Holding The Stick
Of the twenty-two players on the Habs, only eight shoot right-handed and include Brian Gionta, Colby Armstrong, Brendan Gallagher, Petteri Nokelainen, Ryan White, Raphael Diaz, Yannick Weber, and P.K. Subban. Although we still don’t know whether P.K. counts or not. Maybe it’s only seven. Maybe in short time it could be down to five or so.
Not that it matters, I guess. But it does let me mention something I read recently in the library, the one with the sink and toilet bowl, and even though I’ve re-read it a couple of times, I still don’t buy it.
First off, I think it’s a given that when a hockey stick is handed to a little kid for the first time, the kid holds it whichever way is most natural. I think it’s as simple as that.
The first couple of paragraphs in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader seem normal enough, and actually quite interesting. It’s after that that I have trouble with, the part where they explain “why.” You be the judge.
Here’s the story:
In February 2010, the New York Times took note of a strange anomaly: hockey stick manufacturers send mostly left-handed sticks to Canada, and mostly right-handed ones to the United States. A check of professional teams discovered that, indeed, most Canadians play lefty and most Americans play righty. (The exceptions are players from British Columbia, who play like Americans.)
It doesn’t stop there, though. According to the Professional Golfers Association, left-handed golfers are more common in Canada than in any other country. But the reason isn’t because the Great White North has more left-handers. By percentage, Canada has about the same number of left-handed residents as the United States. So what’s the story?
Many Canadians take the approach that right-handed people should logically put their right hand on the top of the stick; it works better for them to have the stronger, more dexterous hand there. The lower hand, they say, mostly just acts as a fulcrum for the top hand’s strength and dexterity.
So why don’t Americans do that too? One theory is that it’s the fault of American parents and store clerks who don’t know any better. A kid goes in to buy a hockey stick and the clerk asks, “Are you right-handed or left?” Then the clerk gives the kid the hockey stick that matches the answer. Another theory is simply that new players do what they see their friends, coaches, and teammates do – but that only explains why the practice continues…not how it got started.
The most likely reason is this: people tend to imprint on whatever sports equipment they first started playing with. In the United States, that’s almost universally a baseball bat. After getting used to the bat’s hand position, reversing it feels unnatural. As a result, righties on the ball field usually stay righties on the ice.
This would also help explain the disproportionate number of left-handed golfers in Canada: starting out with a hockey stick makes self-taught golfers more comfortable slap-shooting the ball off the tee as lefties.