At the NHL All-Star skills contest in January, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara blasted a puck at 108.8 mph—the hardest NHL slap shot on record. The 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound Slovakian did it with the help of a short, self-taught, shaggy-headed Californian he’s never met.
Isaac Garcia of athletic gear maker Warrior Sports designed Chara’s stick in suburban San Diego, aided by a slap-shot-taking robot, a stick-breaking machine, and a layman’s guide to physics.
“It’s really about asking the right questions and understanding what’s in their head,” says Garcia, 36. Warrior, owned by New Balance Athletic Shoes, is a challenger to dominant stick makers Easton Sports, Bauer Performance Sports, and Reebok-CCM. Chara, 35, once used Warrior, switched to Easton, then returned to Warrior. “I like my stick to be as light as possible and as stiff as possible,” he says.
A.B. I miss the days of the two-piece aluminum sticks. Switching out the wooden blade with hot glue and a blow dryer was awesome. The best part was if you broke the blade, you could still use the stick – just replace the bottom for about $20.
Now, at $200+ dollars a stick, I am afraid to have hockey playing children. By the time they reach high school, I’m sure we’ll be talking a cool half-grand and that’s without thinking about skates, gloves, helmets etc.
Obviously people like Chara don’t have to worry about the cost. Besides making millions of dollars, he gets these sticks for free from the Bruins. He could snap 100 and never pay a dime. For the rest of us, snap more than one and the family might have to cancel a tropical vacation.
But let’s all agree on something. Wooden sticks always have and always will suck.