The sport of hockey has evolved from its early incarnations to the game we know today. From the rules of the game to the equipment, hockey has changed in virtually every aspect from its beginnings until now. One such evolution is that of the hockey stick. The hockey stick has undergone many metamorphoses since the beginning. One of those changes is the institution of the "banana blade."
According to accepted hockey lore, it was Cy Denneny of the Ottawa Senators who first played with a stick that featured a bent blade, during the 1926-27 season. To achieve the now-familiar bend in his stick blade, Denneny dipped the blade into hot water to soften it and then created the shape as the blade cooled.
The banana blade had its downside from a player's perspective, however. Although the curve allowed for powerful slapshots, it had a negative impact on the player's ability to effectively stick handle the puck. Moreover, backhanded shots were less accurate as a result of the curved blade. These negative aspects caused the idea of the banana blade to be shelved for nearly 30 years.
The first regular use of the curved banana blade is often attributed to Andy Bathgate of the New York Rangers and to Stan Mikita, star of the Chicago Black Hawks. Both players used the curved sticks during play in the 1950s, with Bathgate twisting the blade to add an element of unpredictability to his slapshot. As a result of the pioneering efforts of Denneny, Mikita and Bathgate, other players began to experiment with the bends in their stick blades. It was this experimentation that eventually gave birth to what we now know as the banana blade. Before long, hockey stick manufacturers began to manufacture sticks that were pre-bent.
The dawn of the banana blade era changed how professionals played hockey. When only straight-blade sticks were used, wrist shots (whereby the puck was "flicked" by a motion of the wrist) were the most common type of shot. Curved blades allowed players to put more power behind their shots, which allowed them to shoot from greater distances than ever before. The possibility of making more powerful long-distance shots added a new texture to the game of hockey, one that was exciting for both players and fans alike.
When players started using the curved banana blade the game of hockey was revolutionized forever. The curve of the stick made it more difficult for goalies to predict the direction and speed of an opposing player's slapshot. Because of that, goaltenders had a more difficult time anticipating a shot and, therefore, found it more difficult to stop the puck. Conversely, players using the banana blade didn't always know where their shots were going to go, either. The National Hockey League viewed this as a potential hazard because of the possibility for rogue pucks to lead to injury. In an effort to prevent injuries from curved sticks, the League instituted a rule during the 1967-68 season stipulating that the blade of a player's stick could not have a curve that measured greater than one inch. That rule was amended in 1970-71, making the maximum allowable curve one-half inch. That is still the rule today.
~Will in Denver
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