The Secret Behind the Hockey Stick

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Even if you don't play ice hockey, you have to appreciate the skill that goes into controlling a speeding black puck with the narrow blade of a wooden stick.

Mishandled pucks have broken more noses and teeth than any football or baseball. The key to controlling the puck is the stick, which for years was made of wood. And the company that made the best wooden stick was run by a pair of hockey-playing brothers from Minnesota.

Bill and Roger Christian (search), both of whom played on U.S. Olympic (search) teams, were making up to 3,000 sticks a day in the 1980s and business was great.

But then came the composite stick.

The Christian brothers saw their sales nosedive and their main factory closed. But players began to complain about synthetic sticks: They were brittle and didn't handle as well as the old, wooden ones.

"The wood stick has a real snap to it," Roger Christian says. "And it gives you better control."

Hockey players began to demand wooden sticks, and the Christian brothers were back in business. The old factory is back on line now and Roger Christian is running it. Kind of nice to know that not everything new is improved.

And that's the Observer.

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