A $2.2-million bid has landed an anonymous Canadian what is purported to be the oldest hockey stick.
The buyer has agreed to put the hickory stick, believed to have been carved between 1852 and 1856, on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame, says seller Gord Sharpe.
Sharpe, 45, who has been in possession of the family heirloom since he was nine, was relieved when he learned that the buyer was a Canadian. There were 26 bids submitted from around the world and inquiries were fielded from such places as Dubai, Australia and Germany.
"When the bid came in, I didn't know if it was from a Canadian," Sharpe said Friday, the day after the EBay auction closed. "I feel a lot better now that I know it was purchased by a Canadian."
Proceeds from the sale go to fanscharity.com and its World Charity Award program, both run by Sharpe with the goal of promoting the importance of charities and awareness of charities among children.
"I can still see the stick if I want in the Hall, and it meant a lot of money going towards our charity programs," Sharpe said. "That was more important than keeping it."
Sharpe, who lives near Cobourg, Ont., says the stick was carved by Alexander Rutherford Sr. and handed down to him by his great uncle Melville Rutherford, who owned a farm near Lindsay, Ont.
The Hockey Hall of Fame wouldn't confirm that Sharpe's stick is the oldest but did provide him with "authentication facts" for sticks of that era. The oldest stick on display in the Hall today is from 1881.
David Romeo, CEO of Auctionwire.ca, the agency that handled the stick sale, said it "was brought in front of a number of appraisers."
"It was recognized as the oldest known hockey stick," he said. "The stick looks archaic but there is something special about it - it has many elements about it that are still used in modern stick design such as its one-piece construction, however they weigh a lot less."
According to Sharpe, an appraiser whom he would not identify put the stick's value at $4.25 million U.S. ($4.9 million Cdn).
Prior to the auction, Sharpe's stick was on display in a glass case in Wayne Gretzky's downtown Toronto restaurant.
It's in a safe place now for the new owner.
"It's in a secured, undisclosed vault," said Romeo. "The only thing we know is that he wants it to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame."
The stick was originally put up for auction six years ago, but was withdrawn when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States happened. Sharpe says he felt it was inappropriate in that aftermath of those tragedies to be auctioning anything for his charity when monies were being collected to aid 911 victims and their families. Two corporations were looking to buy the stick at that time for around $2 million (U.S.), he said.
Not long ago, Sharpe saved the stick from sure ruin. After he discovered how much it might be worth, he stored it in a basement vault with a Peterborough furrier. A couple of years after moving it again, a flood struck the Ontario city.
"The stick probably would have been gone," he said.
There were more than 20,600 visits to the website from people interested in learning about and perhaps bidding on the stick, said Romeo.
Sharpe hopes to use some of the proceeds from the sale of the stick on a documentary movie that shows children the importance of charities and fundraising.