A glimpse into Canada’s earliest days of hockey

two women who authenticate old artifacts

In the CT suite at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Linda Howie, left, and Johnna Allen of Material Legacy, a London-based company that provides forensic authentication of the history of objects, ready two ancient hockey sticks for scanning while a Discovery Channel videographer prepares to capture the moment.

St. Joseph’s is a key player in an intriguing exploration of the earliest days of hockey in Canada.

A hockey stick, considered to be the oldest stick known to exist, has been the subject of an archeological quest by Linda Howie and Johnna Allen of Material Legacy, a London-based company that provides forensic authentication of the history of objects and creates a biography, including the cultural, political and social context of the object.

Material Legacy collaborated with anthropologist Andrew Nelson at Western University to study the stick and determine its age. Andrew approached colleagues at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Robarts Research Institute about analysing the stick through CT scans and micro-CT scans.  At St. Joseph’s Hospital, CT Technical Coordinator Donna Findlay and radiologist Dr. Greg Garvin worked with the researchers to scan the stick.

staff with hockey stick

Radiologist Dr. Greg Garvin and CT Technical Coordinator Donna Findlay worked with Western University researchers to help determine the age of a hockey stick considered to be the oldest in existence.

The scans show forensic proof that the ash wood was steam bent – a process that must be done within a year of cutting the tree down, when it is still green wood. This indicates the stick was actually made for hockey and not just found. The CT scans also helped authenticate the original dates from Laval University – confirming that the hockey stick was manufactured in the mid-1700s.

“St. Joseph’s and Robarts have been instrumentally important to the discovery found in the scans, and we are appreciative of all for being part of this exciting discovery process,” says Johnna.Discovery camera operator seen through CT machine

Pictured right: The Discovery Channel was on hand for a CT scan of the world’s oldest hockey stick at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  

It’s the first forensic study of a hockey stick to be undertaken and it sheds fascinating new light on Canada’s national sport and enduring passion for the game. The findings tell a hockey tale that has not been told before. 

Watch a the hockey stick project video (below or on YouTube) about the discovery process by Material Legacy. The research has also been highlighted in a five-minute Daily Planet segment on the Discovery Channel.

Hockey stick collector Brian Galama brought two ancient hockey sticks he found on Kijiji to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a CT scan as part of research by Material Legacy in collaboration with Western University anthropologist Andrew Nelson.

man with old hockey stick he owns

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