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“Alabaster Assassin”: The Rise of the White Hockey Stick

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The traditional hockey stick may be black, but a growing crop of NHL youngsters is turning to a white stick - and looking to the past.

Image courtesy of Buzzmills

An experiment: Close your eyes, and picture a hockey stick.

What does it look like?

The stick in your mind is probably somewhere between wood-brown and graphite-black, depending on your age, and stands out against an ice sheet like an eyelash in a bowl of milk.

Whatever you imagined, it probably didn’t look like this:

The Warrior Covert QR3 hockey stick in white.
Warrior Hockey

That’s the Covert line of hockey sticks, made by Warrior Hockey. As you may notice, they are almost completely white. They are monolithic in their monochromaticity.

So why has Warrior bucked the trend of black hockey sticks? Let’s let the good folks at Warrior PR explain it themselves.

From their website:

Well, the truth is, we never stopped making white sticks for NHL players. There has [sic] always been a few guys that are devout white stick users, and we had to keep them happy (I’m looking at you, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, and Patrick Eaves). However, we did stop offering white sticks at retail (our last was the Covert QR3 in 2014-2015).

Needless to say, we’ve heard your requests.

That’s right: for years, white hockey sticks were relatively common in the NHL, if not quite the norm. Why, the list of retired NHL legends who have rocked the pale pole is a who’s-who of all-time greats. Adam Oates, Mike Bossy, and even the Great One himself Wayne Gretzky all used them at times.

Adam Oates
Mike Bossy
Wayne Gretzky

But as Warrior’s website mentions, these white wonders have become increasingly rare in recent years. Indeed, it was Warrior-sponsored athlete and San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski’s stick that first caught my eye when the Sharks played the Capitals in Washington on January 22nd.

That might have been the end of it, and you might never be reading this, if it weren’t for a shocking development just a month and half later at Capitals practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington: Jakub Vrana had gone over to the Dark-...er, Light Side.

At this point, we here at Japers’ Rink decided to head directly to the source, and asked Capitals players themselves about this Great White Menace. For Vrana, it was more a matter of switching things up than choosing a particular color.

“I only have one. I just wanted to try it at practice, see how it feels,” the Czech winger told Japers’ Rink.

Other players agreed that the color is far less important than just finding something new.

“Lots of guys try different things, different sticks, to find what feels different and better,” explained forward Chandler Stephenson. “Once you use your stick so many times, you start to lose the feel, you know? Of how good it felt when you first got it.”

In chasing that thrill of first love, players will go to extreme lengths - even at the expense of aesthetics. “You see guys cutting their sticks real short to make it stiff, putting different color tape on it to make it look as sh*tty as possible, that sort of thing.”

But would Stephenson himself fancy a go with the alabaster assassin?

“Not my thing. I’ve never used one, and I probably won’t. White ice, white stick? I don’t know, doesn’t seem like a good match for me,” he says. Stephenson acknowledges the (white) elephant in the room. “It wouldn’t even feel like you have anything in your hands. How would you see it?”

Andre Burakovsky agrees, recalling his experience trying out a white stick as “kind of weird,” and adding, “it’s not really what I prefer to play with.”

“I think it’d be pretty challenging for a goalie,” Stephenson concedes, however. “Just seeing a floating puck, not knowing where it’s going?”

And therein lies the rub for white stick naysayers and champions alike: does the icy backdrop of the rink make a white stick harder to pick up for goalies?

Burakovsky doesn’t think a white stick makes much difference, but perhaps a silver one?

One Capitals goalie couldn’t care less what color stick opponents use, rejecting the notion that it helps opposing shooters.

“No. No, no, no,” Capitals goalie Pheonix Copley firmly denies. “It pops out. You see a guy with it, you recognize him on the ice. You know even quicker who’s got the puck.” Copley equates the whitewashed tomfoolery with the practice of goalies choosing distracting or deceptive colors for their pads. “You see guys have great success with dark pads and great success with white pads. There’s been all sorts of stuff since back in the day.”

The 27-year-old American netminder remains skeptical. “I’m not buying into the fact that it really has an effect.”

For his part, Vrana tends to agree.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s a stick, it’s just all white. Some sticks are white, some sticks are black, you know? I don’t think it makes a difference as long as you’re a good shooter.” And the young sniper need look no further than his own locker room for reason to believe that’s true. “Look at Ovi; he scored 65 [goals] with a white stick.”

He’s absolutely right: in 2007-2008, a baby-faced Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals - an NHL record for a left-winger - with a white CCM V10 Catapult stick.

Alex Ovechkin
AP

In fact, there is a very good chance that exact stick is the reason Vrana decided to take his own white twig for a twirl.

Per Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post:

And so continues the eternal tale of the ivory apparatus: young goalies watching young stars watch old stars try to fool old goalies, around and around forever.

I’d bet we’re just a few years away from Bauer selling a stick in Vantablack.