It’s more than a stick

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Contributing Editor
Walt Pickut

A hockey stick of the sort used in the earliest organized hockey matches in Canada consisted of a one-piece, hand-carved chunk of hornbeam—a particularly hard kind of birch native to the north woods—carved by indigenous Mi’kmaqs of Atlantic Canada, though the game itself has a long and complicated history traceable more than 1,000 years back to Scandinavia and Europe.

In 2006, according to website www.goingbardown.com, a hand-carved hockey stick made by the Mi’kmaq sometime between 1852 and 1856 was sold at an auction to an anonymous Canadian for $2.2 million. At the time this was recognized as the world’s oldest hockey stick. It is currently valued around $4.2 million US.

Some observers of that first “organized” hockey match—played at McGill University on March 3, 1875—noted that the game could get exciting. A local newspaper reported:

“Shins and heads were battered, benches smashed, and the lady spectators fled in confusion.”

For better or worse, that’s been the source of hockey jokes ever since.

The late Bob Plager, a Canadian hockey veteran of 14 seasons in the NHL and 50 years in the St. Louis Blues organization, was famous for his aggressive, highly physical style of play. He once held the dubious distinction of breaking what was then the Ontario Hockey Association’s record for penalty minutes in a single season (1961–62). Bob said it all when he told a sports writer,

“Hockey players wear numbers because you can’t always identify the body with dental records.”

But hockey is now the fourth most popular sport in the USA with 3.6 million television viewers, for example, tuning in to watch Tampa Bay Lightning take home the Stanley Cup after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021 Stanley Cup championship series.

Hockey is, above all else, an exciting, fast-moving game of skill, competitive spirit, lightning-fast reflexes, and thrills on ice. Great hockey can be inspirational. Who can forget the 1981 classic film “Miracle on Ice,” showcasing the US Olympic hockey team’s Gold Medal win over the heavily favored Soviet and Finnish teams.

This week, the Jamestown Gazette introduces our readers to the Jamestown Rebels hockey team, now skating for top ranks in the North American Hockey League. We feature team manager Jason Rent and head coach Joe Coombs and a team of truly remarkable young men skating for more than a medal and a championship cup. They’re skating for more than a game they love.

Hockey trains young men and young women for life as well as for the ice. Hockey superstar, Wayne Gretzky, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” That’s a life lesson for both skaters and fans. Never miss an opportunity that looks too hard or too far to reach.

It’s called “shots on goal.” Though every shot won’t score, you’ll never score without taking your shots on goal—your most important goals.

Gretzky went on to point out that “Some people skate to the puck. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” Always look ahead and aim for the future you want.

So, head on down to the Northwest Arena on Friday and Saturday night, watch great hockey and see some of tomorrow’s NHL stars take to the ice. Some of their goals are way beyond the net. Watch them score!

Enjoy the games, and enjoy the read right here with your own Jamestown Gazette.

Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.