Why Do Hockey Players Tape Their Sticks?

Posted on May 16, 2024 by Dan Kent
hockey stick tape

Have you ever wondered why a hockey stick needs tape? If you watch an ice hockey game, you will see that all the players use tape on their sticks. But what are the advantages of using tape? Could you get by without tape on a stick? Let's find out.

Why do hockey players tape their sticks?

Hockey players tape their sticks to gain the highest level of control with the puck. Without tape, the puck is much more slippery on the stick blade. 

Tape is also used on the butt-end of the stick for a better grip with the top hand. The tape also protects the stick from damage and moisture from the ice. Players choose the amount of tape and colour that is to their liking. 

Does hockey tape make a difference?

Hockey tape absolutely makes a difference in the level of play of an ice hockey player. It can help you with stick handling, shooting, and overall protection of hockey stick blades. 

Remember, we're not in the NHL. If our stick gets damaged, we ultimately have to go out and spend money on a new one. Let's take a deeper dive into the benefits of taping your stick.

hockey tape

Puck Control

In ice hockey, puck control is a mustA taped stick blade allows for better grip and control of the puck.

Players must trust their sticks to take accurate shots and make precise passes. Without tape, these plays would be much more challenging to make. Often, the heel of the blade and the toe of the blade are left untaped, as the puck is rarely on these portions of the blade.

The tape itself is made of a cloth-based material for improved grip. It has adhesive on one side and is sold in rolls.

Players can also apply stick wax to their taped stick blades. The wax repels moisture and adds a small amount of tackiness that can help with puck handling.

hockey energy

Protection

Tape provides a layer of protection for the stick blade.

Today's hockey sticks are made of fibreglass and other composite materials. Composite sticks are more expensive than wooden ones used until recent decades.

Understandably, players are very particular about their sticks and want them to last. A stick with no tape would be vulnerable to the impact of slapshots and slashes.

An early tradition that has carried on

A combination of puck handling and protection is why players began taping their sticks. Although composites are now used and are not as prone to water damage as a wood stick, this was not always the case.

When players primarily used wood, the tape was a protective measure to stop water from damaging the blade. A wooden stick often had noticeable splintering and cracking along the bottom edge of the blade if it wasn't appropriately taped. 

A tradition still used on composite sticks, players often add extra layers of tape to the bottom of the blade. This extra strip of tape forms an extra layer of protection from the water.

Why do players tape the top of the stick?

Players of all skill levels often tape the top of their sticks. Although this certainly doesn't help the puck's grip on the stick's blade, it helps the player's top hand grip the stick.

As a result, they tend to have more stability and control over the stick itself. Players will often make a "knob" or hockey stick handle at the top, which can help prevent it from slipping out of a player's hands.

You will see specific players tape the top of their sticks very differently. For example, Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl likes to put a spread-out length of tape down the first few feet of the top of his stick. This is likely so he has a better grip as he moves up and down the shaft of the stick, allowing him to utilize it in a multitude of ways.

Players will also utilize extra sticky forms of tape, such as grip tape at the top of the stick. This tape is often grittier than traditional tape and is placed on the butt end of the stick to improve grip and reduce the chance of a slide. A warning, however. This tape tends to wear out or tear the palms of hockey gloves quicker than traditional cloth tape.

Do NHL players tape their sticks every game?

Not only do NHL players tape their sticks every game, but you'll often find they do so between every period. If the tape is damaged during play, you could see them re-taping their sticks on the bench.

Taping a stick is often thought of as a pre-game ritual. There are a multitude of superstitions and nuances when it comes to taping one's stick. The perfect tape job is often considered the key to a strong game. 

Do most NHL players use white or black tape?

The type of tape an NHL player uses is equal. Black tape is used by about 54% of NHL players, while white makes up the remaining 46%. Once a player chooses a color of stick tape, it tends to become a habit or superstition always to use that same tape color. 

However, many players caught in a scoring drought or not playing their best may choose to swap up their stick tape color or start changing the way they tape their stick.

Some of the game's best snipers, like Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, favour white tape for their stick blades.

Many aspects of hockey sticks and tape depend on personal preference. The use of tape, however, is a necessity. Hockey sticks need tape for players to achieve the best on-ice performance. Ice hockey is a fast and aggressive sport, but the tape is a massive part of the skill and finesse side of the game.

Should you use white or black hockey tape?

Contrary to some players' opinions, the color of stick tape you use is irrelevant to your success as a player or goaltender. For some, they believe that black tape hides the puck on your stick, and it is more difficult for the goaltender to track a shot coming off of a stick with black tape.

And for those with white tape, it has been said that it is more difficult for the goaltender to track the angle of the stick blade.

However, both of these strategies are not effective at all, according to NHL goaltenders. They can see both the puck and blade angle perfectly fine whether you're using white or black tape.

In reality, it comes down to personal preference.

Do any NHL players use colored tape?

It is a rarity for any NHL player to use stick tape that is not either black or white in color. During specific events like military or pride night, NHL players may use colored or camouflaged tape during warmups. However, you barely ever see it during a game. 

Why do NHL goalies have to have white tape

Goaltenders are forced to use white tape, particularly on the knob of their stick, to prevent the referee or a goal judge from mistaking the knob of the stick for the puck.

If you think about it, the rule makes complete sense. In a scramble-type situation, the referee must focus on the puck to detect if it has crossed the line or the goaltender has covered it. If the goaltender uses black tape on the knob of his stick, it could easily be mistaken for the puck and be incorrectly called a goal, or the play whistled dead.

The Tape Job: How Much Tape Should You Use?

All players use tape on their sticks. But the amount of tape a player uses comes down to personal preference.

The most common technique is to apply tape from the heel to near the toe of the stick blade. This provides coverage for the entire bottom of the blade.

Some players recently began to tape the stick blade over its toe as well. This gives the appearance of a "sock" cover for the blade. Players who excel at deking and toe-drags favour this tape job, which will require a pair of scissors.

The butt-end tape job covers the stick's top (or handle). Because this tape is for top-hand grip, it will usually stretch for at least the width of your hand.

Butt-end tape prevents the top hand from sliding off the top of the stick. Many players roll this tape into a butt-end knob.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

Looking for more hockey content? Have a look at these articles