Stealing hockey sticks: It's the Canadian way

A couple of weeks ago, in the predawn hours of a Monday, thieves hurled a large rock through the store's glass door, let themselves in and helped themselves to about 70 left-handed sticks. The southpaw models were closest to the door and worth nearly $20,000. Made by Sherwood, CCM, Louisville, Easton and Nike, they sell for between $219 and $299 each and are widely coveted by amateur players young and old.

The Globe and Mail
November 19, 2003

Stealing hockey sticks: It's the Canadian way
High-tech gear coveted by thieves and players alike, a retailer finds
Shawna Richer

HALIFAX — In the past, an old-fashioned smash-and-grab raid saw thieves carting off cigarettes and booze, and on a sweet day, perhaps some fancy stereo equipment.

Lately, burglars have been lusting after something less sinful than smokes and swill, and their tastes are commonly Canadian. They are after high-priced, high-tech hockey sticks.

Play It Again Sports in Dartmouth, N.S., is the Halifax area's largest retailer of the costly composite sticks that have soared in popularity in the past five years and are used by 90 per cent of players in the National Hockey League. The shop has been hit twice since the summer by crooks who swiped dozens of the one-piece sticks made of carbon, graphite and Kevlar. In the most recent robbery, on Nov. 3, they also nabbed 10 pairs of expensive hockey gloves.

A couple of weeks ago, in the predawn hours of a Monday, thieves hurled a large rock through the store's glass door, let themselves in and helped themselves to about 70 left-handed sticks. The southpaw models were closest to the door and worth nearly $20,000.

Made by Sherwood, CCM, Louisville, Easton and Nike, they sell for between $219 and $299 each and are widely coveted by amateur players young and old.

With the composite hockey stick an NHL staple, they have plenty of cachet at rinks across the country where regular folks skate and scrimmage.

"It is definitely a 'Look at me, I'm flashy and I'm the best hockey player on my team because I have this fancy stick' type of thinking," said Ryan Knowles, an employee at the twice-robbed sports store. "You get to a level where you think you need it, but you don't really."

Keith Johns's 10-year-old son Jarrett plays in an Atom AAA in Sackville, N.S., and uses a one-piece CCM Vector stick they got on sale at Canadian Tire for $99.

"They are definitely a status symbol and all the kids want one," Mr. Johns said. "A year ago I said I'd never buy one, but he saved his money and we found one reasonably priced and split it. One kid last year had two $250 sticks, but they were too long for him, so his father sawed off the tops. It was like watching a hundred bucks fall to the floor each time. But the kids really like them."

Mr. Knowles said he has heard of other instances of hockey-stick thievery in Halifax and Cape Breton. He said a sales clerk at another sports store smuggled the sticks from work and sold them from his garage before he was caught.

"Like with anything that gets stolen, it's a case of something being desired and very expensive," Halifax Regional Police Sergeant Don Spicer said.

"Times have changed. I remember my mother being upset because I wanted a $3 hockey stick."

The first widely used composite stick was introduced by Easton Sports Inc., based in Dorval,Que., during the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs. Lighter than the wooden two-piece sticks, they are more flexible and can bolster speed and power in a skater's shot. Their drawback is durability — they shatter easily and often. Some players, such as Vancouver Canucks right winger Todd Bertuzzi, go through three or four sticks a game. And while their steep price is no trouble for a professional team or player, Mr. Knowles said children and recreational players might be tempted by a hot hockey stick selling for $75 or $100.

"They're probably selling them to kids," Mr. Knowles said. "You know if you're getting a composite stick for $75 that it's been stolen. Then they throw in a $200 pair of gloves for $75 and it seems like a bargain. That's a good way to make money.

"It kind of sums up the Canadian life, doesn't it? We're not out robbing banks like Americans. Stealing hockey sticks is more the Canadian way."


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