This could be Canada's oldest hockey stick

A local company is studying what's believed to be Canada's oldest hockey stick, and revealing information about our country's favourite sport.

London company aims to understand Canada’s history by looking at relics from our country’s past

Linda Howie, left, and Johnna Allen intend to study the stick to better understand the history of hockey. (Colin Butler/CBC)

A local company is studying what's believed to be Canada's oldest hockey stick and in the process, revealing information about our country's favourite sport.

London-based Material Legacy aims to understand Canada's history by taking a look at relics from our country's past.

Founded by Linda Howie (a forensic anthropologist) and Johnna Allen (a marketing professor) Material Legacy is a consulting company that forensically authenticates historical items. The friends started the company two years ago out of a shared passion for historical research and Canadiana.

"It's like, but for things instead of people," Allen said. "We realized that there isn't anything out there that offers this service for someone who may have an heirloom that's been left to them."

Allen says the forensic research can offer context to the items: how they were used, by whom, and when. Her hope is that it provides a deeper emotional and social element to the artifacts.

The stick, which researchers at Laval University carbon-dated to the late 18th Century — 1770 plus or minus 20 years — is owned by Brian Gallama of Ancaster. After the carbon dating at Laval, Gallama brought it to Material Legacy for study.

"I am very excited about this scientific journey," Gallama said in a statement to CBC. "I never imaged any of this. I am in suspense and want to know more about the sticks and what's next on this forensic discovery."

The company is calling the research "the hockey stick project."

A key component was putting the stick through both micro and clinical CT scanners.

Many other projects

For that task, Howie and Allen sought the help of Andrew Nelson, an anthropologist at Western University. Nelson worked with his colleagues at the Robarts Research Institute and St. Joseph Hospital to use a micro and clinical CT scanner.

"I've done mummies and all sorts of things with them before, so they're very receptive to strange requests," Nelson said.

The team hoped to learn about the type of tree based on the density of wood, but weren't able to.

They did learn that the stick was constructed very soon after the tree was felled. That's because they discovered through the scan that the stick was steam bent, which can only be done within a year of the cutting down of the tree.

It's also helped them understand things such as how it was held and where it hit projectiles.

The stick is just one of Material Legacy's projects, all with the goal of understanding Canada's history.

"We don't want to come out as, 'Oh we've got the oldest stick in the world.' That's not the claim we want to make," Allen said. "We're actually doing a forensic discovery, and we want to tie it to what was happening in Canada at the time this was manufactured."

The hockey dates from the late 18th century. (Colin Butler/CBC News)