Above: Image © Anders Elkjaer Johansen, Public Domain

If you've played hockey, you've no doubt had to do it yourself. If you've watched hockey, you've probably seen it done. Pre-game shows love to show players getting ready for games doing it.There are many reasons why players choose to tape their sticks, and while most tape their sticks in a similar fashion, many players will personalize their tape job to suit their own needs

Almost all hockey players choose to tape the blade of their hockey stick to some degree, as it has many advantages. It improves control of the puck by providing additional friction (resistance between the stick and puck), it deadens vibrations in the stick upon receiving a hard pass (or taking a shot!), and it provides a protective barrier between the stick and moisture from the ice, prolonging the life of the stick. Taping the stick from the toe (the end furthest from the shaft) to the heel allows the player to put more spin on the puck as he/she shoots or passes, which improves control and accuracy.

Did you know? The primary reasons for taping the hockey stick blade include increased puck control, prevention of water damage, and dampening of vibrations.

Most players will use a specific style of tape, friction tape, which is a cotton fabric mixed with rubber adhesive. When applied to the blade, this gives the player a mildly sticky surface that helps to maintain puck contact on the blade.

Did you know? Friction tape, a cotton fabric permeated with a rubber adhesive, is occasionally used by electricians due to the insulating properties of the adhesive compound (though common PVC electrical tape is more frequently used instead).

Other players choose to use hockey tape without these adhesive properties, since shot speed may be compromised if the puck is slower leaving the stick blade. Players generally use either white or black tape. White tape allows the player to see the puck better on their stick, and for this reason most goalies will use white tape on their sticks. Other players use black tape for the opposite reason: they believe it will camouflage the puck on their stick, and therefore prevent the goalie from seeing the release of the shot for an extra split second. In a fast-moving game like hockey, a split-second advantage can make all the difference!

Did you know? The NHL rulebook does not specify what color tape must be used in taping the stick - so far, no fashion-conscious NHL players have color-coordinated their stick to their uniform.

In addition to taping the blade of their stick, most players will also apply tape around the shaft of the stick. This is most common at the butt-end of the stick, where players will wrap several layers of tape over the same area to produce a raised knob at the end of the stick. This helps players hang onto their sticks when making poke-checks, extremely important for defencemen and especially goalies, and also makes it easier for the player to pick up a dropped stick without having to remove their gloves because it raises the shaft of the stick a little off the ice as it lays on the surface.

Moreover, some players choose to tape areas further down the shaft of their stick. For example, centremen may have a small area of the shaft taped where they would grip the stick during a faceoff (down closer to the blade), to avoid slipping during these battles for the puck while other players may choose to re-enforce the area where the shaft meets the blade to prevent stick breakage from other players hacking or slashing at their sticks.

So there you have it. The next time you're watching a hockey game, pay attention to the tape on the sticks. You may notice tape in places you hadn't seen the tape before, and will sound like a hockey genius as you tell your friends why they've taped their stick the way they have. It will add another layer of enjoyment to an already fantastic game!

A little extra...unique taping styles

Not every player tapes his stick the same way. Some of the games greats have adopted unique styles they believed to give them an edge on the ice - whether they did or not is anyone's guess, but you certainly can't argue with the success of these three players:

  • Bobby Orr: commonly used only one strip of tape, right across the middle of the blade in the sweet spot of the stick
  • Wayne Gretzky: used friction tape, but sprinkled baby powder on the blade afterwards to reduce the adhesiveness of the tape
  • Luc Robitaille: used black tape in the 1st and 3rd periods, but switched to white tape during the 2nd period of his games

Learn More!

Andrew H

I am a native of Vancouver, with a B.Sc. in pharmacology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and am currently doing my Ph.D in cardiovascular physiology at UBC. I am an avid photographer, hockey fan (Go Canucks!) and hiker, having hiked the 77 km West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island twice, among other conquests. In addition, I am a frequent player of video games, owning several different systems. My favorite games, while numbering too many to mention, include God of War, Metroid Prime, and Super Mario Galaxy.

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