Friday, 29 April 2011

Equipment Watch: Integral Hockey

How many times have we seen a stick explode in the NHL Playoffs this season when a team sets up a big one-timer? It happens far too often with the composite sticks, and it can be ridiculously expensive for leisure players and parents of younger players to replace these sticks when they do explode. Because of the flex I put on my stick when I shoot, I fully admit that I have not made the change to composite because I like the durability of a wood stick. One Vancouver company, however, is looking to help players and parents save a little cash and keep that composite stick in play when it snaps. That company is Integral Hockey.

Now, I can already hear what some of you are thinking: "Teebz, this will never work. You can't fix a broken stick because it will be the weakest point on the stick if it is repaired. It will just break again!" You're right in terms of the physics, and I thought the same thing. So what is this concept that Integral Hockey is bringing forward?

According to their website, "Randy Langille, founder of Integral Hockey, applied advanced laminating processes he learned from building aircraft components back in the early days of his manufacturing career". This new application of an old technology to broken composite sticks has proven to be very successful thanks to a number of testimonials and the number of teams now using the process.

The science behind fixing a composite stick is quite involved. The "carbon fiber/e-glass, vacuum infused process" that Integral Hockey is using is nothing new in terms of science, but the application to hockey sticks certainly is. You can find this technology in airplanes, wind turbines, and a host of other places that require immense strength where repairs have been made. Therefore, this would, theoretically, work for hockey sticks where the demands put upon them are somewhat less, albeit still high to the player using the stick.

While the repair process is proprietary to Integral Hockey, meaning I can't really tell you how it's done, there is a video on their website that shows a little of the early process in how a composite stick is repaired. Ok, it doesn't show much thanks to the proprietary process involved, but the fact that a composite stick can be put back in a player's hands without losing any flex or balance and without adding any weight while still being strong is quite an impressive feat.

Says Russ, an Integral Hockey customer,

“I have been using that S19 that you repaired for me…and have been loving it, again. I have been hammering lots of slap shots with it... kind of a torture test for a repaired hockey stick I suppose... and it has been great. Chris is also happy with that S17 that you did as well. Thanks for the great repair – I have another friend sending you some sticks.”
Nothing says quality like hearing actual people using the product. But for a real test of the repairs on sticks, I'd like to see actual hockey players put the sticks through the ringer during the course of a season. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs, a Junior-A team in the British Columbia Hockey League, has been working with Integral Hockey as a test pool for the work done on their hockey sticks.

Josh Mitchell, the Bulldogs' leading scorer this season, used a repaired stick from this season, and he had this to say:
"I was very impressed with the stick that Integral Hockey repaired for me. It felt brand new and seemed even more durable than before. I used the stick down the stretch and in the playoffs and even chose to use it over some of the other sticks I had available. I had complete confidence that the stick would respond the way I expected it to and will definitely use them again in the future.”
If the leading scorer from a Junior-A team gives it his thumbs-up, it has to be a pretty good service, I'd say. After all, those games can be quite physical as the players look to move up to the next level of hockey. It even works for sticks used in roller hockey as Mackenzie Legacy says.
"The stick that you gave me to try has been great. I have been using it for a couple of weeks now. The repair was right in the middle of the stick and it doesn’t seem to have affected the flex. It has taken a fair bit of abuse. Roller hockey tends to have a lot of slashing. It has also withheld a lot of face-offs. This stick seems to be holding up very well. I am happy with the repairs on this stick. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to try it out.”
There you have it, folks: this service not only repairs the stick, but provides it with enough strength and flex that it can do anything asked of it - face-offs, slashing and receiving a slash, and slapshots. That's pretty good proof that Integral Hockey has themselves a service that can and should be used by a number of players and parents that want to save hundreds of dollars in a season, depending on the number of sticks that are snapped.

The pricing is fair as well when you consider that most wooden hockey sticks run in around the $30-50 range. The price to repair a composite stick through Integral Hockey is $45 plus taxes and shipping and the price to repair a blade is $55 plus taxes and shipping - not bad at all when you consider that some composite sticks run as high as $300! Repair cost information can be found here, but those prices are very fair in my opinion.

Now you might be asking yourself what kind of guarantee do you get. Normally, sticks aren't guaranteed against breakage because of the nature of the sport. Most places will tell you that up-front if you ask because hockey is a sport where sticks are regularly broken for a variety of reasons. Integral Hockey actually has a warranty for their work on the repaired sticks! That's right: your repaired hockey stick has a warranty against breakage! While the warranty is only 36 days, it's still better than nothing, right? You can see the full warranty info here.

I've never heard of any process like this, and I'm glad that Integral Hockey has brought forth a service like this. The cost of composite hockey sticks is astronomical in some cases, and I can't imagine spending more on sticks than I do on equipment when I play. The fact that you can have a composite stick repaired for the price of a new wooden stick is a great way to keep those composite sticks in play when looking at a replacement. After all, not all parents and players have professional contracts with stick manuafacturers.

For more information about this new innovative process, please visit the Integral Hockey site. Personally, this offering may change me over to composite sticks as I spend $100-120 a season on wooden hockey sticks. And that means more business for Integral Hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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