Sunday, January 22, 2012

Integral Hockey - Stick Handling to Success

Whether you are the parent of a young hockey player with NHL dreams or an adult playing recreationally for the love of the game, it is hard to ignore the rising costs of hockey. League fees are constantly on the rise, as is the cost of equipment. Even the price of a hockey stick has increased in recent years, as more and more players take advantage of the new technology used to make carbon fibre sticks. It provides more power in your shot, but it can take a bite out of your wallet. If and when it breaks (which seems to happen frequently in crucial moments of an NHL game) it is tossed aside and you find yourself saving up for a new one.

Thankfully, Integral Hockey is helping to reduce some of the costs of playing hockey and answering the question - what can I do with my high-priced broken stick? The answer is simple. Send it to them and they can repair it! Based in British Columbia, Integral Hockey is seeing steady growth and interest in their stick repair technology and they are exploring franchise possibilities and expanding throughout Canada.

“Our company was formed about a year and a half ago and the technology behind the company was developed about two years ago,” Integral Hockey’s Gord Piercey explained in a recent telephone interview. “It is a work in progress but we have it to the point where we do such a good job on the repair that we are able to introduce the product to a very high level of hockey at this point.”

“The end result is a hollow carbon fibre repair and the technical term for the process is the carbon fibre e-glass hybrid vacuum process. It is a proprietary process that we use, but it is quite different from what is in the market today from other stick repair processes. Ours is a hollow carbon fibre, so that allows us to keep the weight down in the repair. It also allows us to keep the flexibility and the balance. The end result is a stick that is pretty much like the day you bought it.”

Part of the challenge of growing the company is making consumers aware of the technology and the fact that your stick can be repaired, as opposed to simply ending up in the landfill. If Integral Hockey does receive a stick that cannot be repaired, it is disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

“People are very busy and stick repair is not something that has been readily advertised or really promoted through the stick manufacturers and stick companies - they want to sell new sticks,” Piercey said. “Traditionally, people say, ‘I didn’t know you could get a stick repaired’ or ‘I know someone that had a stick repaired and they didn’t like it’. We took that into consideration when we developed our process and now we can offer a repair system that people truly have no issue using because the end result is a lot different from the other services out there today.”

“Our true goal is to help people - we are a company that sees a real problem and we want to get to the bottom of it and find a real solution. We are trying to help parents, kids and teams get their players through hockey. We know that if you are a parent and have two or three kids in hockey, then that it is a tremendous expense. I have clients that would bring in a stick that their older son broke and they would pass it down to another son after it had been repaired.”

“I have 72 sticks on my bench right now from the Drumheller Dragons,” he continued. “They saw the value in what we do and for them to replace those sticks, if they were $100-$150 new - it will save them thousands of dollars if they were to just replace those sticks. They saved all of their sticks from last year, we repaired them and now they have practise sticks for this season.”

One of the goals at Integral Hockey is to help young athletes by giving back to the community. They have programs in place with junior hockey teams that allows the company to make regular donations to local KidSport chapters. The idea is as innovative as their repair work.

“If they break a stick,” Piercey explained. “They can autograph it, we will repair it and put it in a retail location. For every autographed stick that is sold, we donate $5 to KidSport. At the end of the year, we calculate how many sticks were sold and we write a cheque. Last year, we sold about $270 worth of autographed sticks and we topped up the donation to $500. We try to do anything that we can and if there is an opportunity to help out, we do it. We are there to help - we want to do things to help out the hockey community.”

As the company grows, so does their reputation for quality and affordable repairs. Jason Jaffray, a member of the Winnipeg Jets organization, explains at the Integral Hockey website just how effective the company’s repair work is - as time went on, it became difficult to tell the difference between his new sticks and the one that was repaired!

“I had a chance to use a stick repaired by Integral Hockey,” Jaffray wrote. “At first I was very skeptical about using a recycled stick. But after using it, I found it to be no different from my other sticks on my rack. It was just as strong as my other sticks and a week later, I found myself searching the shaft of my sticks to see which stick was the one that was repaired – because honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the three. I definitely support Integral Hockey and would recommend them to anyone wanting to save some money and use a stick that still feels like new.”

For Piercey, hearing a comment like Jason’s is the ultimate compliment and it illustrates that their hard work is paying off. It is becoming a familiar story - players that have their sticks repaired trust the work done by Integral Hockey and instead of the repaired one being a “practise” stick, it is becoming part of their regular rotation.

“We are so proud when we hear that,” Piercey acknowledged. “When we first heard that the leading scorer for the Alberni Bulldogs was using one of our sticks in actual games, we were just so happy to hear that! We repaired those sticks for Jason too, and he took them to the ice in Calgary where he was practising with some friends and other NHL players and he loved the sticks. If we have players like Jason, an NHLer, saying good things about our work, then that goes a long way for us and it filters down to the Junior A level.”

“We’ve come a long way as a company and it’s been great - we have had tremendous results and nothing but positive feedback. We are looking forward to helping more people.”

Offering a great and innovative service, while helping families that may be struggling with the high costs of hockey - it sounds like a winning formula to me.

If you would like more information on Integral Hockey, whether it is having a stick repaired or looking for a franchise near you, visit their website: www.integralhockey.com

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