Kane sticky about sticks

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Go into any dimly lit billiards room and the resident hustler is easily identified as the one who takes greatest care of a pool cue.

Visit any sunny driving range on a PGA Tour stop and watch a bunch of guys constantly concerned about the feel of their golf clubs and how that equipment affects their swing.

London Knights star forward Pat Kane shares a similar attention to detail with his hockey sticks. The 18-year-old is a precision goal-scorer, coolly calculating a shot's angles and using his touch and feel to light the red lamp -- a much different model than Rob Schremp blasting slap shots from a favourite patch of ice at overwhelmed opposing goaltenders.

"I know how I like my sticks to be and I know how I want them to feel when I'm using them," the 18-year-old Kane said. "It's all about feeling comfortable. If you feel your equipment's right, you don't have to worry about it. The last thing you want is to have the chance to score and miss because you think the equipment failed."

The Buffalo native is in the goal-scoring business and business is booming. Heading into tonight's game against Kitchener at 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre, Kane has 55 goals in 53 games in his first OHL season and has five more games to become the first Knight to hit the 60-goal mark since Dave Lowry did it in 1984-85.

Lowry would've made do with wooden sticks, Schremp cared about his twigs but Kane has taken his connoisseur-ship to a new level of particularity. Earlier in the season, he asked Knights equipment manager Chris Maton to shave down his sticks. In the last month, he requested the extra bulk be kept.

Like a golfer's set of woods and irons, Kane has different sticks for different situations. The most profound example is a lance he unsheathes especially for five-on-three situations to maximize London's chance of scoring on a two-man advantage.

it's easier to handle the puck with," Kane said. "I've cared about sticks for a while now. Last year (with the U.S. development program), I used a Mission stick -- it was a Cole pattern -- but it's Bauer (Vapor) sticks here and I actually like them better. It's been great to work with Bauer and to pick out a pattern that suits me."

The team is in the second year of a three-year deal with Bauer as its stick supplier. Kane and Maton have progressed to the point where the player will accept suggestions on which stick to use in a certain situation.

"Pat's real picky about his sticks, more than most guys," Maton said. "He takes a great interest in it. He asks questions. He's trying to be the best player he can be and you can't argue with the results. It's been working for him so far."

Hearing about Kane's habits may make parents of young minor hockey players cringe. The new generation of composite and one-piece sticks don't come cheap.

"We have seen the price come down and kids around here will always want to use the same sticks the Knights players are using -- or the ones they see the NHLers use on TV," Maton said. "I'm like any parent but the new sticks really are so much improved, they rarely break. I may have one or two go a week."

Kane doesn't break many sticks but he's angling to break a lot of London scoring records, especially if Dale Hunter continues to play him with Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn.

"It helps to play with great players and I've had that opportunity this year," Kane said. "With Sam and Sergei, that line creates a lot of scoring chances. It's just been a lot of fun this season."

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: vs. Kitchener, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Tomorrow: at Guelph, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: at Owen Sound, 2 p.m.


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