We Canadians like to shoot from the left with about 60 per cent of the sticks sold in this country curved that way, according to numbers provided by Easton. In the U.S., about 60 per cent of the sticks sold are for right-handed shooters. Some manufacturers put the ratio at 70 to 30 on each side of the border.
"I have no idea why this is so," Mike Mountain, who is in charge of hockey sticks for Easton in Van Nuys, Calif., told the Times. "But it has been true for years, and it doesn't change; it stays consistent over time."
Chad Purdy has been selling sticks in Surrey, B.C., for 22 years and has long puzzled about why some customers shoot left while others are righties.
As manager of The Hockey Shop, he actually sells more right-hand sticks than left, which goes against the prevailing numbers, but he said on every team he has played on and on the area youth teams he services, there are almost always a majority of lefties.
So why does he sell more right sticks, by about 10 per cent? And why is he left with more left sticks in his shop at the end of a hockey season?
"Breakage," he says.
Purdy's theory is that right-handed shooters, while in the minority, go through more sticks and have to purchase a new stick more often. Most people are right-handed, meaning that when they shoot right their more powerful hand is on the lower part of the stick.
"That puts more force on the shaft and those sticks break more often," he suggests.
Purdy also has a theory about why most Canadians shoot left. He believes a preferred shooting side is imprinted on us, passed on from generation to generation in Canada.
"I shot left because my dad shot left and my first stick was one of his that he cut down for me," he said. "Kids learn so quickly with whatever they're given."
However, in the U.S., he suggests, a lot of players are from new hockey families. As the first generation to take up the sport, they don't make their stick selection based on a bias. For many, too, hockey might not be the first sport they try. If they've already been playing baseball or golf – sports in which a majority are right-swinging – it might feel more natural for them to shoot a hockey stick that way.
In Europe, the majority of players shoot left. On the Russian team here at the Olympics, for example, 17 of its 20 skaters are lefties. Ditto for the Slovaks. The Finns have 15 left-handed shooters and the team from Belarus has 16.
Purdy has a "real loose" theory on that too, based on his own inventory. Since a lot of leftover sticks in North America have long been shipped to Europe, he figures shooting left is just how many players grew up. Those were the sticks Europeans first had access to and then it became ingrained in their hockey culture to shoot left no matter the origin of the sticks.