Trying to break the unbreakable hockey stick

Sportsnet Magazine visits with Colt who are preparing to start production on a new, unbreakable hockey stick that could change the nature of the game.

Daniel Palumbo is quick to smile.

You would be too if you were on the brink of revolutionizing an industry, or had a great shot at selling off your invention and striking it rich.

Palumbo won’t say their names due to confidentiality agreements with their agents, but seven NHL players want what he’s created. And what he’s made cannot be replicated by the big hockey stick brands: a specially reinforced hockey stick he promises is two to three times stronger and more durable than the regular composite sticks you’ve seen shattering on point shots and leading to shorthanded scoring opportunities the other way.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is get rid of the in-game presence of stick failures,” says Palumbo, a 20-year-old student at Toronto’s Schulich School of Business who hopes to make a big splash with his team’s invention. “The Colt hockey stick is the future of hockey, I assure you of that.”

The seed that planted the future was a ping pong ball.

Palumbo read a National Post article on Integran Technologies, which electroforms nanocrystalline metals to manufacture products used in aerospace and medical devices. Integran coated a ping pong ball in a thin layer of its silvery nano material, making it able to withstand the weight of a grown man while maintaining its light weight.

“If they can put this coating on a ping pong ball, why not a hockey stick?” thought Palumbo, whose ball-hockey-playing friends were going through a few $250 composites per week in hack-happy rec leagues.

Colt partnered with Mississauga-based Integran, raised more than $100,600 from 476 interested recreational players and NHL alumni through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and began pumping out prototypes.

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The blade and bottom third of the shaft was coated in the nano material, strengthening what is known as the “hack zone” and thus preventing microfractures – tiny stress cracks that eventually lead to full-on breaks later — to form farther up the shaft. After lab-testing for flex, durability and impact (“You can stand on it with a skate blade, and it won’t break,” Palumbo says), machines mimicked slap shots with the prototypes before they got into the mitts of actual pro and junior players.

“We had people logging 1,000 slap shots per hour on this thing, and we did not experience any damage or deadening of the shaft, which is what happens with a lot of the composites,” Palumbo says.

Colt tagged several players to put one stick through 10,000 hours of use – still, the flex and pop did not deteriorate whatsoever.

The Colt has now gone through 22 different iterations, is about to begin production in a couple weeks, and plans to start shipping to those NHLers (and Johnny Beer League) by mid-December for a retail sticker of $269.99, a price Palumbo says is competitive with the elite composites on the market.

The only drawback may be its appearance: You see a metallic sheen on the bottom of the stick, and you anticipate it’ll be heavy. But at 455 grams, there’s no discernible weight difference from a composite. (The nano application accounts for 30 grams.)

“When you first hear something is unbreakable and indestructible, your first sense is skepticism,” says Joe Piccone, a former Junior A tapped to test the stick for the past two months. Even the early test models were next to impossible to snap, Piccone explains. A few nights ago, Piccone says he shot 1,000 pucks with the thing and couldn’t muster a single chip, nick or scratch. “I’m fully on board with what they’re doing.”

After trying to snap the stick by leaning all his weight onto it and taking countless shots, Piccone was convinced to swing the Colt baseball-style at the post, then Excalibur the stick over the crossbar several times – something he had yet to try. (Watch above.) It wouldn’t chip, let alone break, and the red paint marks from the goal posts wiped right off. The composite snapped on attempt No. 1.

Palumbo has already put a Colt in the hands of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis and has fielded phone calls from the stick industry’s major players. Forget individual players. If teams – pro or junior — buy in, imagine the gold mine he could be gripping.

Still, Palumbo insists his main goal is to improve the game of hockey, not to sell out to the highest bidder.

“We’re going to go it alone for a while here and build this brand around the needs of consumers,” he says. “The initial response has been through the roof. People enjoy the feel of the stick. Even though the nano material is on the blade, they actually like how it interacts with the puck and feel they have more control with the stick.

“People are sick and tired of their sticks breaking.”

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Thanks to Emery Village Hockey Training Rinks for allowing us a space to try to smash this stick.