The Mi’kmaw Hockey Stick

Vintage models prized for their sturdiness and craftsmanship.
Written by Anne-Gaëlle Weber Posted January 9, 2024

In the early days of hockey, the Mi’kmaq-made stick reigned supreme. Indigenous craftspeople on reserves in Nova Scotia made them out of single pieces of wood and sold them internationally, until the making of hockey sticks became industrialized in the 1930s.

The sticks are now collector’s items. Two years ago, Nova Scotia historian David Foster Carter, a self-styled heritage hockey sleuth, was asked to examine one. Carter dated the stick — named the Caruk for its owner, Wayne Caruk of Hastings, Ontario — to 1896. Carter believes it was crafted using a saw. He was able to pinpoint its age through its dimensions, which aligned with the regulations of Ontario hockey during the 1890s, as well as by its distinctive round handle.

The Caruk stick, pronounced “Care-ick,” was on temporary display last fall in its home province at the Birthplace of Hockey Museum in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Dan Boyd, the president of Windsor Hockey Heritage, emphasized the significance of the artifact in Indigenous history and its role in the broader historical evolution of the hockey stick.

Museum interpreter Lucy Burgess said Mi’kmaw sticks were initially crafted from ironwood, but as such trees became scarce artisans transitioned to yellow birch or ash. The original sticks were exceptionally robust, as they came from a tree’s roots and trunk.

Written records of Mi’kmaq playing a game similar to modern hockey date back to the eighteenth century.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2024 issue of Canada’s History.

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