Ahead by a century: A snapshot of the hockey stick’s evolution since 1920  

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The Winnipeg Falcons, winners of the World’s Hockey Championship at the VII Olympiade Antwerpe on April 26, 1920.

Today marks 100 years since Canada won its first Olympic gold medal in hockey.

At the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, the Winnipeg Falcons — representing Canada — were awarded the gold medal on April 26. This was the first ice hockey tournament at an Olympic Games, and the only instance of it at a Summer Olympics. A hockey tournament was part of the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924, and has been a part of every winter program since then.  

Founded in 1911, the Winnipeg Falcons hockey team had a roster made almost entirely of Icelandic players who had not been permitted to join other Winnipeg teams due to ethnic prejudice. The falcon is Iceland’s national bird.

The 1920 Winnipeg Falcons were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in the team category.

(The video opens in a mens’ dressing room. A group of hockey players in uniform are sitting quietly on the bench. Their coach stands up and begins speaking.)

“It wasn’t easy growing up on Sargent Avenue…a bunch of Icelandic boys, nobody wanted around. But hockey was good to us.”

(Video shows several young men discussing a new hockey league.)

“We’re signing up then, George?”

“Only if Connie here joins up with us!”

(The coach’s speech resumes.)

“Then the war came along…broke up the team. But we were needed, and we went…and we fought. It cost us…too much maybe; I don’t know.

But I do know one thing: We’ve still got some fight left in us, right boys? This is the game we’ve been saving it for. For us…for Canada! For the boys of Sargent Avenue!”

(The hockey players smile and stand up. One by one, they exit the dressing room. The last player turns back and salutes before exiting.)

NARRATOR: The Winnipeg Falcons served Canada in the First World War. Two teammates never made it home. The rest went on to win the very first gold medal in Olympic hockey.

Evolution of the game

Ice-level image of male ice hockey players in a tackle during a game. The high white socks and dark blue trousers of the hockey player can be seen; there's a hockey stick reaching for the puck.

Canada’s passion for hockey has certainly endured, but technology has changed many aspects of the game. The hockey stick is one such example.

Back in the 1920s, ash was the preferred material for hockey stick manufacturing. It was very durable, but also extremely heavy. At the time, sticks were not curved, and the blade was inserted into a notch in the shaft and glued together.

In the 1950s, wood blades were wrapped in fiberglass, making them cheaper, lighter, and more durable. The 1980s saw the introduction of aluminum sticks; they were made legal in the NHL in 1981.

A museum panel at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, depicting two professional hockey players. The largest font reads, "Hockey sticks face off! which material do pros choose?"

Artifacts at the Canada Science and Technology Museum include carbon fiber hockey sticks used by former Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson.

The introduction of carbon fiber was a revolutionary change to the hockey stick of the 1990s. The first composite blade was introduced in 1995, and still dominates the game today.

At the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, the From Earth to Us exhibition explores how we transform natural resources to meet our needs and wants — and the resulting impact this has on the world around us. The exhibition includes two carbon fiber hockey sticks, used by NHL superstars Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson. Today’s NHL players use carbon fiber hockey sticks for their lightweight design, strength, and flexibility.  

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.