Shop Talk: Let’s clarify what the term ‘pro stock’ truly means
Often in the world of hockey equipment lingo, you hear the term “pro stock.”
What does this mean?
Pro stock is a product made specifically for an NHL, minor league, college or junior player. What happens is a player like Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi gets his sticks custom made for him. Custom as in flex of shaft (flexes not available at retail), grip or non-grip, round or square corners, stiffness of the blade, tackiness of the blade, stick length and more.
In the case of Easton, their pro stock sticks are made in Mexico whereas their retail sticks are made in China. Pro stock sticks are usually made of higher quality materials and the quality control on them is much more stringent. The last thing a company making a stick for Mr. Domi wants is in the same batch of sticks (usually ordered by the dozen), the stick shoots or feels different. NHL players can tell the minute differences in weight, balance and feel. The last thing a company wants is an unhappy player who might switch to another brand.
The jockeying for NHL players by the brands is intense. Rival companies are always trying to sample a player in their brand of sticks to try to get them into their brand and out of a competitor’s, usually by giving them 2-3 sticks to sample.
Manufactures pay a fee to the NHL to allow their products to be used. This fee is by category. Categories include sticks, skates, goalie, gloves, pants, helmets. Each category has a fee – and the fees are very high. This is why you see mostly Bauer, CCM, Easton and Warrior in player gear. A smaller company with limited NHL players cannot afford the fee. You will see this occasionally when a player’s stick is blacked out with no branding. It’s because the company did not pay the NHL licensing fee.
Contrary to most beliefs, the players receive their gear for free from their teams, but the teams have to buy from the manufacturers. Even though Alexander Ovechkin is a paid Bauer endorsee, the Washington Capitals have to buy his sticks from Bauer.
Surplus of these items become what’s classified as pro stock. Say Oliver Ekman-Larsson wants to try a different curve, flex or brand, then some of his sticks that are no longer used become surplus pro stock. Often these sticks are returned to the manufacturer or sold. BTM buys pro stock sticks directly from the Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and the manufacturers.
The appeal of pro stock sticks at retail is the quality of the stick you are getting is usually better and you are getting a specific player’s customized stick. Also, pro stock sticks are usually $100 less than retail sticks. All pro stock sticks are top-of-the-line performance products.
The NHL players these days are using more generic curves and going with lighter flex sticks. The days of the pro stock 130+ flex pitching wedge-style blades are gone. All the younger players have grown up using stock pattern curves. More and more sticks are in the 80-90 flex range and in the same three or four curves.
The downside on a pro stock stick is there is no manufacturer’s warranty. The time frame of an NHL player’s stick varies. L.A. Kings forward Jeff Carter uses a new stick each period and goes through 50-plus pairs of gloves a year. Why, you might ask? Because he can. Some NHL teams have higher equipment budgets than others and more pro stock gear becomes available. Ekman-Larsson is at the opposite end of the spectrum of going through gear. I am sure Coyotes equipment manager Stan Wilson appreciates this.
Hope that clarifies the term “pro stock.”
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.