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We Soon Could See A Hockey Stick Shortage

from Matt Porter of the Boston Globe,

The infectious disease that has stifled life in China has ripple effects for National Hockey League players.

The highly customized sticks used by some 75 percent of the NHL are made in small batches at Chinese factories. With work and travel halted in that country since late January as the country combats an outbreak of coronavirus, the NHL has been unable to get fresh stock in the middle of its competitive season.

During Thursday’s Sabres-Red Wings broadcast, NBC Sports analyst Pierre Maguire said equipment managers told him there was a “major shortage” of sticks.

Hockey manufacturers disputed that, but conceded they are worried.

Bauer, headquartered in Exeter, N.H., makes its pro sticks in China, as does its main competitor, Montreal-based CCM.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Hockey Equipment, | KK Hockey | Permalink



Serves them right.

As if their high-end customers like all affiliated
with the NHL couldn’t afford expertly made sticks
manufactured by people in Canada and the US who are
treated with dignity and paid a living wage and benefits.

It’s pure greed. This is one more smaller example
of how the middle class became hollowed out as
everything is offshored.

And of course it’s worse than hockey sticks in scale and
degree of importance: we’re letting an incredibly opaque, corrupt,
and brutal combined government and military and business sector
corner the market on all kinds of crucial materials and components.
And the excuse is always: well you can buy more cheap, toxic plastic
crap that falls apart quickly made with slave labor. Because you can longer afford quality products when working the terrible service sector jobs that are all that’s
left for many blue collar workers after manufacturing is offshored.

People have been encouraged to be so emptily knee-jerk PC you can hardly even criticize cynical labor arbitrage like this - because the smug credentialed elites who have gotten even richer through selfish, unpatriotic moves like this pretend you are somehow attacking average Chinese people. No, I feel for them like I do anyone else. It’s endless greed by people who have no use for their own country except when it comes to bribing elected officials to cater to their interests at the expense of the public. End rant.

Posted by lefty.30 on 02/09/20 at 08:58 AM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Unfortunately, it’s necessary in order to compete. If one of the companies kept manufacturing in China and the other moved it to Canada, their prices would be many multiples higher, and the company manufacturing in Canada would cease to exist. People love to talk about how things should be for businesses without any understanding of business or economics. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way the market is right now, and the market drives these decisions.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 02/09/20 at 10:34 AM ET


You can buy a can opener made in America that costs more
and won’t break for decades - if ever. Or you can buy a cheaper one
made in China that will literally fall apart within a year or two.

I always buy New Balance running shows that are made in the US.
The aren’t the cheapest but they’re also much more reasonably priced than many flashier, hyped Nike shoes which are made with slave labor. The NB shoes have never let me down through ten marathons and twenty-five halfs, etc. Admittedly, NB doesn’t make all of their shoes here. But they show that it can be done profitably.

Are you telling me stick manufacturers can’t at least make higher-end versions here and that the NHL and its teams and players couldn’t afford them at the prices necessary to make a profit?

Your argument almost reminds me of a microeconomics version of the macro “comparative advantage obviously benefits everyone” I got fed from my first semester of college. Believing any other factors matter is dismissed out of hand as economics illiteracy.But governments, businesses, and consumers all have choices to make. There are trade offs to make which reflect priorities. When everyone uses your excuse to prioritize greed (ever more profits at the expense of everything else) we end up in a position where there are shortages of critical medicines in the US, we have no independent access to rare earth metals and components we need in communications and defense, etc. We had to do it to remain competitive business leaders claim.

Part of this problem is at the level of policy. Governments in the west made a decision at the behest of business lobbies and their donors to chase ever more riches for the relative few,  via Chinese labor and the Chinese market. We were told it would make everyone at home more prosperous and make the Chinese system freer and more democratic. Nope and nope. Our governments should instead do all they can to encourage and sustain and subsidize manufacturing here. And yes, call out unpatriotic, greedy companies for what they are. It’s higher-end manufacturing but look at how Germany is able to sustain high-wage jobs and an industrial base.

You’re essentially saying businesses simply inherited this world and had and have zero choice re: where to make their products. No, they pushed for this because they wanted the cheapest labor, the fewest worker protections, and the highest profits.
I’m not solely blaming businesses but their lobbies absolutely drive much of what our governments do. I’m not impressed by business owners who chase the cheapest labor and lowest standards because no amount of personal profit or shareholder returns are enough. And then point at competitors and claim - I had to do it, while their competitors claim the same thing about them. There are far too many counterexamples of companies in a wide variety of fields who have chosen a different model and kept all or part of their manufacturing at home and done well.

The race to the bottom excuse driven by greed has done a lot to destroy the middle class here and made this country much more vulnerable to and dependent on untrustworthy regimes abroad.

Posted by lefty.30 on 02/09/20 at 12:29 PM ET

Steeb's avatar

While true that a company’s costs would go up if they made sticks in North America, they would charge what the market would bear, not some crazy multiples of what sticks cost now (using sticks as the relevant example, but it applies to most everything), like the big companies claim would happen. They’d make less in profit, but they are already setting prices as high as what people will pay. Nike, for example, uses the aforementioned slave labor and their stuff is not cheap. Most of that cost is profit (and marketing, paying already wealthy athletes for endorsements).

Posted by Steeb on 02/09/20 at 01:03 PM ET

d ca's avatar

Labor costs on these sticks is marginal and offset by increased shipping costs and tariffs. The risk is non-deliveries. Can’t just run down with a truck to the factory when there ready. They have to go through customs and then a journey by ocean.

A private equity firm that bought the company from Nike seems to be squeezing every penny they can from the acquisition.  If the company really cared about the long-term survival of the business, they would be mitigating the risk with increased sourcing on a seasonally cyclical business rather than minimizing labor costs.

So I am in agreement. Good. Let them run out of sticks.

Warrior hockey is owned by New Balance (a company that still manufacture some of its products in the US). Their hockey sticks are made in Mexico (as far as I know according to this.  I am sure they’ll be happy to step up. And this is coming form someone that dislikes all things Birmingham Brother Rice.

In fact check out this video from the founder of Warrior on why he won’t manufacture in China: “China can compromise quality and delivery.” He may have just positioned his company to grow because of scarcity the most basic of economic principles.

why warrior won’t manufacture in China

So I join others saying, “Good. I hope they run out.” Maybe the owners of these business will take the non-delivery opportunity costs more seriously.

Posted by d ca on 02/09/20 at 09:01 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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