Amid virus outbreak, concerns about a hockey stick shortage

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Jack Eichel snapped his stick over the crossbar in frustration after an empty-net goal sealed a Buffalo Sabres loss, splintering it across the ice. He and other NHL players might want to think twice about sacrificing their sticks in a situation like that for now.

The coronavirus outbreak that began in China is affecting the production of hockey sticks used by the world’s top players, raising concerns about a potential shortage. Two major manufacturers, Bauer and CCM, have factories in China that have closed.

Players are beginning to make preparations in case stick supplies dry up.

“We’ll see how long it lasts,” Eichel said. “Hopefully not too long. Obviously, I go through sticks pretty quickly.”

Eichel estimates he goes through 100 sticks a season, and he’s not alone. Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin changes sticks each game and was worried enough about running out that he stopped at his mom’s house outside Toronto before a game against the Maple Leafs to pick up two more, just in case.

“That’s all that was left in the garage,” Seguin said. “I’ll just manage.”

Bauer and CCM officials say they are monitoring the situation so clients like Eichel, Seguin and Toronto’s Auston Matthews don’t have to dig up old sticks in the garage. Warrior, the other major supplier of custom sticks for top hockey players, has not been affected because its production is based in Tijuana, Mexico.

Beer leagues can go on without worry. Bauer and CCM each independently said there has been no impact on the production of sticks for amateur players.

CCM said in a statement government approvals could slow the reopening of factories and expects to have a better picture of capacity and deliveries in coming weeks. Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly said the situation remains fluid and hopes the company can re-start operations in China soon.

“We have backup stock in the U.S. and Canada to meet these needs, and we are working closely with equipment managers to understand their inventory levels and ensure players have what they need throughout this situation,” Kinnaly said.

NHL equipment managers, players and their representatives are trying to navigate the situation as best as possible. Detroit Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer said he has enough inventory for the next couple of weeks but isn’t sure what might happen after that given a two-week lag time for sticks to be delivered.

“I do have good sales guys and we came up with a plan to stock up ahead of Chinese New Year, but then the virus hit and there has been an even longer gap without producing sticks,” Boyer said. “Am I concerned? Yes, but I’m not panicking.”

Just how many sticks are used each season in the NHL is not known, but it’s a lot. Boyer figures Red Wings players go through 70 to 120 each year, which would translate to about 1,600 for a full team – and more than 50,000 across the 31-team league.

Among players, the level of concern varies widely. Some, like Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, don’t go through sticks as quickly, and teammate Jason Spezza thinks it will be fine as long as the production drought doesn’t last three or four months.

Across the locker room, there are some different sentiments.

“I’ve got to go take stock of what I’ve got back there,” Toronto defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “I hope I’m not running low.”

Barrie uses CCM and wasn’t in love with the idea of switching manufacturers.

“I mean, if I had to, I guess,” he said. “But if you ask anybody it would be tough to switch. You’re used to using it every day – your flex, your curve, the whole thing. It would be an adjustment to switch to something else.”

American Hockey League teams have not been affected by the shortage, and the league office remains in contact with CCM. The National Women’s Hockey League has also not seen an impact because it gets sticks from Warrior, which makes them six days a week in Mexico.

“We are ready and committed to help the NHL and its players meet hockey stick demand if the need arises,” Warrior said in a statement. “Our thoughts remain with those whose health is being impacted by this health crisis.”

NHL players understand they’re far from being the most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak blamed for more than 1,300 deaths among tens of thousands of cases since December. Many were aware of the Chinese New Year and ordered extra sticks knowing fewer are made at that time.

“Any guy, pick a stick, you have it for a while, you like that stick, and that’s your stick, that’s what you use,” Detroit’s Dylan Larkin said. “Other than skates, it’s one of the most important part of hockey and how you feel.”

Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

“Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”