Combat Sports Tries to Make Green Hockey Sticks

While a nation searched high and low for Sidney Crosby's missing Olympic-winning stick, nobody had to check the recycling bins. Crosby, like most pros and many amateurs, uses a composite stick, which is made by layering together fiberglass and other carbon fibres with resin. Break one -- and they do often -- and it ends up in landfill.

Enter Combat Sports, an Ottawa-based manufacturer of hockey sticks and baseball bats. It's spending $8.5 million -- including a $2.55-million loan from Ontario's $500-million Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy program -- to develop environmentally friendly sports equipment that actually works better than existing gear. That can't happen soon enough for anyone who's blown a composite stick apart at a key moment.

If successful, the new "green" sticks will be tougher to break and be made from a thermoplastic composite that will be reformable and recyclable much the same way plastic soda bottles are. "The first two objectives will provide product leadership; objective three will be a corporate and social plus," says Steven Sutherland, president of the 17-year-old company . Combat Sports in 1994 was the first company to develop a commercially successful composite hockey stick, although it initially manufactured them for Bauer. It also released the first all-composite bat in 2002.

Being green should be a marketing plus, says Sutherland, in a market that goes through about 5 million hockey sticks a year . Combat Sports's revenue has grown from $4.5 million two years ago to $13.5 million and it plans to nearly double that in two years. Some of that growth can be attributed to cracking the tough NHL market, with more than 10 players using its sticks at any one time. "Our NHL presence is being noticed by our customers, both end-users and retailers," says Sutherland. With any luck, they'll soon have a another reason to notice the company.