Wednesday, 21 January 2015

They Need A Stick Called .45

I'm always on the lookout for new equipment or manufacturers. As someone once said, "'We've always done it this way' is the most dangerous phrase in business", so I'm intrigued when I find new manufacturers who take an idea and make it better. Hockey has seen lots of innovation over the last few decades - some good, some not so good - but it seems that sticks are reinvented constantly. More flex, less weight, and all sorts of new materials have gone into sticks in changing them from wood to aluminum to hybrids to whatever space-age material manufacturers are now using. Today, COLT Hockey is wading into the hockey stick world by creating the "most durable hockey stick in the world"!

Durability on hockey sticks often rely on two factors: usage and materials. Wood sticks are highly durable due to their nature, and some wood sticks have gone as far as adding iron or steel cores to the shaft of the sticks to provide added durability. Aluminum sticks were also durable and extremely light, but if an aluminum stick had a nick in it at a weak spot the aluminum would snap or shatter. This is also true for composite sticks, but the flex they can absorb is incredible. So how do COLT Hockey sticks differ from any of the above materials?

According to COLT Hockey's website, "Originally engineered for aerospace applications, Nanovate™ NiCo is used to make composite parts stronger and last longer. This patented Nano-technology produces the Nickel Cobalt metal at a grain size that is 1000 times smaller than that of a typical metal. The result creates a material that is 2.8 times stronger and 20% more flexible than steel." Interesting, but there haven't been many players who have turned to pure steel for their twigs. So how does this relate to a hockey stick?

Let's go back to the website.
With some modifications, we applied the Nanovate™ NiCo technology to carbon fibre and the COLT hockey stick was born.

In co-operation with an industry-leading composite stick manufacturer we underwent numerous product tests that showed we had achieved our objectives:
  1. The Nanovate™ NiCo coating protects the carbon fibre from micro-fractures that commonly occur with use
  2. Elite players found that the stick held up in high intensity situations (slap shots, one-timers and corner battles included)
  3. The one-piece composite stick is still able to load and release the shot with adequate flex and proper use of the stick’s kick points
  4. The COLT stick is ~50% stronger than a conventional carbon fibre stick after a simulated slash impact
  5. The most outstanding result is that the COLT is able to store more energy in the stick which results in more power behind your shot: Increased Energy → Increased Velocity → Greater Performance.
I'm impressed by some of the claims on here, but this sounds like a lot of marketing jargon. Numbers and figures are being tossed around, claims are being made, and there are a lot of keywords being dropped in those "objectives". In other words, I'm not convinced with all this lip service yet. After all, we were told that carbon-fiber would change the game radically. It changed the game, but "radically" might be a stretch. So where did the idea of this NiCo coating come from?

The idea was born when COLT Hockey company co-founder Daniel Lucchesi read how the technology made a ping pong ball strong enough to withstand 200-pounds of pressure in a National Post article. The Mississauga-based Integran Technologies was demonstrating the strength of their NiCo coating that they used in aerospace and military devices, and Lucchesi saw an opportunity to change hockey sticks in a major way.

According to the research, the weight of the NiCo coating adds a mere thirty grams of weight to a stick while providing an overly strong reinforcement that resists micro-fractures unlike carbon-fiber. There's a bit of a metallic sheen to the bottom third of the sticks, but we've already seen that during the aluminum stick era so this shouldn't be anything shocking. The most impressive part of the start-up is that COLT Hockey raised $100,600 from 476 interested recreational players and NHL alumni through a successful Kickstarter campaign, enabling them to start producing their sticks.

"We had people logging 1,000 slap shots per hour on this thing, and we did not experience any damage or deadening of the shaft, which is what happens with a lot of the composites," COLT Hockey co-founder Daniel Palumbo told Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "You can stand on it with a skate blade, and it won't break."

We'll come back to this claim in a second.

We've heard about the technology and research that went into this stick. We've heard the claims made by COLT Hockey about how these sticks are break-resistant. All of this R&D costs some moolah, so how much do these COLT Hockey sticks cost?

Well, they retail for $269.99 as a price point. Yes, that seems high for the weekend warrior, but it's actually not that far off other composite stick prices. When you consider the durability of the stick, it might actually justify the investment since there's less chance that you'll break a COLT Hockey stick. However, that price is a still a large chunk of money for any parent or player to spend on a stick.

In a turn of events, though, the guys from COLT Hockey decided to see of they could expand their business prospects by appearing on the Canadian investment show, CBC's Dragon's Den. They asked for $500,000 for 20% of their company in their pitch. Would the Dragons buy into the pitch? More importantly, would their claim of having a break-resistant stick hold true in front of the men and woman who could determine the future of COLT Hockey?
Despite the bars of the net being a little flimsy, the COLT Hockey stick withstood the abuse! I'm only comparing it to other hockey sticks, but the COLT Hockey stick took a beating and kept on ticking! The better news? Three Dragons liked the stick! Jim Treliving put in an offer for 50% of the company while Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton teamed up to put in their own offer for 49% of the company. With two offers on the table, would COLT Hockey be willing to surrender that much equity in those offers? Would they counter-offer these offers?

The answer is yes! I won't ruin the ending of the pitch for you by telling you which offer was taken and what, if any, counter-offers were made, but COLT Hockey has some solid backing to help them move the company forward. While it seems unlikely that the price point will change much in the coming months as they look to crack the market, there's a chance we may see the price drop if they gain a foothold alongside Reebok, Easton, and Bauer!

I want you, the reader, to know that I haven't seen nor touched one of the COLT Hockey sticks. I have no idea whether or not these sticks live up to their billing in real-life. I do know that the science seems legitimate and the video doesn't lie. I also know that at least one major investor - perhaps more - are backing COLT Hockey thanks to their appearance on CBC's Dragon's Den, and these investors don't sink their money into businesses that are going to fail. Logic seems to point to the COLT Hockey sticks being a wise investment for players if they are looking for a replacement for those flimsy composite sticks. Even better, supporting a Canadian company is a wise investment as well.

If hockey sticks are making you broke, why not get one that will resisting breaking? Seems elementary to me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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