Hockey Brands Need to be More Sustainable

Recently in class we’ve talked a lot about a product’s lifecycle and how companies can improve their sustainability from production to the end of a product’s life. Being a huge hockey fan and having worked in a hockey store in the past, I realized how unsustainable hockey companies are – and I got fired up. (here comes the rant)

Technology has improved so much that almost every year brands such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton release new and improved products that make the previous year’s products look archaic.  From a brand perspective this is just great because consumers will always want the latest and greatest gear that is supposed to take them to the “show”. Nowadays, hockey brands are able to command outrageous prices because of their technological advancements – its commonplace to see new skates priced at $1000 and hockey sticks priced over $300. But what is more staggering is that these premium products are not durable enough to withstand the rigorous hockey season, which prompts consumers to keep buying more.

Take a hockey stick for example. People will pay upwards of $300 for an insanely light hockey stick made from a combination of fibre glass, carbon and graphite that offers high performance to the user. But as I mentioned earlier, these sticks are not nearly durable enough and snap like toothpicks. Watch any NHL game and you’ll see at least 3 or 4 sticks break within the 60 minute game. The Los Angeles Kings estimate that they break an average of 1000 sticks a season and they’ve realized how much waste they are creating. To help minimize their impact they’ve recently partnered up with Hat Trick BBQ to repurpose their sticks into grill tools, seen here

Drawing from my experience working in a hockey shop, once these sticks break they are useless and go straight into the trash and then the landfills. Furthermore, its not like the sticks are made with compostable materials – the fibre glass and graphite can be very damaging to the environment. Currently there is nothing being by done by the companies to minimize waste from post-consumer use. We all know that a company’s responsibility doesn’t end with a product’s purchase and something needs to be done.

Even though I don’t have the technical background and scientific knowledge about the composition of hockey sticks I propose a couple solutions:

If hockey sticks can be recycled:

1. Some sort of recycling program where broken sticks can be taken back to retailers and then collected by the manufacturer to be recycled and made into new sticks

2. Consumers can ship broken sticks back to the manufacturer in return for some sort of rebate on their next stick purchase.

If hockey sticks cannot be recycled:

The manufacturers could still collect broken sticks via the above recommendations but repurpose the broken sticks, like Hat Trick BBQ,  to make different products such as furniture, household decor, tools, kitchen/grill utensils, and so on… the possibilities are endless.

In fact, many of the products that I just mentioned are already being made, but by smaller mom and pop companies. In my opinion this is a much more viable option for the hockey companies because it creates new revenue streams for them and help divert sticks from the landfills.

Here are some examples of some repurposed hockey sticks:

Hat Trick BBQ

I’ve looked into the corporate sites of each of the big 3 hockey brands and none of them mention anything about sustainability. Most likely this is because the typical hockey player or fan do not really care about the environment and how their gear impacts it. However, its rapidly becoming a norm for companies to make some effort to reducing their environmental impact, and I expect that sports equipment companies will follow suit.

It’s time for the hockey equipment manufacturers such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton to look at how unsustainable their operations are and do their part to reduce the waste being sent to the landfills as a result of their products.

 

-AK

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4 thoughts on “Hockey Brands Need to be More Sustainable

  1. Erika Dizon says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Loved this post! You’re completely right, I had never really associated sustainability with sports equipment before and I suspect sustainability isn’t in these companies five year plans (unfortunate!)

    You suggested a few solutions, and I was actually able to find a company that takes back broken composite hockey sticks through their stores or online and donors will receive a $10 credit towards a new purchase over a hockey stick. Players with broken hockey sticks can request a bag and ship their whole composite hockey stick through free UPS shipping if they aren’t located near a Total Hockey store. They describe much of what they do with the sticks after they receive it – they say their goal is to slow the flow of broken hockey sticks to landfills. They hope that the carbon fiber in these hockey sticks can be used for other purposes. Here’s the website: http://www.hockeygreen.com/

    I wanted to share some other repurposed hockey stick ideas:
    – Coat hanger (I saw this at a client’s office over the summer!) http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/70/d7/82/70d782f0cd03e394fcfce0fd3dda7905.jpg

    – There’s an Etsy site dedicated to selling repurposed hockey stick items (like bottle openers and ice scrapers. They even sell broken hockey sticks for other people to purchase for their own DIY hockey stick projects) http://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/HockeyStickStuff

    I was only able to find a few hockey stick repurposing companies or recycling organizations. The recycling of these sticks seems to only be done on a small scale at this moment. I wonder if it’s more difficult to recycle composite sticks rather than 100% wood sticks (and I’m guessing that wood sticks, looking at my brother’s hockey stick collection, are much more rare these days). Since composite sticks are made of lots of different materials, I also read that parts of the stick will never decompose. All the more reason for these hockey brands to find a way to find a purpose for broken sticks! Even if the NHL takes responsibility and creates a program with all sticks broken at all NHL games, that would be a start! And that would definitely inspire recreational hockey players to start thinking about what to do with their broken sticks.

  2. I loved your post and trust me having broken a few hockey sticks myself those questions have crossed my mind multiple times. I have never thrown hockey sticks into the trash because most of the time you can quite easily refurbish them as they often brake on the blade end. Thus, most of the time I just simply buy a new blade and insert it in the shaft. However, the stick loses some of its particular characteristics and perhaps doesn’t look as aesthetically good looking. There is however an unbreakable hockey stick in the works (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/colthockey/the-colt-engineering-a-better-hockey-stick) this particular stick uses specialized materials such as nano material. I’m sure however that it would most likely end up becoming the costliest hockey stick on the market. The problem with hockey sticks is that the inherent features of the stick are particular flaws which make it easy to break. Hockey players flex the stick to get a faster and harder shot across and push the hockey stick to its limits often resulting to its unfortunate death… The other issue is that the flexibility of a stick after a while of use deteriorates and also renders the stick obsolete. However, there is a solution which may seem extreme but has been accomplished in another sport. Technological advancements may not always be the answer. Lets take a look at baseball… The MLB (professional baseball league) only uses wood bats when there are just like hockey carbon, aluminium ones available. The main reason behind this regulation was due to player safety. So why not make the same rule for hockey? Often cases many players get injured by those hard shots. There is certainly a strong case that can be made….

    On a side note why not have all the hockey stick brands make a partnership and have all the broken/obsolete sticks be collected at hockey rinks (where most happen to break). They could have bins at the entrance of the rink which would also enable some artist to collect them and turn them into artful creations. The financial responsibility of recycling the sticks could be based on the market share of each company.

  3. Veronica Woo says:

    Hi Andrew,

    This was such an interesting blog post to read. Thank you for sharing something I’ve never seen before. I love the idea of being able to refurbish hockey sticks and the ability to even start innovating with a sustainability lens in hockey. I know your blog talks more about the hockey sticks themselves, but I wanted to take it one step further.

    I’ve always struggled with trying to understand how the entertainment industry can take a step in the direction towards sustainability. I always think about how many miles hockey teams fly on planes for and how we just feed the need for them to fly by supporting these teams. I always wondered whether or not they buy carbon offsets or even do anything in terms of their plane flights. Just some thoughts I had after reading your blog post 

  4. john ufland says:

    Great pieces and thanks for the nice plug. We are currently receiving broken sticks from RBK/CCM, Warrior, and Easton directly and still working on Bauer. Additionally, we have just opened an office in Burlington Ontario. Here’s a link to the Canadian website http://www.hattrickbbq.ca/
    Let me know if you’d like a set and I will have one sent to you.

    Best,

    John Ufland

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