You finally found it… the end all be all guide to a well-taped hockey stick.
As we all know, hockey sticks are hockey players’ most prized possession. We wouldn’t be able to dangle, sauce, and snipe without our beloved twigs. And preparing our hockey sticks to snipe and celly can be tedious as there are endless ways to customize your tape job. But we’re here to provide some clarity.
Many new players are just learning the nuances of how to tape a hockey stick without it looking like David Pastrnak’s:
Others are looking to refine their taping skills, possibly discover a new method or design, and perfect their connection from their hands through their stick and to the puck. Regardless of your level of experience or mastery, you’ve found the ultimate resource for how to tape your hockey stick… and how to tape it well. You should never settle for a sloppy tape job.
First things first: there is no right or wrong way to tape a hockey stick. Although there are styles that are more standard than others, there are countless combinations and every hockey player has their preference of how to tape their stick. It all comes down to what feels the most comfortable in your hands.
Also, there is no correct frequency of how often you should tape your twig. Many players prefer a fresh tape job on their blade every time they skate, which is a lot easier if you have endless team tape or never run out due to your hockey tape subscription. And typically butt ends and shafts rarely need re-taped unless you’re really particular about having a fresh tape feel on those areas.
Most players stay pretty consistent with their length and thickness of their butt end and taping their blade the same way in the same color. Although, there are always exceptions to the rule. In an interview with Sportsnet, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin said:
“I change it. Sometimes, if I don’t play well, I change to black. But most of the time I play with white.”
Considering he has 3 Stanley Cups, an Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Conn Smythe to his name, no one is arguing with the method to his madness.
NOW LET’S PREPARE FOR AN EPIC TAPE JOB…
At this point, we assume your stick is cut to the appropriate size; most coaches would suggest the top of the stick should be somewhere between your chin and top of your upper lip on skates, although it’s not uncommon for NHLers to have it as short as their chest or as tall as their nose.
Grab your stick and make sure it’s free from any plastic wrap and stickers (in case it’s new) or any tape from a previous tape job.
*Veteran tip: if your blade has tape residue leftover from your previous tape job, slide it across rubber locker room floors to collect and remove the residue from the bottom edges of the blade. Use your thumb to rub and remove the residue on the other blade surfaces… but be wary of any areas of your blade that are cracked or splintered. Fiberglass/graphite splinters aren’t fun!
Gather all the accessories you need to tape your hockey stick, which may or may not include:
- regular (1″) or wide (1.5″) cloth tape – any color although white or black are far-and-away most commonly used
- friction tape – relatively uncommon nowadays but has adhesive on both sides for added grip on the puck
- grip tape – adds grip (who would have thought?!) and a soft texture to the butt end
- “sticky-stick” – typically an old piece of a stick wrapped in hockey tape with the adhesive side facing out to be rubbed on a non-grip shaft to apply tackiness, as seen below being used by Patrick Kane
- stick wax – reduces your blade tape job from getting waterlogged (prolonging your tape job) and adds some grip to the puck
- scissors – for those who prefer a clean toe-covered tape job and/or can’t tear the tape with their hands
SOME IMPORTANT DON’TS BEFORE WE START TAPING OUR TWIG:
- DO NOT use clear, duct, postal, or any kind of tape that isn’t friction, grip, or cloth hockey tape on your stick. We wish we didn’t have to say this, but…
- DO NOT cover your entire shaft with hockey tape unless you prefer to look like a complete duster.
- DO NOT have inconsistent spacing on your blade unless you’re aiming for the Pastrnak look.
- DO NOT tape over an old tape job on your blade unless you prefer having your stick weighed down with multiple layers of ice and waterlogged tape.
NOW LET’S GET TO TAPING OUR HOCKEY STICK…
Starting at the top…
We prepare the butt end, which should require the least amount of re-taping if any at all.
Considering your top hand is responsible for a vast majority of your stickhandling and puck control, it’s easy to understand why your butt end is arguably the most important aspect of a tape job. Also, it’s easily the most customizable as it can be of any length, thickness, design, or type of tape (cloth or grip) that feels most comfortable in your top hand.
Most common is a simple, classic butt end, as seen here covered in grip tape:
Pretty straightforward to create, you’ll apply numerous layers (to your preferred thickness) of cloth tape at the very top of the butt end to create a “knob.” Running down the shaft underneath the knob, to your desired length, will be 1-2 layers of tape.
If you prefer grip tape (as pictured above), create the cloth knob first, then cover the knob with grip tape and proceed down the shaft to your preferred length. At the very bottom, wrap cloth tape around the shaft to ensure the grip tape doesn’t unravel during play.
If you prefer cloth tape, it’s your call if you prefer to start from the top or bottom. Regardless of where you start, it’s recommended to end at the bottom so your top hand isn’t constantly rubbing and potentially unraveling your butt end if your tape job is ended and cut at the top.
Some players, like Sidney Crosby, prefer to add some extra grip to their butt end by adding a candy cane of rolled tape underneath their grip or cloth tape.
Fasten one end of your tape and pull a long strand to be twisted. Spin the tape roll until you have a nice solid rolled segment to wrap around your butt end.
The rolled tape can be spaced as close or as far apart as desired underneath.
Although a knob at the top of a hockey stick’s butt end is most common, some players prefer an even thickness of the handle from top to bottom – whether that’s 1 or more layers of tape consistent throughout.
And then there are guys who use no or minimal tape on their butt ends like Jason Woolley and Brad Marchand. Wooley used no tape at all while Marchand has a pencil-thin candy cane of cloth tape around his shaved down wooden butt end. Different strokes for different folks.
On to the shaft…
Nowadays, most hockey sticks come in grip and non-grip versions, therefore adding some form of grip to the shaft isn’t all that widespread. But, again, there are always exceptions as some players like to further customize their stick with a candy cane of cloth tape down the shaft or by adding tackiness with a “sticky-stick.”
For those looking for extra texture and grip down the shaft of their hockey stick, a simple candy cane spiral of cloth tape does the trick. Like Phil Kessel, normal 1″ wide white cloth tape down the shaft works well. Some players prefer to tear the tape to only apply roughly 1/2″ wide cloth tape down the shaft.
Also, many players will begin the candy cane down their shaft, beginning a few inches below the bottom or end of their butt end. Other players don’t have any official gap between their butt end and candy by continuing to tape down the shaft while taping their butt end, simply adding some gap between spirals once they’re onto the candy cane section of the tape job.
Lastly, and as Patrick Kane shows us below, is the option to add some grip to your shaft using a “sticky-stick.” Again, for those who don’t have one and want to try it, find an old hockey stick or wooden butt end you no longer use. Wrap numerous layers of cloth tape upside down around the old stick or butt end. This way, the adhesive of the tape is pointing outward. Once your “sticky-stick” is functional, simply slide it up and down along your hockey stick to add a layer of grip. Over time, this form of grip wears away so it’s not uncommon to re-apply tackiness after a number of uses.
Finally, we tape our precious stick blade…
Regardless of the style of tape job you prefer on your blade if you don’t want to look like a bender we recommend you:
- maintain consistent spacing
- only use cloth or friction hockey tape
- do not tape your stick like a roller hockey player unless you use the stick on and off the ice
- do not continue the tape job of your shaft onto your blade or vice-versa… although Patrick Sharp breaks this rule a little bit
In a previous blog post, What Your Tape Job Says About You, we identified 4 main styles of tape jobs for the blade of your hockey stick: classic heel-to-toe, toe-covered, two-strand, and roller-to-ice. Ultimately, like the butt end and shaft of your hockey stick, your blade tape job is all up to you.
Heel-to-toe… or toe-to-heel, it really doesn’t matter:
Some will argue the direction you tape your stick, whether heel-to-toe or toe-to-heel, adds a certain control of or spin to the puck. Frankly, we’re no physicists over here and won’t attempt to explain the science behind one or the other. Speaking from pure experience (our small young team averages 24.6 years of playing experience per person) we’ve noticed little to no difference in on-ice feel and performance. Moreso, it comes down to comfort working your way from one end of the blade to the other given the shape and lie of your hockey stick.
Regardless, pick a starting point – your heel or your toe – and begin working your way to the other end of the blade. As mentioned, be as consistent as possible in the spacing of your tape. Some players prefer to have small tight spaces between wraps, resulting in a slightly thicker tape job and different feel. Other players prefer the thinnest tape job possible by barely overlapping the wraps of the tape around the blade. As always, whichever feels most comfortable with the puck on your stick is what you go with.
Many, like Ovechkin and other players in and outside of the NHL, prefer the look and feel of taping their entire toe. This is typically done in one of two ways: with or without a pair of scissors.
For those who want a clean, smooth toe-covered tape job, utilizing a pair of sharp scissors is the way to go. Tape your stick per usual but once you get to the toe of your blade, wrap it as if it’s square so you can pinch together the tape that isn’t on the blade. Basically, you’ll create a squared-off flap of tape on your toe. Grab your scissors and cut around your toe, like Ovechkin below, and you’re all set.
If you’re not using scissors you’re bound to have some extra tape layered on your toe. Some people purposefully lay one strip of tape along the toe of the blade, as pictured below, and proceed to tape their blade as usual over top. By pulling tight to the curve of the blade’s toe, you can typically avoid bunching the tape or leaving any spots untaped.
Is an explanation really necessary? Pick a spot on your blade. Wrap around it twice with cloth or friction hockey tape. You just taped your stick blade like one of the greatest of all time.
Again, we do not recommend this tape job unless you use your hockey stick both on and off the ice. But if that is your reality, many players prefer avoiding tape along the bottom edge of their blades to reduce scuffing and friction of their blade to the playing surface.
Like Kevin Fiala’s tape job, pictured below, cut two strips of tape the length of your blade. Apply one to the forehand and backhand side of your blade roughly 1/2 inch from the bottom. You’re welcome to add layers running up the front or back of the tape, if you prefer, as long as you don’t cover the bottom.
Lastly, do you finish the tape job with wax, puck, or nothing?
Apply wax to your finished tape job if you’d like to add some durability to your tape job and grip to the puck. The wax reduces the ice and water your tape job accumulates while adding tackiness to your blade’s exterior.
Rub a puck hard against your finished tape job to add some durability and smooth finish. The vulcanized rubber helps repel water and flatten your tape job.
Apply nothing if you like the natural feel of cloth hockey tape. It’ll require more retaping but there’s nothing quite like the texture of a fresh natural tape job.