Sven Baertschi sees a red stick and he wants it painted black. No colours anymore, he wants it to turn black.
Taking matters into his own hands, Baertschi, the fourth year Canucks forward who has nine points in his last 10 games, grabs a can of spray paint and goes to town on the bottom of his Bauer - Vapor 1X stick. It's not the blade he's worried about, that gets freshly taped pre-game. It's the lower shaft, the area between Baertschi's left glove and the heel of the stick when he's taking a shot.
His sticks are shiny silver, red and black; they're glossy and fancy and would look amazing under a Christmas tree with a bow on top. Baertschi prefers a little less razzle and a lot less dazzle.
"I find all that distracting," he said, can of black paint in hand. "I like to look down and just see black; I'd love a simple matte black stick. But spraying it works too."
To each their own. Although Baertschi is far from alone in his belief that black is the new black.
Alex Burmistrov and Thomas Vanek are also spray paint enthusiasts. "I like looking down and seeing black," said Vanek, "all the colours can be distracting."
There seems to be a theme here.
As Coach Travis Green spoke with the media in Pittsburgh last Wednesday before the Canucks crushed the Penguins 5-2, the smell of paint wafted into the scrum. No one got dizzy from the fumes, but they were impossible to ignore. The sprayer was defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who laughed that he sprays his sticks "because I'm a skilled guy, obviously."
"Realistically, I should be worried about more important things than how the bottom of my stick looks, but I like it. It keeps things simple. I've been doing this ever since I can remember, I used to save up quarters as a kid to buy spray paint so I could do my sticks. A can was like $4.75."
After a few sprays Gudbranson turned the stick towards me, with a smile.
"It looks cooler, right?"
It did, I couldn't deny it.
The customization of sticks using spray paint has been going on for a long time, I'm told. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, players have also sprayed sticks to hide what brand they're using. It wouldn't go over too well if you were a Bauer guy using an Easton stick. Spray spray, fuggetaboutit.
Coach Travis Green was asked about sticks during his media availability Friday in New Jersey, specifically about his flex and customizing sticks back in his day.
"I was thinking more about changing hands by the end of my career," he laughed.
No black for Green.