Technology powering the 2022 Commonwealth Games: the hockey stick
As Birmingham prepares for this summer’s Commonwealth Games, we look at some of the inventions that have helped change the sporting world. First up, the humble hockey stick.
Hockey will once again be featured at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with all matches being played at the University of Birmingham. The game as we know it started in the mid-1800s and was a particular favourite at schools up and down the UK. Of course, you can’t play hockey without a hockey stick and here we chart the design evolution in this otherwise simple piece of equipment.
Over many years the design of the hockey stick has changed as a result of improvements in technology, and changes to the rules. Often it has been the well-known sports brands that have driven these design changes in an attempt to gain a foothold in the market. This has led to a number of patents being filed, as companies seek to cement their presence in the hockey equipment market.
One of these patents was filed in 1982 by the leading hockey equipment brand, Grays. Even though the shape and style are around 40 years old, it is still easily recognised as the standard in hockey stick design today. The hockey stick features, which include the handle, shaft and head, appear to have changed very little.
That is until 2017 when Adidas shook things up and introduced what they called the “3D head” and successfully patented its innovative design. The Adidas 3D head is different because it has an angled back face compared to a more traditional design.
An important skill in the modern hockey game is the ability to lift the ball off the playing surface, either to ‘throw’ the ball across the pitch or to execute what are known as ‘3D’ skills, where the ball is lifted and dribbled through the air. The angled back face of the stick allows the player to place their stick further underneath the ball and provides support to help the player lift the ball more effectively.
This example demonstrates that no matter how small a design change may appear, it may still be worth protecting. The patent-protected 3D head design has enabled Adidas to become a dominant force in the hockey stick market, by producing a match-winning design that its competitors can’t copy.