Custom stick supply affected by coronavirus

If the coronavirus outbreak continues for much longer, NHL players could be struggling to find a key piece of equipment: sticks.

During Thursday's Sabres-Wings broadcast, NBC's Pierre McGuire said that equipment managers for NHL teams are talking about a shortage of sticks.

This is becoming true, but there is an important distinction. The majority of pro players use custom composite sticks -- made by weaving and gluing synthetic fibers into one piece that is incredibly stronger than its individual parts. About 75% of the sticks are made in China, where the coronavirus has shut down travel to much of the country and slowed the export of products to a trickle.

Reached by The Boston Globe, representatives for Bauer -- which provides 39% of the league's sticks -- said that retail stores have all the stick stock they need for the rest of the season. The company acknowledged that custom orders have been stopped but said that there is enough stock to last a while and that production is supposed to ramp back up this week.

Professional players go through sticks at a much higher rate than recreational or lower level players. Not only do they break composite sticks more often, they put so much stress on the sticks that they will switch one out when it starts to lose its snap. It's not unheard of for players to go through three to five sticks in a game. If custom production doesn't get going soon, a shortage will occur.

In the big picture of a sickness that has killed over 700 people, hockey stick production does not rank very high at all. But it is one indicator of the tremendous economic impact that the outbreak has had worldwide.