Sunday, October 30, 2011
The Hockey Life: Taping stick blades
Just like tying his skates, getting Colin's hockey sticks ready for a game or practice is one of the few things left that he lets me do. He's old enough to do both, I suppose, but it allows me, in a way, to be out there with him. It makes me feel better, too.
Mostly, I appreciate the therapeutic value of it. The physicality needed to tear away the chewed-tape. The attention to detail of scraping away the smallest bit of tape residue with a fingernail. And, then, the act of taping, from the feel to the sound, that completes the task.
Sure, it may look simple, running an inch-wide strip of tape from heel to toe along the blade, but there's much more to it than that.
I first started taping stick blades back in the early 1970s, as a kid playing pickup games on an iced-over, outdoor basketball court at a Catholic school in Buffalo's west side. Because I didn't know better, and really didn't have anyone to teach me, I always used the shiny, black plastic electric tape. I'd dig a roll out of the junk drawer, never taking the time to ask, and wrap the blade. Two layers, too, so it would last longer.
After my mom passed away and I went to live with my grandparents, I'd raid my grandfather's toolbox, looking for the heavier electrical tape. He'd see me taping my stick, but never complained, just reminding me to put it back when I was finished.
A few years later, I discovered the brave new world of white athletic tape, snagging nearly spent rolls from school sports teams. It was wider and made of fabric, just like my grandfather's tape, but it didn't weigh as much. I liked, too, how it got marked up, from either pucks or hockey balls, each one a memory of the last time I had played.
Nearly 40 years later, not much has changed about hockey tape. It's made of cloth, is an inch wide and is sticky on only one side. The biggest difference is it's now available in many colors and patterns. Colin has had the stars and stripes, the Canadian maple leaf and blue camouflage. Unlike others, we've passed on fluorescent offerings. There's just something about a lime green that doesn't go with hockey
Colin's favorite, though, is the skull-and-crossbones tape, shown above on one of his old Bauer sticks. For a while, we used to find it with relative ease, even if it meant making a trip over to Brandon. Lately, though, that hasn't been the case, as it has become scarce. As a result, we're using a dark-blue cloth tape on his Mission Widow youth model.
The one constant, from those early days during freezing Buffalo winters up until sitting in air-conditioned comfort at our dining room table here in Florida, has been the approach. It's always been heel to toe, starting on the backside and ripping a little lip over the top. It doesn't have to be pretty or uniform. No, it just has to do its job.
One adjustment, though, is I've had to learn how to cover the toe in tape, as Colin has a habit of chipping the tips of his blades. Faceoffs, I believe, are the likely culprit. After a few practice tries, though, wrapping the toe has become second nature. Three 8-inch strips, a steady hand, a sharp eye and a pair of scissors is all I need now.
Someday, and that day is fast approaching, he'll tell me that it's his turn to tape his own sticks. He's already started asking, and has tried it once. Didn't do too bad, either. Until I relent, and give it up for good, it's another welcome chore for this hockey dad.