The NHL will review a new hockey stick provider for on-ice use, the league confirmed to Sportico. Only six companies currently outfit every NHLer according to geargeek.com, with three—Bauer, CCM and Warrior—owning nearly 98 percent of the market.
Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi remembers the puzzling looks on his players’ faces when he first brought a TOVI stick onto the ice at the beginning of this season. With a pattern of diamond-cut holes in the blade, the stick looks more like floor hockey equipment than NHL gear, but Recchi says that you don’t notice the unique design while holding the stick yourself. He was, however, struck by the puck control the stick helped him achieve.
Fellow former NHLer Frank Simonetti said TOVI’s stick felt more like the wooden sticks he used in the 1980s than anything else he’s tried since. The first hockey sticks were hand carved from a single piece of wood, the material of choice for decades. Wooden sticks with foam cores then offered a lighter option, followed by durable aluminum builds. In the 2000s, composite sticks largely made from graphite and carbon fiber slowly took over.
In addition to the enhanced feel for the puck, Recchi and Simonetti both cited not needing to put tape on the patented TOVI blade as another benefit. Other reviewers have pointed to the stick’s durability as a selling point.
The stick is the result of nearly a decade’s worth of work by Boston-area inventors Tovi Avnery and Scott Heitmann. They started by using Heitmann’s experience crafting military equipment with carbon fiber to try building a safer football helmet before determining that his material was too hard for that application. Baseball bats were also ruled out for similar reasons.
When the designers turned their attention to hockey sticks, they found that solid carbon fiber could replace the need for a blade core but would produce too heavy of a blade. Thus the idea for the perforations. Later aerodynamic testing found that the gridcut pattern could also reduce drag when shooting.
The company started with capital from its three founders, Avnery, Heitmann and Rich Fucillo. It is currently seeking a round of investment to expand its manufacturing and sales infrastructure. Shark Tank alum Aaron Krause (of Scrub Daddy fame) has also come on as an investor at an undisclosed valuation as well as TOVI’s branding lead. His first move was to rename what had been Carbon Sports after Avnery. The company’s three stick models currently retail between $200 and $300.
While many NHL players have stick contracts with the three major manufacturers, agent Scott Bartlett said it’s not uncommon for other manufacturers to send players custom-made sticks in the offseason in the hopes of wooing them. “Guys are looking for every bit of performance improvement they can get,” he said.
In recent years, those innovations have included custom made skates using laser-scanning technology, as well as heated skate blades, though those failed to catch on.
“Pretty much every player is experimental,” Recchi said, before singling out one player who might take a particular interest in trying TOVI’s product, center Evgeni Malkin. “Malkin is the most experimental. I’m sure he’ll be grabbing this once we get going.”