Ahead of the curve. The evolution of hockey sticks

As all good sports equipment should, hockey sticks have evolved over the years.

Online there is an abundance of field hockey sticks to choose from, all boasting exciting features to enhance a player’s performance. Sticks for every position, style of play and much, much more. Sticks for men and women and junior hockey sticks. However, this wasn’t always the case. Indeed, field hockey sticks have always been ahead of the curve in their development.

There is evidence that this sport, in whatever form, originated in prehistory during the ancient Egyptian times and could be even older, Thanks to this, there is an argument that the field hockey stick could be one of the oldest pieces of sports equipment. Since these days, hockey is a game that has come to be enjoyed in many cultures all over the globe, although the rules have changed significantly, and some nations play differently from others. For a sport that could have potentially been the parent of so many sports, there is a lot of history here that should not be ignored.

Originally, hockey sticks were made from bamboo. However, English hockey players soon changed this material, as they utilised wood sources that were local to them, with the most common being willow bark. A high number of hockey sticks were also made from mulberry wood or hickory, and they were very expensive, and the head of the sticks were hand carved. There are two parts of a field hockey stick – this is the head and the handle. The head is used to hit the ball, it is the curved section of the stick, and the handle is where the person holds it.  In the early days, the head and the handle were two separate parts that were then joined. This is not the case nowadays, as manufacturers create the hockey stick using one single piece of wood.

There have been many alterations and adaptions over the years. The first major change occurred in 1860 when the playing side of the stick became flat. The playing side is where the toe of the head of the sick is facing away from the player. During the 1960s and 1970s, manufacturers were permitted to start using composite materials, which were used in hockey sticks to generate more power. The size of the head become smaller in 1980 and then in 1990 metal handles were used when manufacturing field hockey sticks, however, several hockey federations in a number of countries prohibited the use of them.

The hook is a style of hockey head that we are all familiar with now. However, it first came on the scene when Toon Coolen, a Dutch inventor, patented a design with this name in 1982. A year later, Grays, the famous hockey stick manufacturers, took up the design. However, ten years later it was ruled that the patent only protected hook shapes within twenty degrees of the vaguely written nearly 180, which refers to the upturn degree of the toe in relation to the stick’s shaft. This led to other designs of a similar appearance, i.e. with the J-shaped stick heads, entering the market. The modern hook we are familiar with today was re-launched in the mid-90s by Thomas Kille, who was a former German U21 international player. Nowadays, you will find that there is a choice of angle of hook upturn, ranging from 45 degrees to 75 degrees. You can also choose from a vast assortment of colours, designs and graphics, as manufacturers began to realise that fashion and branding were of paramount importance.

So, we have taken a look at some of the key developments over the years; so, you can get a good understanding of how field hockey sticks have changed. But, for further clarity, let’s go through the actual timeline. The first changes came about in the 1860s when stick heads were made from mulberry timber and the heads were made shorter. This coincided with hockey being taken to India. In the 1960s and 70s, reinforcements with carbon, glass fibres, fibreglass and aramid. A decade later, and there was the introduction of the hook head, upturned toe and ‘J’ shaped designs. In fact, there were many significant introductions in the 1980s, including the setback stick head, kinked shaft stick, and a greater assortment of hockey stick lengths to choose from.

After this, specialist goalkeeper’s sticks were introduced, with ZigZag save being the very first ones. And, after two years of experiment, composite NHL sticks were fully accepted, although metal handles were banned. Once we hit the millennium, more modern changes came about, including the introduction of low bow sticks, the increase of the bow of the face of the handle in order to facilitate drag flicking, as well as the refinement of head shapes. This is also a period that saw wooden hockey sticks decline in favour of the newer composite field hockey sticks.

What are the top three brands selling field hockey equipment today?

When playing any type of sport, the importance of purchasing the best equipment cannot be underestimated. This is especially the case when it comes to the likes of field hockey. After all, poor quality equipment can be extremely detrimental to your game. It can affect your overall performance and make it more difficult for you to perform to your full ability. Keeping that in mind, read on to discover the top three brands to purchase field hockey equipment from…

Mazon

This is an Australian company that is has a reputation as an innovator in the world of field hockey. After all, they are constantly releasing new products onto the market. All of their equipment is designed with maximum efficiency in mind. They want to minimise the effort of the user as much as possible and this is something they have certainly managed to achieve.

Dita

Next we have Dita, a sports company that originates in America. Dita was established in 1891 and has gone from strength to strength ever since. When it comes to field hockey, they have generated a lot of attention for their excellent turf shoes and hockey sticks. This is definitely a reliable brand to purchase from when in need of field hockey equipment.

Grays

Last but not least, this post simply would not be complete without mentioning Grays. The official name for this brand is actually ‘Grays International’, however most people drop the last word. The company was founded in 1855 and sells a huge selection of hockey equipment. Their range of hockey sticks is worthy of further elaboration. They have a vast number of designs to choose from and they are generally believed to sell some of the most stylish hockey sticks as well.

All in all, it is clear to see that there have been many adaptions when it comes to hockey sticks over the years. And, it is likely that there will be even more in the future. Today, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to sticks, so it makes sense to always choose the best one.

Read the July issue of #Sportsider here.

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