Saving Wood

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Paul Henderson scored arguably the most famous goal in hockey history in 1972.

When Sidney Crosby scored the OT winning goal for Canada at the 2010 Olympic Games, the stick and puck went missing.  It became a national uproar.  The stick and puck eventually showed up and had mistakenly been misplaced.

Paul Henderson’s stick is apparently safe and sound at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Or is it?

At a book launch the Ultimate Leafs Fan hosted in 2012, in honour of the 40th anniversary of the 72 Summit Series, I met an interesting couple.  This couple claimed to have the stick Henderson scored the famous goal with in game 8.

As their story goes, their two young boys attended a hockey camp that summer and Henderson was one of the instructors.

Henderson took a shine to their sons and he became a favorite of the two young hockey players.

That September 1972, the boy’s parents were two of the 3,000 Canadian fans that made the journey to Russia to cheer for Team Canada.

With game 8 ending in the dramatic fashion we are all so familiar with, it was bedlam amongst the Canadian followers in the rink.   The Canadian fans cheered the players as they made their way to the dressing room.    Should we ask for a stick they thought?   Henderson was after all the boy’s favourite so why not ask him?   Players were handing sticks to the crowd of Canadians, so as Henderson passed them,  they politely asked for his stick.  Paul,  to their excitement obliged.   Immediately the thought of fighting over the one stick occurred to both parents.  Brad Park handed over his stick as he made his way through the jubilant throng of well wishers.

Many years passed before the Summit Series became very topical.  The famous stick had sat for years in the family recreation room without any inquiries from anyone.   Henderson scored with 34 seconds left so did he have the presence of mind to switch sticks thinking the one he was holding was about to become a stick of historic significance?

Not likely!

Henderson like the rest of his team mates were focused on killing the remaining time and winning the series.

Lefty Reid, the curator of the HHOF at the time, claims he got the stick.

Or did he?

At the 1988 Olympics, Wayne Gretzky wanted the Olympic logo on his stick along with the Canadian red and white.  The logo is protected therefore, to avoid conflict, Gretzky had a design of three rings interlocking and a rounded WG stamped on the butt of the shaft.  Furthermore, each stick was also numbered to protect against counterfeits.

The previous examples of acquiring keepsakes sum up collecting of any item.

The first example is the pure joy of a keepsake.

The second about the value or the fear of value lost.  Thirdly, about protecting fraud before it occurs.

Throughout his playing career Gretzky gave away approximately 700 sticks a year.  He paid for the sticks personally.   Al Strachan mentioned this in his latest book on Gretzky, 99.

His last game in the NHL Gretzky used a different stick for each shift; he then signed, dated and numbered each one.   These treasures were gifted to Wayne’s teammates on the New York Rangers and training staff as a personal memento from the game.

I’ve been offered a few over the years.

Mark Messier used 5 sticks in his last game and gifted those to the 5 people closest to him.  I own the one he gave to Gretzky.

In the early years hockey sticks up to the 70s, where made of wood.  Player used and team signed sticks were regularly given away in those days.  Those sticks today however can fetch some hefty money; sometimes into the thousands.  The value is determined by the player who used the stick and of course condition.

I have a 1974 Team Canada, Bobby Hull game used stick.  It’s signed by the whole team and the shaft was shaved on one side for the signatures (easier to sign).

Gretzky game used sticks today start at $1.500 and can command 5 figure price tags.   Game used sticks from the 70’s to present  day can be purchased for a few hundred bucks.  Obviously there are exceptions for players like Orr, Messier, Howe to name a few, which sell at a premium price.

While nothing beats getting a stick from the actual player, sticks can be authenticated by knowledgeable people in the hobby.  They can also be photo matched as another form.

I have many team signed sticks from the Leafs going back to the 1930s.  Team signed sticks from the vintage eras are becoming harder to find.

The cost of sticks today limit the amount a player or team will give away.

The hockey stick has come a long way from a one piece hand carved piece of wood in the late 1800’s to the composite one piece used today.

The hockey school I ran in the 80’s had a number of stick and hockey equipment companies willing to sponsor us.  The benchmark was set by Bauer and CCM.  One day a guy approached and wanted a few minutes to talk about sponsoring our hockey school.  He introduced himself as a representative of Easton.   My immediate response was,

“You do notice were in a hockey rink, not on a baseball diamond?”

Laughing at my attempt to be funny he went on to explain how they were about too revolutionize the game of hockey with a new age stick made of aluminum.

“Aluminum, you must be joking” I said thinking what waste of time this is turning out to be.

He went on to explain it would be an aluminum shaft and the stick blade would be interchangeable.   Heat the aluminum shaft at the bottom with a hair dryer, warm up the glue on the small stub attached to the stick blade.  The process then was inserting the glued piece of the blade into the opening of the aluminum shaft.   The shaft was hollow and extremely light but the flex would come in different variations.

“And how much will this cost for me to put my own stick together?” I asked more curious than anything.

“Well $100 for the aluminum shaft and the replaceable blades around 20 a piece.”

“Sticks cost $25 to $35 now and people are complaining constantly.  Who’s going pay a $100 for a shaft and then $20 to $25 for blades?  And then put it together.”

We went with CCM.