Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A fix for hockey sticks

Lockport firm uses aerospace technology to repair expensive composite sticks

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The days of remortgaging your house to buy your young hockey player a new stick may be over.

Integral Hockey Stick Repair, a two-year-old B.C.-based company, has opened up a location in Lockport, 20 minutes north of Winnipeg.

Dave Langill, the local franchisee, will use Integral's proprietary aerospace technology to repair carbon-fibre hockey sticks -- the kind that set you back between $200 and $350 -- and service the Winnipeg market.

He encourages parents -- and beer-leaguers, too, for that matter -- to look upon Integral's technology as a way of getting an extended warranty on a composite hockey stick.

"If you buy your son a $300 stick, that's a lot of money for most parents, and you hope it will last," he said.

Most manufacturers provide a one-month warranty on such sticks. Integral will guarantee its work for 36 days on the specific repair site.

The company is the brainchild of Randy Langille (no relation). The longtime employee in the aerospace industry was used to working with Kevlar and carbon fibre, but he was getting tired of his hockey-playing buddies dropping off their hockey sticks to get fixed.

"I kept telling them, 'Don't tell them who fixed this, there's no money in it,' " he said.

But one night he remembered a particular process he used in making aircraft parts and, after modifying it slightly in his shop, he figured he had a viable business.

The secret is repairing the stick so it's still hollow; that way it can still flex like it did before it was broken. Other stick-repair shops use different varieties of plugs, he said, which limit flexibility and hence the amount of power a player can generate on a shot.

"We're the only ones on the planet who repair sticks in this fashion," he said.

Repairs typically cost $50 to $65. Langille said the service is geared toward the higher-end sticks -- typically starting at about $150 each -- because they're made with 100 per cent carbon fibre and not cheaper materials.

"We're trying to take care of the people who are putting out big dollars for the high-end product," Langille said.

"Our main mission is to save parents money. Our philosophy is if we can help reduce equipment costs for parents and teams, then ultimately, that should help drive registration numbers. The goal across the country is to get more kids playing hockey."

Langill has a couple of drop-off spots in Winnipeg so far -- the pro shops at the Jonathan Toews Community Centre and the Maples Community Centre -- and he's hoping to add a couple more before this hockey season is done.

Integral has 29 locations in its franchise network across Canada and it recently agreed with an entrepreneur in Centennial, Colo., to open its first U.S. outlet. Langille estimates Integral has fixed more than 5,000 sticks since opening up.

The company has a local connection. Jason Jaffray, currently playing with the St. John's IceCaps but who played 13 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season, is a believer and has provided a testimonial.

Jaffray, whose hometown is Olds, Alta., heard about the repair work when Integral was in its infancy and experimenting with its processes and fixing sticks for the local junior team, the Olds Grizzlies.

The repair process isn't as quick as getting your skates sharpened, though. Langille said it takes five days from drop-off to pickup, including a full three days for the epoxy to cure sufficiently so the stick can be used on the ice.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 B3

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