He’s 22 with a crafted hand to the past

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MILTON smil­ton@thes­pec.com 905-526-3268 | @mil­to­natthes­pec

Bo Hen­hawk is only 22, but he’s been craft­ing tra­di­tional — mean­ing made out of wood — lacrosse sticks for eight years.

Hen­hawk lives and works on the south­west side of Six Na­tions, plays for a New York team in the Can-Am lacrosse league and won na­tional ju­nior B cham­pi­onships with the Six Na­tions Rebels.

He wants to pre­serve the his­toric and spir­i­tual links be­tween the Earth and The Cre­ator’s Game (lacrosse) through his sticks made from shag-bark hick­ory trees, found in and around Six Na­tions.

“I started be­cause very few peo­ple were mak­ing them any more and I couldn’t find ones that I liked,” says Hen­hawk, who gets help in his stick-con­struc­tion busi­ness from his fa­ther, Dar­ryl, and well-known lacrosse player Cam Bomberry.

Lacrosse has been get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion with the North Amer­i­can Indigenous Games, which con­clude Satur­day, stag­ing most of its matches at the Iro­quois Lacrosse Arena and the Gay­lord Pow­less Arena, both on Six Na­tions.

Since the mid-1970s, plas­tic sticks with al­loy shafts have been mak­ing ma­jor in­roads in the game, to the point that the ma­jor­ity of play­ers now use them and some leagues no longer al­low wood sticks.

In­juries are of­ten cited as one rea­son but Hen­hawk says he’s suf­fered only bruises from wood sticks while he’s in­curred cuts play­ing against play­ers with plas­tic sticks.

“I don’t like the way plas­tic sticks have taken over ev­ery­thing,” he says.

“They’re try­ing to ban wood from the game, you hear that ru­mour all the time.

“That’s go­ing to take away from the game.”

Hen­hawk’s sticks, used mostly by mi­nor lacrosse play­ers, cost $50 or $60 for mini sticks, all the way up to $225 for “my sticks. The ones that I would use.” There’s strong de­mand for them.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the web­bing in the head of the stick was made from the hide of deer killed by the stick maker him­self, while the guard — the piece con­nect­ing the curve of the head to the shaft — was of­ten made from the in­testines of small an­i­mals. But now, Hen­hawk buys cowhide in bulk from a Hamilton store.

He’d like to see more lacrosse play­ers us­ing wood sticks all the time.

“Not just Na­tives, ev­ery­body,” he says. “It’s what the Cre­ator gave us to play with. It’s the most nat­u­ral thing we use, and it’s been around as long as the game has been played.”

To see Spec­ta­tor photographer Barry Gray’s video es­say on Hen­hawk’s wooden sticks, go to the spec.com.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Sticks in var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion hang from Hen­hawk’s work­shop ceil­ing.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Bo Hen­hawk, 22, makes tra­di­tional wooden lacrosse sticks.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

A fin­ished stick, signed by Bo.

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