hockey-stick curve
n. A curve that resembles the shape of a hockey stick and that represents a phenomenon that begins slowly and then takes off.
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In the US, we are on the knee of the hockey stick curve when it comes to smart growth. But in Europe, the market is way beyond that point and really starting to explode.
—Ian Grayson, “Network: Is it a licence, is it a wallet?,” The Independent (London), November 18, 1997
In 1995 and 1996 everyone did their market research, saw the big hockey-stick curve, and jumped into the market," Grzyb added. "In 1997, the market is getting to the early adopter stage. In 1998, you'll see the hockey stick spiking up dramatically.
—Susan Moran, “Different camps squaring off in E-commerce market,” Computer Dealer News, October 06, 1997
1965 (earliest)
A reduction in drop height reduces the sensitivity to applied stress in all cases, and a 'hockey stick' curve is shown for rubberized hair with the curves for the honeycombs becoming flatter, further increasing the design tolerances
—“Pastics & Polymers: Volumes 33-34,” Plastics Institute, January 01, 1965