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Nothing lasts forever, right? Well, a diamond lasts forever, supposedly. And don’t forget that pain is temporary, and glory is forever. A thing of beauty lasts forever, too, unless it lost and gone...forever. But what about your hockey stick? Clichés aside, how long does a hockey stick last?
The life of your hockey stick will depend on a variety of factors, each of which may be determinative. Stick construction, playing frequency, your playing position, and your level of play—all of these can influence how long your stick lasts. Unfortunately, there’s no one answer.
One main factor that determines how long your hockey stick will likely last is its construction. You’ll find online hockey forum folks attesting to the wood stick’s superior feel and durability, observing that current players seem to break a lot more sticks than they used to. Today, most sticks are made from graphite, or carbon fiber, and some combination of fiberglass, kevlar, titanium, or aluminum, with the most expensive sticks made only of carbon fiber. Composite sticks are lighter weight and, theoretically, more durable. Cheaper composite sticks with more fiberglass and less carbon fiber tend to be more fragile.
For example, the Bauer NSX is a recreational-level hockey stick made from “unidirectional carbon and fiberglass,” that costs about $60. On the other hand, Bauer’s Supreme 1S boasts their lightweight TeXtreme construction, a carbon fiber that’s “20% lighter and manages impact stresses 20% better than 12K carbon fiber.” Add to that the various high-tech molding processes Bauer uses in their high-end sticks, removing voids and excess resins (for shaft consistency and durability) and you’re looking at a $300 stick. Does that mean the 1S will last longer? Maybe.
Almost all of today’s NHL players use top-end composite sticks.
Do you take a lot of slap shots from the blue line, or do you typically shoot wrist shots from the slot? Repeated slap shots put more stress on your stick shaft and blade, increasing the likelihood your stick will fail. If you’re a nimble center looking to get off ultra-quick wrist shots, you’re probably going to want a lightweight, low-kick stick because your position requires it. A stick like that may not hold up to a lot of abuse because of how it’s designed to perform. A beefier, high-flex, mid-kick stick, better for distance power shots, will perform differently and may better resist breaking, too.
Similarly, sudden impacts can also break your stick. If you’re a shot blocker, or you tend to camp out in front of the crease, you’re likely to lean on your stick more, and it’s likely to take a lot of hacking. Your style of play and your role on the team will influence how much abuse your stick takes and how long it’s likely to last.
If you’re out on the ice four or five times a week, playing at an elite level, your gear—including your hockey stick—will wear out faster than if you play once a week with beginners. If you’re a novice hockey player, or an intermittent beer-league hero, you’re probably not going to play with the same force or frequency as an upper-level player and, consequently, your stick will last longer.
A breeze through the hockey forums reveals no one can say for sure how long a hockey stick lasts. Even the most durable carbon stick, players note, can break in a week or can last a year. Most people cite frequency and level of play as two central factors for determining the lifespan of a hockey stick.
Remember, too, you may want to replace a stick when it’s not broken—it may have lost its stiffness, its pop. When a stick feels “whippy” or weak in shooting or passing, many players will buy a new stick because the old one isn’t performing like it should. It’s worn out—a factor that a novice may not even notice.
You also may decide to upgrade your hockey stick with each model year to take advantage of new technologies. If that’s the case, it may not matter if your stick’s worn out.
Most of us, though, need to optimize value. Consider your style, level, and frequency of play. If you’re outfitting a youth player, ask yourself if it makes sense to spend-up for a top-of-the-line twig that’s so stiff your child can’t bend it. Or maybe you want to try out a wood stick rather than a composite stick. Some players claim wood sticks offer a superior puck feel, after all.
Whatever your level or frequency of play, don’t expect your hockey stick to last forever. And certainly not forever and a day.