By Sean Shapiro
Feb 15, 2020
Uploaded by: Martin Arnold
China is on the mind of NHL equipment managers right now.
The outbreak of the coronavirus, which has halted work and travel in China since January, is having a significant impact on the production of sticks that NHL players use.
CCM and Bauer build their sticks in China and outfit much of the NHL — an estimated 75 percent of players. On the Dallas Stars, 18 players use a CCM or Bauer stick while six use Warrior, which is built in Mexico.
Stars head equipment manager Steve Sumner said the Stars aren’t in as bad of shape as some other NHL teams.
“It didn’t really affect us; they were shutting down for Chinese New Year anyways,” Sumner said. “And when I order sticks, I project how to get through road trips and all that, so I kind of project what I’m going to need for the long term. At the time they had shut down for the coronavirus, I had at least 24 sticks on the shelf for everybody, so we were more than ready for it.”
Sumner typically orders sticks in batches of 24 for each player and estimated that the Stars are already covered when it comes to sticks through the end of March. Other teams, ones with shorter road trips, sometimes order sticks in smaller batches and therefore might be scrambling a bit more as the work stoppage in China continues.
The life of a stick depends on the player. Many use a new one every game, while others ride one out for three or four games. When The Athletic Dallas did a story on stick lifespans last season, the average player used 100 to 120 in a season.
Sumner said the fact that Joe Pavelski uses a Mexican-made Warrior stick makes life easier.
“My heaviest user is Pavelski,” Sumner said. “If he used CCM or Bauer, we might have had a problem.”
Sumner said the Stars also have a pretty good stash of backup stock for players who have been with the organization for more than one season.
“I don’t really get rid of stuff they’ve used in the past,” Sumner said. “Some of the sticks that I do have, they’re maybe something they used last year, but it’s the same curve and same flex and everything but just a different graphic. So I’ve told the guys, if we do get short, this is what you have. So everyone was really positive about that.”
Some NHL players have also been proactive about adding to their stock. Earlier this week, Tyler Seguin ended up grabbing four sticks from his mom’s garage in Brampton, Ont., that hadn’t been used last season.
Among the Stars players asked about the topic, Seguin was the only one who had any real concerns about a potential shortage. Players who take a heavy number of faceoffs, like Seguin, are the prime candidates to be most affected by a shortage.
The Stars also travel with a large stock of sticks. For every road trip, Sumner packs two new sticks per game for each player in case of breakage, so on this three-game jaunt through Canada, the stick stock was close to 140. In a typical season, an NHL team uses at least 3,000 sticks and sometimes upward of 4,000.
Sumner said keeping that stock filled was just a practice in planning, and the planned shutdowns before the coronavirus even became an issue made this easier to deal with for now.
“It’s not just Chinese New Year; it’s also Christmas, because they shut down for Christmas over here (in North America),” Sumner said. “They are still working over there, but over here you can’t place orders and all that around Christmas. When we place an order with our rep, it has to go to somebody in Toronto who then places the order in China, so nothing really gets done during the Christmas break, either.”
That’s why Sumner placed his last big order in early December, and it typically takes “at least two weeks” for sticks to arrive at the Stars’ practice facility in Frisco.
There is also a trickle-down impact on the Texas Stars. The AHL has a contract with CCM, so aside from a couple of players each game who are granted a stick exception, all of the Texas Stars are required to use a CCM instrument.
Joel L’Esperance is the heaviest user of sticks for Texas, according to Sumner, but since he’s on the NHL call-up radar, they have a large stock of sticks for L’Esperance in Frisco that Sumner could send to Cedar Park if the forward ends up with a shortage.
Sumner said the Stars, like all teams, are going to continue monitoring the situation in China and, to be safe, will likely place an order to replenish stock whenever they restart production. There had been plans for Bauer to get things going again in its factory Monday, but like all things, it’s fluid right now.
“We’ll see what happens. We aren’t overly worried right now,” Sumner said. “It works out well enough with the group I have here that we shouldn’t be short anytime too soon.”