Friday 16 March 2012

Unknown Inventor

In getting an article ready for this weekend, I stumbled across some rather fascinating information. You probably recognize the tool to the left as a "stick gauge" or a stick measurement tool for measuring a stick's curvature. It's a standard piece of equipment for all professional leagues, international tournaments, and the vast majority of junior leagues. The design, however, is quite unique, and it appears that it has been refined to a point of great accuracy in that a referee can determine the legality of a stick's curvature in mere seconds when this tool is used. So where, exactly, did this gauge come from?

According to former NHL referee Bruce Hood, it was invented by an official from Boston named Neil Degle. The problem? I can't find any information about Mr. Degle anywhere on the internet. According to Mr. Hood,

"He asked me to help finalize his invention, which I did, and I arranged for him to present it to Scotty Morrison. It received a trial in the NHL, and is now standard equipment in that and most other leagues."
As far as I can tell, Mr. Morrison was in charge of NHL officiating from June 1965 until 1981. The first patent for a stick gauge I found online came from an Ottawa native named Thomas B. Lawson who worked with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association in 1975. In this case, Mr. Hood would have had to have introduced Mr. Degle to Mr. Morrison sometime before September 2, 1975 - a conceivable window of time in which this meeting could have occurred.

The gauge has evolved over time to include a variety of measurement tools including the length of a goalie's blocker, maximum width of a goalie's catching glove sleeve cuff, and a host of other measurements. It's actually an amazing piece of equipment that is rarely brought out by the officials unless they are asked to by an opposing coach.

If you don't remember one of the most infamous measurements ever made in the NHL, I direct your attention back to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and the Montreal Canadiens. The drama begins...
To think that McSorley's illegal stick, and a hunch by coach Jacques Demers, caused a massive shift in momentum is unbelievable, but the steps were set in motion by a small piece of equipment known as a stick gauge. The Canadiens, of course, won the 1993 Stanley Cup, but it could have been a 2-0 series lead for Los Angeles had McSorley not been caught. The stick gauge tool was a vital component in Game Two for the Montreal Canadiens.

It is an intriguing piece of equipment whose origin I'd love to learn more about, and, if possible, speak to the man who came up with this tool, Mr. Neil Degle. If anyone knows anything about Mr. Degle or anything additional about this tool, please put get in contact with me because I am an interested party in the tool's and Mr. Degle's stories.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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