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Equipment Bag

A Look at Butts
By Malcolm Sutherland

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Long, short, squared off, nubbed borders, shaved down, or built up
cylindrical casts of tape. These are the handles of a hockey stick. The
handle is commonly referred to as the butt end. The average stick rack is
stuffed with a particular and curious arrangement of taped patterns that
differentiate each stick as an individual. Players take pride in the
production of these handles. Fashioning them so they are just right and
virtually identical on each and every stick they have. Players seemingly
have a mental model of the correct pattern and taping sequence that is
cleverly created just for their stick. Any taped fabrication will simply,
not do! A player has to know his stick by the feel of his fastidiously
taped masterpiece.

At a recent United Hockey League game I asked Thunder Bay Thunder Cat's
tough guy Kevin Holliday his opinion on the taping and style of the butt end
as he proudly admired his fine craftsmanship. Incidentally other players
have referred to Kevin's stick as "The axe" or "The Paddle".

" Why do you shave your handle and tape it with grip tape Holly?"
"Cuz I like it that way Suds."
" Just ....Cuz I do"
"Ya but what's the reason?.......you ever think of that Holly."
"Nope; not really !"

Well; I have though about it ,and despite my many years in the sport, my
research and study into every little detail of the game I have failed to
come up with an exact explanation for the reasons and for the individual
difference in the taped arrangement of butt ends. Yet players insist on the
need and their desire to tape the butts of their sticks differently. In
fact I have rarely even seen two butt ends on a team that are the same.
Players spend countless minutes shaping butt ends, twisting tape and
preparing sticks for practice and games alike.

The basic purpose of taping the butt end of a stick is perhaps to define and
provide a reference for upper hand placement. Some players feel it necessary
to even shave the squared handle of the shaft down into a rounded cylinder
so that it fits into the hand nicely. Other players have even gotten so
precise in their carving that they notch the underside of the stick so that
their hand fits exactly into the grove that they have cut. I even read some
where once where a professional player actually created a handle that sat
perpendicular to the shaft and successful played with it.

If you ever get a chance to observe a teams stick room ; do it! You will
find a well equipped wood shop, that would make Norm Abrum jealous.
Outfitted with saws of various types , rasps and files, torches and heat
guns, vices, and of course lots of tape, these dens serve as the production
houses of a carefully designed hockey craft. If you watch a pro tape his
handle you will observe the spinning of tape into a tiny string-like
cylinder, and then the wrapping of this tacky tape string around a prepared
end. At the tail end of the stick players often wrap tape repeatedly in
varying widths of tape ripped according to choice. Next players often fold
and or flatten both the top and corners of their work sealing the stick end
in a vault of tape. To further develop and check the butt players will then
place the butt in their gloved hand an mold the tape until it resembles the
finished product they have imagined.

With each and every stick this process is repeated. What is interesting to
note is that the same order and sequence is followed on each stick taped.
Another player follows his own individual ritual, but it is just as exact
and ordered.

A recent phenomena has been taping the butt with grip tape, or racket tape.
This tape selection seems to add a durability to the stick handles and
reduce the need for periodic re-taping. It perhaps has come along with the
advent of aluminum and graphite shafts that are more permanent fixtures than
past wooden shafted sticks. The jury is out as to whether grip tape helps
prolong the life of the palms in gloves. Black tape however has been shown
to wear palms out more quickly than white tape. This is the reason you
rarely see a black handled stick.

The other basic reason all players tape the butt of their sticks is so that
the stick can be picked up easily if it is dropped on the ice. In addition
most rule books indicate that the butt must have some tape on it ,
supposedly for safety reasons; but I can't imagine the butt of a stick, used
correctly, as particularly dangerous taped or not.

What is clear is that the stick is an extension of the players arms and
hands and as such must have a specific personal feel that allows the player
to sense the puck on his stick as if he had the puck in his hand. The taped
configuration seems to reflect this need.

The butt of a stick serve also serve as a visual cue. Identical sticks
(brands) and blade pattern can be standing side by side or laying on the ice
side by each and a player will spot his stick with no hesitation simply by
spying the butt of the stick. Professional trainers have equal prowess in
this department quickly grabbing the right stick from a multitude of
possibilities on large stick racks located adjacent to the bench when a
player snaps his twig during a game .

On closer review I have noticed that many professional players even like to
tape the shaft of the stick in a zigzag pattern for enhanced grip. This
practice is usually done on aluminum and graphite shafted sticks. At the
professional level many players also use a curiously fashioned "gummy
stick" that has various nick names to add a tacky feel and improved grip to
the shaft of a stick.

Recent technological innovations have added both plastic and foam handle
inserts that fit over the butt of the stick but few professionals use these

The other fact to consider is that the style of taping does not match
position (Forward or Defenceman) nor does it correspond to goal scoring
dexterity. One exception can be noted here. Goaltenders tend to tape the
butt of their sticks with a sizable knob of tape, larger than any other
player. This is to prevent the stick from sliding out of the hand on poke

So large, small or the long and short of it, there seems to be little reason
why players tape the butts of their sticks so differently.

See if you can pick out which butt and stick has scored more goals.



This first appeared in the May/1998 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2003, Hockey Player® LLC and Hockey Player Magazine®
Posted: Aug 10, 2006, 12:33
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