Monday, November 05, 2007

If a tree falls in the forest, it’s likely not to be made into a hockey stick…

An iconic piece of Canadianna is at risk of disappearing forever, as the long time staple of hockey players from tots leagues to the pros is almost no more.

The wooden hockey stick, the finely crafted piece of lumber that spurred many a night’s dreams on an outdoor rink has been usurped by the shiny new toy of hockey, the composite stick. It’s the flashy and expensive tool of the trade that has become common place around the rinks of North America. A piece of equipment that can set parents back more than a few hundred dollars a stick, just to keep one or two in the garage for hockey night.

Part of the problem it seems is the high cost of producing the sticks in Canada’s fragile forest economy, battered over the last few years by high costs and low revenues, stick makers have all but thrown in the towel. Yielding the industry and forced to live in the shadow of the composite sticks that have become the rage for all levels of hockey.

It’s as though a piece of Canada’s history has been banished forever to the dusty books of the ancient days of Lafleur, Hull, Howe and all those that skated, shot and scored with their trusty Quebec made stick.

Over fifty eight years, millions and millions of sticks have been shipped across the continent and beyond, but all of that comes to an end in January when the main manufacturer of sticks contracts out the work to cheaper and off shore producers.

Sherwood-Drolet is farming out the work to places such as Estonia and China to provide the lower end sticks, which are dwindling in popularity as amateurs and pros continue to choose the composite sticks, as expensive as they have become.

All is not lost however; there will still be custom orders for a few NHL players who haven’t quite jumped to the Dark side. For instance, Jason Spezza of the Senators will still be taking delivery of his yearly requirement of Quebec made wooden sticks, just one player in the five percent of NHL players who haven’t crossed the last barrier in hockey equipment.

The Toronto Star’s Quebec Bureau Chief Sean Gordon, put together a fascinating glimpse at a Canadian industry in its sunset years, a fading era that that perhaps is the most identifiable symbol of how the Canadian hockey world has seen itself for so many generations.

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