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The Malik Report

A sticky business, indeed

I absolutely adore hockey equipment, the technology that goes into making it and the delicate business that is getting NHL’ers to endorse a particular brand of equipment, and especially in light of the fact that a certain Red Wings defenseman wearing #55 used sticks that he was never completely comfortable with for three years before switching to a different brand this year thanks to a Kronwall-brother deal with Bauer, Yahoo Sports’ Justin Bourne offers nothing less than equipment candy in talking about NHL’ers stick deals:

[T]hey start with a blank slate — they can use, try, or mess with whatever stick in the world they want. If they’re second or third liners in a good market — and the “good market” part is key here — then they can probably finagle some cash or product out of a company for using their twigs. In great markets like Toronto, rest assured every player on that team is cashing a cheque from the company clearly displayed on their stick. (Yes, that includes players who don’t even need sticks for anything but slashing). In Atlanta or Phoenix? It’s unlikely you’re seeing a whole lot of kickback.

I’ve been told by a few equipment types that there are “A,” “B” and “C” markets, and Detroit is an “A” market, so it’s probable that every Red Wing gets some sort of compensation for the sticks, skates, gloves, helmet and even hockey pants that they wear.

If your preference in twigs is Bauer, and Bauer offers you nine bucks to use their sticks for the year, it makes sense: you were going to use them anyway, so you might as well take that lunch money and carry on as usual. If you’re torn between brands, the stick sponsorship can serve as a decider for you.

What shocked me is just how close the actual dollar amounts are to the nine-dollar example I just used. It’s not uncommon that a second-or-third line player in a decent market would get a one-year deal for a number somewhere between two and four thousand dollars. That two-to-four thousand may come in the form of golf clubs or other sports products (small kickbacks of product or cash not totalling very much money — four thousand or less — are referred to as “spiffs” in the industry.)

That said, one brand has really upped the ante and is snapping up NHL players left and right for way above average, possibly moving the status quo in regards to how much cash these guys will want from other companies in the future. This year, a good number of these second and third liners in decent markets started receiving between 10 and 15 thousand dollars (in general, 5K in gear, 10K in cash) for the season.

What blows me away about that is, compared to what these players earn, that dollar amount is peanuts. Not even. It’s packing peanuts. You might think it’d be worth it to take nothing and keep your options open, but apparently not to most pros. Cash is king and, like most humans, pro hockey players can be bought.

Continued, and if you find it fascinating that Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi are using Easton S19’s, that no Wing using an EQ50-painted stick has anything other than a SE16 under the paint job, you’re intrigued about Warren-based Warrior’s hard push to snag Wings (see: Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Henrik Zetterberg and possibly Johan Franzen), wonder how much Oxford, MI-based Vaughn Sports would have to give Jimmy Howard to get him to swap out his sticks, you pay attention to blacked-out skates, the cuts of custom-made visors and wonder why minor leaguers who graduate to the NHL seem to dump their Reebok gear like it’s nothing more than used matchsticks, Bourne’s article is worth your time.

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SYF's avatar

Whoa.  Did not realize how many popular hockey equipment makers are based in Michigan alone, George.  I knew Wolverine World Wide made their boots and footwear in Rockford and that alone made me proud of wearing them on my feet but Warrior?  Vaughn?  Really?  Excellent.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 03/15/11 at 05:36 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Warrior doesn’t make their gear here, regrettably. Vaughn does, Brian’s makes goalie gear in Kingsville, ON, which is next to Leamington (Darren McCarty’s hometown, about 45 minutes southeast of the Joe), as does TPS Hockey in Wallaceburg (across the river from Algonac).

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/15/11 at 06:24 PM ET

drimo's avatar

I’m definitely going to look for the blacked out equipment from now on.

Posted by drimo from Cincinnati, OH on 03/15/11 at 06:45 PM ET


I’ve noticed that Zetterberg breaks one or two sticks a game since switching to Warrior.

Posted by Steve on 03/16/11 at 09:20 AM ET

Crater's avatar

Steve, the stick Z switched to is a new stick from warrior called The Widow. It has a tapered neck, so its thinner above the blade.  This give it a different feel, makes it lighter, and provides more kick.

The fact that is is tapering down towards the blade probably leaves it a bit more susceptible to breaking, but really its hard to truly judge it. A lot of players break a lot of sticks every game.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 03/16/11 at 03:13 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.