All it took was a puck-drop and a broken hockey stick.
With the Olympic aspirations of two nations hanging in the balance, no one could have anticipated a routine faceoff to be the game changer – the difference between a victor’s gold medal, and those tinfoil beermats the IOC loves to hang around the loser’s neck.
It was a brisk night in Turin, Italy – the host city to the 2006, Winter Olympic Games. After two weeks of brilliant hockey (a round-robin and knockout phase that saw perennial contenders Team Canada, Russia, and the United States all bow out of contention in anticlimactic fashion), the stage had been set for two powerhouses in their own right, Sweden and Finland, to capture the pinnacle of International hockey dominance.
Boasting former NHL stars like Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, to name just a few, the Gold medal finale was always going to be a strategic battle to the bitter end between arch rivals; however, the extent of such bitterness could not have been foreseen.
With the game tied at 2s going in to the third period, even the most marginal of hockey fans watching knew that the first mistake made would be the last. Surprisingly, it was not a player mistake that came but an engineering mistake.
As swiftly as the puck had left the Referees’ hands and bounced off the ice surface, Saku Koivu’s composite stick seemed to inexplicably snap in half. Although just a routine draw – a moment in a game where the world’s best pro-stock hockey sticks clash to gain control of the puck as well as positioning along the wings – one composite stick’s fate was sealed, and so too were Finland’s.
With Koivu scrambling back to his bench for a replacement, the Swedes gained control in the offensive zone, essentially playing five-on-four hockey without justification. The advantage proved too difficult to defend, and with a quick slapper from the top of the dots, Lidstrom had unknowingly scored what would be the winning goal.
Was it an unfair advantage, diminishing Sweden’s credibility as World Champion, or just another innocent example of the unpredictable nature of the game?
We now know how that fateful stick broke so easily. It is the problem that plagues composite hockey sticks and why COLT Hockey was born. In rough game-play, micro cracks which start in the composite grow over time almost imperceptibly until its time is up and it catastrophically breaks at the next challenge. For Koivu, the clock was up on his stick at the worst possible time. From wood to composites, players have been accepting a dangerous trade-off. Lower weight and better flex characteristics but with totally unpredictable durability. What if you could engineer a stick to have the best of both worlds? That’s been the mission of COLT Hockey.
What are your thoughts? Has a broken hockey stick ever cost you the game? Let us know on Twitter @COLTHockey, #brokenhockeysticks.
Until next time