When Georgia club hockey junior Kyle Harris started playing hockey, he didn’t use stick tape. Being so young at the time, getting to play was the only concern.
Later during Harris’ youth, tape and scissors were eventually brought into the locker room and have had their place there since.
“It initially just gave us something to do and made us feel like professionals,” Harris said. “A couple of days later, people started to bring Sharpies so we could write our numbers on the tape. It gave us our own identity.”
Hockey players started taping their sticks in the early 1900s and have done it since. It is rare for tape to be missing on the end of a hockey stick today — but why? Does it really matter?
Taping the end of the hockey stick can extend the stick life, but having tape also gives the players added feel and control of the puck.
Players take into consideration many different styles and even the different colors to use. The most common colors are black and white.
Although black tape is commonly used to hide the puck from the goalie, Harris said he attributes the “aesthetically pleasing” look black tape has on a black hockey stick. He has used black tape since his freshman year at Georgia, though it began simply from convenience.
“I remember switching to black tape only because I had run out of my own,” Harris said. “I had to use my teammate’s tape because it was the only tape available.”
If the player is looking for instant feedback on where the puck made contact with the stick, the white tape is typically used.
There are also other understandable reasons to use white tape over black.
“I like to give the goalie a chance [to see the puck],” senior Caleb Santa Maria said, followed by a laugh.
Both Santa Maria and Harris apply the tape themselves to make sure it’s perfect, making it an essential and personalized creation each time before they step on the ice.
“You have to square the tape up with the toe and then cut around it,” Harris said. “It’s a pretty meticulous process. It’s all worth it even though the tape could get smoked off during the first shift.”
Like many sports, superstitions are alive and present in the minds of hockey players, as well.
“I can’t let my stick touch the ground before it touches the ice,” Santa Maria said. “I’ve never let my stick touch the ground. I have to wax it a certain way, too. I have to do the toe and then the bottom of the blade, never the top.”
The differing tape jobs and seemingly random superstitions don’t seem to truly change the outcome of the game for a typical observer. However, it’s working for Santa Maria, Harris and the rest of the Ice Dawgs of late. Since starting the season 0-3-1, they have picked up play to win eight of the last nine games.
So maybe it’s not just random tape thrown onto the end of a hockey stick.