Coronavirus' impact on life in China could potentially cause NHL stick shortage, per report

Sporting News

The coronavirus' impact on life in China has reportedly made an unforseen impact on the NHL as equipment companies that primarily make their hockey sticks in the country have halted production.

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre Maguire first made this claim during the broadcast of a Buffalo Sabres-Detroit Red Wings game on Thursday. On Saturday, the Boston Globe's Matt Porter reported that while hockey stick manufacturers disputed that there is a "major shortage" of sticks, the situations could quickly leave many players shorthanded.

According to the Globe, Bauer, CCM and True Hockey all make their pro sticks in China, providing approximately 75 percent of NHLers with their sticks each year based on data from Gear Geek. NHL players typically use new sticks in every game and have several available to them during any given game. Modern sticks made of composite fibers commonly break during games; a single player can easily lose three or more sticks on a particularly unlucky day.

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Maguire claimed during Thursday's broadcast that an equipment manager for either the Sabres or Red Wings claimed many of the team's players are “using a one-stick limit for practice and maybe two for games," and that players around the league are growing concerned where their next batch of sticks could come from.

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In an email to the Globe, Bauer Hockey CEO Ed Kinnaly said the company is monitoring the situation and expects no impact to its worldwide retailers, which he said are already stocked to the end of the hockey season. He said that as of now, its custom stick operation that works with collegiate and professional players expects to restart operations on Monday and that the company has backup stock in North America to meet the NHL's needs.

The only major company that provides sticks to the NHL from outside China is New Balance-owned Warrior, which provides roughly 22 percent of the league with its sticks made in Tijuana, Mexico. A company official told the Globe that players who currently endorse other companies have approached Warrior about potentially switching brands if need be.

“You don’t like to take a situation like this where it’s a health scare and there’s a lot of concerns out there,” Dan Mecrones told the Globe. “From our perspective, we will take any type of business that came our way to help out the situation as well. We would be helping the game if we can provide the equipment that others couldn’t.”

As of Sunday, the World Health Organization has reported 37,558 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally. The vast majority of cases have occured in China, where the virus has claimed 812 lives. The Chinese government reportedly extended a week-long factory shut down starting Jan. 25 that originally observed Chinese New Year through Monday, but WHO still assesses the risk level in China as "very high."

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