Stan Mikita is generally regarded as the father of the curved stick. One of the all time greats, nowadays Stan Mikita is synonymous with his famous banana blade.
The legend of the curved stick goes something like this: Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were taking extra shots after practice when Mikita's blade cracked and curved. Mikita fired off a shot in frustration, and was surprised by the puck's velocity. He and Hull would experiment with curving sticks over the coming weeks, eventually convincing coach Billy Reay to use the boomerang blade in games.
But another all time great claimed to have first curved his blade back in the early 1940s, and even accused Mikita of getting the idea from him.
Here's what Andy Bathgate told author Bruce Dowbiggin in the book The Stick:
"Back in Winnipeg, where I grew up, my brother Frank and I used to curve our sticks. We'd get them wet and give them a nice bend. It helped us raise the puck. I used them all the time, even when I got to junior in Guelph. When I got to the Rangers, my coach, Alf Pike, would go around stepping on the blades to break them. 'You can't use those in a game,' he'd say. When he was gone and Phil Watson came in, I started curving them a little more."
And about Mikita getting the idea from him:
"Chicago was in to play us one Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden - it was one of those CBS TV games, I think - and Stan had run out of sticks. I guess their trainer went to our trainer to see if he could borrow sticks for the game - we were both right handed shots. I had some some I was using that had a little curve in them and so our trainer lent them to Stan. I think he just took it from there."
Mikita flatly denies that story. But it might not matter anyways, as another Hall of Fame player made an even earlier claim than either Mikita or Bathgate.
Bert Olmstead, meanwhile, says he was curving sticks in his youth in Alberta in the 1930s. "Oh we used to curve them all the time. That's how we lifted the puck. They were so whippy that when we got the wet, it was easy to curve the blade." Olmstead says he and other NHL players put slight curves in their blades when the vigilant eyes of their bosses were trained elsewhere.