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But one day not long after, while Caruck was having tea with the woman, she disappeared to the basement for a moment and returned with the stick. It was her late husband’s uncle’s, Caruk recalls, and she thought her husband would like him to have it.
“I didn’t think too much of it,” Caruk recalls, “but she had tears in her eyes when she was telling me about it.”
Caruk took the stick home and pretty much forgot about it. His curiosity about the stick’s possible value was only aroused in 2010, the year of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when he saw a television news report of someone who was looking to sell a stick that Caruck thought looked awfully similar to his. Caruk began showing his stick to hockey historians to see what they thought.
One, he says, was London, Ont., historian Brian Logie, whom Caruk visited in 2016, a year before Logie died.
“He told me that the stick was handmade by the Mi’kmaqs in Nova Scotia, probably between 1870 and 1900,” says Caruk. The stick, he adds, was fashioned from hornbeam, or ironwood, a particularly durable hardwood.
The stick was also examined last January by Bill Fitsell, at the time a historian with the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston, who attested to its distinctiveness.
“I have inspected The Caruk Stick twice in the past three years,” Fitsell wrote, “measured and traced it and compared it to other sticks of similar vintage in the 19th century. I deem it ‘unique’ in that it features a rare, knife-blade tip introduced in the 1890 to 1905 period. Weighing just over two pounds, it is a fine sample of the era when hockey sticks were produced by hand in homes and shops. It would make a welcome addition to the library of any serious collector or Museum curator.”