pure and had no problem allowing only wooden bats.

Read the thread – you’ll find it interesting because people talk about the pros and cons of wooden sticks, but the general consensus is that although wooden sticks are “heavy”, they give players better feel and accuracy.

Okay — perhaps not the velocity — but what do you want? Accuracy or velocity? I’d say “accuracy” will top the list, every time.

As to Gretzky and his relationship with wooden sticks, here’s an expert from hockey columnist, author and commentator, Bruce Dowbiggin‘s book The Stick: A history, a celebration, an elegy:

“Ironically, one of the most indiscriminate stick users was the best offensive player the game has seen. Grateful stick representatives called Gretzky the ultimate zero-maintenance guy. Gretzky tore apart NHL scoring records in his early days using a white Titan TPM 2020, which has been described as “a log,” “a rock,” and “a railway tie.”

I found a reference on the web that said that Gretzky went through roughly 700 a year and reached out to Bruce to ask him why. Bruce said the reason why he went through so many was because he was giving them away. (Bruce, by the way, has written seven hockey books and you can track him down at Not the Public Broadcaster.com for some very interesting views on hockey and politics.)

So if wooden sticks were good enough for the guy who’s broken the most records in NHL history, aren’t they good enough for our kids?

Hockey Green

In the US, storefront and online retailer TotalHockey has trying to do something composite sticks’ shameful end with a program they set up a few years ago. Through “Hockey Green“, they’re actively supporting solutions to give these sticks an afterlife.

Total Hockey’s corporate mandate is “to do the right thing” and Hockey Green is an extension of that, collecting broken sticks from their customers and, in return, giving them $10 coupons, which can be used towards the purchase of a new one, in return. They want to help recyclers find an economically viable way to turn composite sticks into other products.

Here’s an excerpt from the Hockey Green website:

Once we have helped recyclers find an economically viable method for recycling sticks, we may be able to accept stick returns in larger quantities. Someday perhaps, the estimated fourteen million broken or unwanted composite sticks just sitting out there may be made into other useful products.


 

We like “all things bright and shiny” – including hockey sticks in our favourite colours or with a pattern from a favourite player. Wood sticks can be bright and shiny too – like the Sher-Wood USA Hockey Learn to Play 550 Wood Stick. On your next trip to the store, or to your favourite online retailer, think about getting a wooden stick. By saying “Yes” to wood, you’re also saying yes to our environment.

And if we all did that, hockey parents would be making a very significant contribution in reducing hockey’s polluting ways.