SIX NATIONS – Six Nations Jr. B Rebels’ 19-year-old attacker Daniel “Bo” Henhawk is a modern young man with a strong sense of tradition, even when it comes to the game he loves – lacrosse, the Creators’ game. He is one of only two Rebels wielding a hickory stick. The other is Alex Martin.
While most players these days use the plastic “tupperwear” sticks, as they are jokingly referred to, Henhawk prefers the feel and response of wood in his hands.
His father, Daryl Henhawk, always used wood in his lacrosse career and preferred Williams’ Sticks, made at Six Nations. He passed that tradition on to young Bo, who has always used a wooden stick right through minor lacrosse right up to today.
“When Mr. Williams retired and stopped making sticks, dad bought a whole bunch from him and I have been using them until we started making our own, in 2009,” he says. “I think he has only two or three left.”
Different types of wood just feel different in your hand and you have to find that one that just feels right, he says. In fact he believes the stick finds you.
“It’s kinda like in Harry Potter where the wand chooses the wizard,” says Henhawk. “It’s almost like the same thing. You can tell right away if you have a good stick in your hands.”
Stick making is rapidly becoming a lost art within the modern game, but Henhawk still believes there is something unique and special about every hand made stick. But it isn’t just the choice of wood, it also involves time and the way the webbing is strung in the pocket.
“There’s a bunch of different ways to string a stick,” he says. “You can use all leather or leather with nylon, but I like my all leather sticks. But sometimes I’ll use nylon and leather mixed together.”
He says the all leather creates a very nice pocket which stays for a while and becomes one with the stick.
“I find that your shot is more consistent with leather,” he says.
Although a heavier stick than the plastic ones, Henhawk is willing to give up a little weight for the traditional, hand made wood and leather variety.
Wooden sticks are banned from the National Lacrosse League, but that’s alright with Henhawk who does not like the NLL style of game anyhow. In fact he says even if drafted, he will not give up his wooden stick and would rather not play that style of game anyhow.
“I’ll play senior,” he says, “The NLL is more like the field game played indoors. That’s how I see it anyhow.”
Henhawk explains the stick-making process as a specialized art involving a lot of intuition.
“First you go out and try to find a good hickory tree somewhere,” he says. “A nice big one with not to many knots in it. That in itself takes forever to get that tree out and cut. Then you have to let it sit for a while, a month or two. Then you can split it and let it sit some more. You then shave it down to the size you want and steam it in a steamer and get it pretty hot so you don’t even want to touch the steam.”
He has made for himself a jig on a table that will determine the angle and lay of the bend for the “mouth”, or hook, and the neck, where the straight stick begins to bend for the pocket.
“I do the mouth and the neck at the same time,” says Henhawk of his process. “Some guys will do the mouth, stop and steam it again for the neck, but we do it all at once.”
The curved stick then sits for another month or two to let it set.
He says that you only get one shot at this part of the process and once steamed and set, you cannot go back and steam it a second time to fix it or it will throw the whole stick off.
Many try to get a perfectly balanced stick, but Henhawk likes his sticks slightly off balance, which he says helps the stick to spin better in the players hands.
“With the plastic sticks some people put a little bend in the shaft which makes it feel a little more like a wooden one,” he says.
Sometimes using wood can be a detriment too. Henhawk has noticed that referees tend to call more slashing or cross-checking penalties on wooden sticks. But to Henhawk, he knows when he has been a little too aggressive with his wooden stick.
“I know when I’m going to get a penalty,” he says. “It depends on how much you wind up. With wood, you don’t have to wind up as hard to do the same thing. If you’re out there going crazy with it you’ll be in the box every time.”
Henhawk knows first hand about that. He was serving a one game suspension for a slash, when the Two Row Times did this interview.
A Henhawk, hand made wooden lacrosse stick sells for between $100 and $225 for a players stick, depending on what kind of stick you want, and goalie sticks go for around $350.
He has begun building what is called “long poles” for field lacrosse as well. They are allowed to use wooden long poles in the World Games, which the Iroquois Nationals compete in.
“Like I say, the stick finds you,” says Henhawk.