Hockey stick material construction generally falls into two categories: Wooden and composite. It’s also possible to have a mixture of the two, with a composite shaft and wooden blade. However, those are much rarer nowadays as players tend to go all-in on one construction or the other. The majority of players today opt for composite sticks. But, both wooden and composite constructions still have their pros and cons. In the end, the choice between them is primarily up to personal preference.
Wooden Hockey Sticks
Wood is the classic hockey stick material. Originally, all sticks were purely made of wood. However, today, wooden sticks are generally a combination of wood, foam, and fiberglass. Pure wood sticks do still exist, but they’re much rarer and are often less optimal than modern wooden options.
The weight, feel, consistency, durability, and price of a stick will depend on the material construction. One of the most noticeable differences between wooden and composite sticks is the weight. Wooden sticks can weigh 3-4 pounds, which is 2-3 times heavier than most composite sticks. That might not sound heavy, but when you consider all the padding you wear, every bit of extra weight will increase your fatigue.
Puck feel is one of the categories in which wooden sticks win out against composite. Many players agree that puck handling is easier with a wooden stick because they’re able to feel where the puck is and how it’s moving along the blade better. This is the primary reason why composite shafts with wooden blades were common at one point.
Wooden sticks are going to be less consistent than their composite counterparts. Because wood is a natural material, the quality is going to be less consistent throughout. These small imperfections in the wood may worsen over time as the stick is used. And, that leads us to durability. In the long term, wooden sticks are less durable because they’re susceptible to warping due to moisture. However, they’re more durable in the short term than composite sticks because they’re less prone to breaking during use.
Finally, wooden hockey sticks are generally going to be less expensive than composite ones because the materials used to manufacture them are less expensive.
Composite Hockey Sticks
Composite sticks are made of aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber and are coated with fiberglass, kevlar, or graphite. These materials allow composite sticks to be significantly lighter than wooden sticks, 2-3 times lighter, as mentioned before. However, the materials also mean puck feel is decreased compared to wood. Though, with composite materials getting better every year, the difference in puck feel is quickly shrinking.
Thanks to their highly manufactured nature, composite sticks are far more consistent than those made of wood. They don’t have natural imperfections, and any imperfections introduced during the manufacturing process are screened out. Their construction also means they can last longer than wooden sticks if taken care of — moisture isn’t nearly as damaging. But, composite sticks are more prone to snapping during play because of the light weight and high amount of force that can be put on the stick.
And, in the end, you’re going to be spending more on composite sticks. The materials used to make them are more expensive and, if you’re prone to breaking sticks, you’ll be replacing them fairly regularly.
Which Stick Material is Right for You?
As is the case with many pieces of hockey equipment, your level of play and the amount that you play are going to be major factors in shaping your choice of stick construction. If you play at a higher level, your choice of stick will have more of an impact.
Better players will be able to make the most of a composite stick. Composite sticks allow players to choose the kick point, which is the point where the stick flexes when hitting the puck. There are high, mid, and low kick points — high kick points have more power and less accuracy, and low kick points are the opposite. Wooden sticks generally have a standard kick point that can’t be chosen by the player. But, wooden sticks may be better for beginners because of their increased puck feel.
How much you play should be considered as well. The more frequently you play, the faster a wooden stick will warp. Though, it should be noted that the more frequently you play, the higher the chance that a composite stick will break as well. Considering the lower price, a wooden stick is probably the better option of the two for someone who doesn’t play all that frequently. There’s no need to purchase high-end gear if you plan to casually play once a week.
Lastly, while Shinny USA is an adult league, let’s mention children’s sticks briefly since many of our members are parents. Wooden sticks are likely going to be the best option for children for two reasons. First, wooden sticks are cheaper. Second, children will outgrow sticks fairly quickly, which ties back to the first reason. There’s no point in spending a lot on a high-end composite stick if your child is going to outgrow it in a few months.
Which hockey stick material is right for you? Well, that depends on what characteristics are most important to you. If you’re looking for a cheaper option or a stick with improved puck feel, a wooden stick is probably the answer to your problems. However, if you’re a more experienced player you could benefit more from a composite construction. The higher-end materials come with a whole host of benefits, such as decreased weight. And the ability to choose your stick’s kick point to match your playstyle shouldn’t be overlooked.
Shinny USA is an adult recreational hockey league that plays at multiple rinks around the Delaware Valley. We play in the early morning most days of the week, with some later playtimes sprinkled throughout the year for special events. Players of all skill levels are welcome, so sign up today if you’re interested in hitting the ice!