A Cambridge firm that has been making ice hockey sticks for elite and beginner athletes for greater than 100 years is shifting to the hometown of Canada’s most well-known hockey participant.
Heritage Hockey Sticks Inc., which landed a deal to be the unique provider of wooden hockey sticks for Canadian Tire Company, is opening an expanded, modernized facility in Wayne Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford.
The choice was not a simple one, mentioned firm proprietor W. Graeme Roustan.
“The constructing we’re in now in Cambridge is greater than 100 years previous. It’s an inefficient constructing,” Roustan mentioned. “Sooner or later in time with a view to develop, with a view to survive, with a view to maintain folks employed and maintain doing what you do finest, you must transfer on, so it’s bittersweet.”
The brand new 62,000 sq. ft Brantford location is twice the dimensions of the present plant and may enable for a manufacturing enhance of 300 per cent, Roustan mentioned. He’s investing $2 million within the new facility.
Heritage’s lease on the Cambridge facitilty runs out on the finish of 2021. The corporate will transfer regularly all through 2021.
“To maneuver a manufacturing unit of this dimension takes plenty of time and co-ordination. It’s not executed in per week or a month,” Roustan mentioned. “We need to do it in such a manner that it doesn’t disrupt any manufacturing or deliveries.”
Roustan expects his present staff to make the transfer to Brantford. “My current workers are extremely expert folks, a lot of which have spent their complete careers on this facility and for this enterprise,” he mentioned.
He anticipates his workforce will develop to 100 folks because of the brand new dedication from Canadian Tire.
Heritage Hockey Sticks can hint its roots in Waterloo Area again to the Eighties. It’s a fancy household tree, full of amalgamations, title modifications and totally different homeowners such because the Seagram household, Cooper and Nike Bauer. Manufacturing on the present Sheffield Avenue facility in Cambridge, dates from 1905.
When Nike Bauer obtained out of the wooden hockey stick enterprise in 2004, closure loomed. A handful of workers and one other investor stepped in and saved the plant, naming it Heritage Wooden Specialties Inc.
The title modified once more in 2019 when Roustan — proprietor of a number of hockey associated companies, together with The Hockey Information, and a former Bauer board chair — acquired Heritage.
The corporate has outlived its home rivals — it’s the solely mass-producer of wooden, ABS, foam-core and hybrid composite sticks in Canada or the US.
“They’re actually distinctive, changing into a little bit of a unicorn,” mentioned Geoff Sarjeant, Canadian Tire Company’s assistant vice-president, Sports activities & Professional Hockey Life.
Roustan mentioned Brantford provided a welcoming enterprise setting in addition to a more in-depth connection to Canadian hockey lineage as it’s the birthplace of No. 99 Wayne Gretzky and residential to his father/ambassador of the sport, Walter Gretzky.
Walter was a frequent customer to the Cambridge manufacturing unit and would go away with sticks destined for his charitable initiatives.
“He’s a part of our household, and we anticipate that Walter will stroll the manufacturing unit flooring as soon as once more, however this time just a bit nearer to residence,” mentioned Roustan.
Heritage produces a variety of sticks beneath totally different manufacturers, from ball and road hockey sticks to foam-core goalie sticks. Its wooden ice hockey sticks have lengthy been a marquee product.
NHL groups buy 1000’s of Heritage’s wooden sticks for promotional and autograph use. Sport-ready wooden sticks for the buyer market, such because the Sher-Wooden 5030, are a well-liked vendor at Canadian Tire. The Canadian retail icon is emphasizing that pedigree with a renewed give attention to Made in Canada merchandise.
This push to supply Canadian merchandise predates the pandemic shutdown, mentioned Sarjeant, including that abroad provide chain disruptions and rising transport prices have strengthened that resolve.
“It actually helps to have a home producer who can management a few of that circulation just a little bit simpler,” Sarjeant mentioned.
By the top of subsequent yr, Canadian Tire hopes to buy all of its wooden hockey sticks from Heritage, a transfer that can see present annual orders of 20,000 to 25,000 Heritage sticks soar to about 150,000.
Roustan referred to as Canadian Tire’s resolution a “patriotic” transfer. “It’s courageous, it’s thrilling and, to me, it’s demonstrating to the world that supporting your native financial system, your native jobs and your nation needs to be a precedence in any group.”
And it’s one which helps to make sure Heritage retains its stick within the recreation.
“That is the final Canadian hockey stick producer left,” Roustan mentioned. “It’s iconic.”