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Coronavirus causing concern about NHL stick shortage

Joe De Falco   ·   9 février 2020
The virus currently in the back of everyone’s mind, causing havoc in China, is having a ripple effect among players in the NHL as well over half of the NHL’s custom sticks are produced and shipped from there.

During Thursday’s Sabres-Red Wings broadcast, NBC Sports analyst Pierre Maguire said equipment managers told him there was a “major shortage” of sticks due to the coronavirus. With work and travel halted in the country since late January, the NHL has been unable to get fresh stock through the middle of its competitive season.

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Bauer and CCM, who account for roughly 75 percent of the custom sticks used by NHL players, are both built in China. True, who also builds their sticks in China, account for an additional 1.4 percent. With the virus putting a hold on China’s manufacturing, many NHLers are concerned as to where their next batch of sticks will be coming from, and worse... when?

The only major hockey stick manufacturer seemingly unaffected by the virus outbreak is Warrior, who produces their sticks in Mexico, with their material coming solely from North America.

While most hockey equipment found in retail stores is made in China, representatives from Bauer said nearly all of this season’s gear is already either on the shelves or in North American storage, meaning retailers won’t need more stock from overseas until the summer.

It’s a different story for elite performance sticks, however, which are used by most junior, college, AHL and NHL players. When playing at that competitive of a level, buying a stick off the shelf is essentially out of the question. Professional players are looking to use sticks with custom features, made to suit their needs. Tweaking a stick’s properties, the curve of its blade, the stiffness of its shaft, can bring a player more goals and assists, and thus, his team more wins.

While NHLers typically keep several dozen sticks in storage to use at their disposal, they go fast, and with manufacturing hauled in China since late January, players are beginning to wonder about replenishing their sticks as needed.

NHL TV analyst and former coachPierre Maguire said that “a lot of players, especially the better more skilled, scoring-type players, they’re worried about where their next batch of sticks are coming from. It’s a big problem.”

Maguire also stated that an equipment manager for either the Sabres or Red Wings told him most of that team’s players were “using a one-stick limit for practice and maybe two for games,” though he would not disclose which team. It’s assumable, however, that most teams across the professional hockey world are using precaution.

Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle, who uses CCM sticks, commented on the potentiality of a stick shortage;

“I’ve been kinda looking for some, and I think they’re kinda slowed up a bit for obvious — for a good reason. So I am trying to make do . . . trying not to break too many right now.”

“I don’t really know what’s going on over there to be honest,” Coyle added. “Hopefully it’s not too slow.”

Coyle’s teammate, Jake DeBrusk, who is one of several players utilizing Bauer’s new Nexus ADV model, which has a unique hole in the blade design, also weighed in on the situation;

“I’m not sure what’s going on with that coronavirus there, in China. That’s where everything’s made in the world.”

“I’m not conserving anything,” he added. “I love firing the puck with it. Obviously if it gets down to the wire, we’ll start talking about different, I guess, tactics.”

Those things are gold right now,” DeBrusk said. “I kind of want to keep as many as possible.”

While players across the league may have concerns, Bauer Hockey CEO Ed Kinnaly said the company was monitoring the “fluid and dynamic global situation.” He anticipated no impact to retailers worldwide, which he said are stocked through the end of the hockey season.

Kinnaly noted that Bauer’s custom stick operation has been halted, but “the most recent update suggests we can restart operations on February 10. We have backup stock in the U.S. and Canada to meet these needs, and we are working closely with equipment managers to understand their inventory levels and ensure players have what they need.”

Warrior, who is unaffected due to their production in Mexico, also commented on the situation, making clear that they are still operating at full capacity and ready to meet the needs of players.

Dan Mecrones, who oversees the company’s pro player endorsements, said 300 factory employees are making sticks six days a week, and prepared to add another shift if needed.

“We’re open for business. We’re prepared for anything that comes our way.”

“You don’t like to take a situation like this where it’s a health scare and there’s a lot of concerns out there. From our perspective, we will take any type of business that came our way to help out the situation as well. We would be helping the game if we can provide the equipment that others couldn’t.”



He also noted players endorsing other companies have approached Warrior about possibly switching brands.

The Chinese government halted travel and work in the country late last month after the outbreak of the virus in the central Wuhan province. As of Friday, the World Health Organization reported nearly 35,000 cases of the virus and 724 deaths.

Factories closed for a week beginning Jan. 25 to observe the Chinese New Year. The government has since extended the shutdown through Monday.

While companies such as Bauer are stating there will be no problems down the line in regards to stick production, it’s clear the consensus around the league is ‘concerned,’ at the very least.

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HOCKEY - QUIZ
Which band sings "Passe-moé la puck et j’vas en compter des buts"?
HARMONIUM
LES BB
LES COLOCS
LES COWBOYS FRINGANTS
LES TROIS ACCORDS
VILAIN PINGOUIN
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