Less Tape Meant More for Shanahan
As Brett Hull was building his Hall of Fame resume with the St. Louis Blues, his father, Bobby Hull, would spend his time hanging around the team, going into places most people wouldn't dare.
Bobby would be in the dressing room before, during and after games. He'd be in the runway leading to the dressing room as the final buzzer sounded. And, as fate would have it for Brendan Shanahan, Bobby would hang around by the players' sticks, admiring them and, in Shanahan's case, altering them.
"Brendan's goal scoring, you have to give all the credit to my dad," Brett Hull told NHL.com.
Shortly before Christmas in 1991, Shanahan, who had been with the Blues for less than two months at that point, arrived for practice with only a few minutes to spare. He hurriedly strapped on his equipment and grabbed his sticks. He didn't have time to examine them before darting out onto the ice to avoid being late.
It wasn't until he had taken a few shots that Shanahan realized someone removed all the tape from the knob of his stick and replaced it with a smaller amount. He was angry, but only for a few seconds.
"I was like, 'Who messed with my sticks?'" Shanahan told NHL.com. "The answer was, 'Bobby Hull did.' I was like, 'Oh, OK.'"
Shanahan, mind you, used to have enough tape forming the knob of his stick to nearly equal the width of a tennis ball. Bobby and Brett Hull couldn't believe it. It was too much tape, they thought. It was limiting Shanahan's mobility in his wrists.
A player with a normal amount of tape can hold the knob with the palm of his hand, giving him the ability to twist his wrist to adjust to passes that aren't perfect. The knob on Shanahan's stick was so big he couldn't wrap his hand around it. He had to jam his hand into the bottom of it like a goalie, reducing the amount of mobility he had and limiting his opportunity to adjust to passes in time so he could fire one-timers.
Shanahan started using a bigger knob when he was a kid because his gloves were too stiff and the extra tape on the end made picking up his stick easier. When he got to the New Jersey Devils, he saw that Pat Verbeek also used a big knob on his stick, so Shanahan figured he would stick with it.
But the knob kept growing game after game, season after season. It was out of control.
"It was just a big knob. Like a goalie wouldn't use it that big," Hull said. "My dad cut his knobs off and had put a proper size knob at the end of his stick. Brendan didn't have time to change it back the way he wanted it. He went out in practice with it and all of a sudden he said, 'Boy, this feels really good.'"
Brett had been telling Shanahan since he got to St. Louis that he should cut down on the knob.
"He just wouldn't listen to me," Brett recalled.
He listened to Bobby.
"What happened is he became a 50-goal scorer after that," Brett said.
Shanahan scored 33 goals his first season with the Blues, 51 in his second and a career-high 52 in his third. He scored 656 goals in a 22-year career and is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
Maybe he'll mention Bobby Hull in his speech.
"I remember coming off the ice once, and Bobby was right by the door. It was after I scored a couple of goals with the new way of taping my stick," Shanahan said. "In his raspy voice he's like, 'What did I tell ya? What did I tell ya?'"