I walked into the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room and saw Marty St. Louis put a blowtorch to his carbon stick blade, step on it a little bit, and then dunk the blade into a bucket of icy water.
When I was a kid we would do this same type of thing with our wood sticks by putting them over a gas flame from my mom’s stove, and stepping on them to curve the blade as much as humanly possible. My mom came home one day just as the blade I was holding over the flame caught fire. I ran into the bathroom and dunked the thing in the toilet.
“Hey Marty, the new curve must not have been what you were looking for?” “Some are good, some are slightly off,” he replied. He didn’t seem to mind the work he was doing with the blowtorch. Sometimes these little things became rituals; part of a player’s routine. But for me, it would look better if he didn’t have to do this to half the Easton sticks he received.
Once again, we were dealing with the slightest difference that was frankly within our factory’s plus-minus for passing QC. And this was our pro factory in Mexico, where attention to detail was paramount to success. We’d already made a couple different molds for him, and these molds weren’t cheap or easy to make.
Each custom blade pattern, like Marty’s, required a steel or aluminum mold. Each mold was worth a couple thousand dollars in materials alone. With the instability of the Mexican society and economy, there were some instances of workers throwing these molds over the factory fence on their lunch break to sell for their material worth.
When I visited our Mexican factory, I went to lunch with the factory boss. He told me about the family that owned the restaurant we were eating at and how they’d been taken for ransom. “Anyone with money out here has to watch their back,” he said, “people disappear all the time.”
So it wasn’t a surprise when Marty St. Louis turned down our offer to come visit the factory to see how we made his sticks. We figured it would give him a better appreciation of the process. “I’m not going to Mexico,” he said, “I do not want to get killed.”
He had a point. What’s a little stick ritual, as opposed to getting killed?