Last week I was lucky enough to sit down with Ryan Crelinsten, Stick Category Manager for Reebok Hockey & CCM Hockey. We swapped stories and chatted for a bit, and I figured I would share with you what came out of our conversation: Chris: So Ryan, how did you get started in the hockey industry? What lead you to have one of the coolest jobs in the world, leading a team to build and design revolutionary new hockey sticks? Ryan: I started right out of school, I was working on my graduate degree in Sport Administration at Concordia University in Montreal when someone I was playing hockey with introduced me to the head of R&D (Research and Development) of CCM at the time. We kept in touch and once I finished my degree I started with CCM as the Assistant to the Product Manager in Helmets. I have been with the company now for 9 year working in a variety of positions before becoming the Stick Product Manager for both CCM & Reebok. I even had a brief stint oversea's working out of our European office. It has been quite the journey and I enjoy every day of it. All of our readers enjoy hearing the detailed product spec information about all the latest and greatest products, but can you shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes? Do you have any stories that come to mind from any of your team building trips, or oversea’s adventures with the company? Well…. I’m not sure all our stories are safe to share…. Come onnn…. I think the biggest thing is we have a lot going on as a team, especially in the Stick Category. We have a really tight team, whether we are going out to play golf or just just wind down as a group. Obviously we have a strong relationship with TaylorMade Golf so we test out a lot of their new products to see how we can apply the technology to hockey. We spend a lot of hours working together whether it is in the office or on the road, so we definitely have a good time. There has been a lot of debate recently over who the leader in the stick category is at the NHL level. A competing brand claims that they have more players using their sticks, however CCM & Reebok combined at any given time may work out to a higher number. As a Stick Product Manager are you a Reebok guy, a CCM guy or just a THC (The Hockey Company) guy? Who are you rooting for? Definitely both brands, but the success we have had recently with CCM Hockey has been phenominal. It is always difficult when we talk to consumers, as they see us as two separate companies. But one of the things we are proud, especially our Product Development team, is receiving that number #1 badge of honour as a company. What it is showing, in terms of product performance we are really bringing the highest level out their. Even though our NHL usage is split between two brands, being that #1 and clear leader in the NHL really shows no matter what product you take from our company, you are getting the highest level of performance in either a CCM Tacks, CCM RBZ or Reebok RIBCOR. CCM has seen a major spike in recent years with the RBZ family, like you mentioned the partnership with TaylorMade Golf has definitely helped along the way. Not to say that Reebok has dropped off, but I think it is fair to say that the focus is currently on CCM products. As a company is the focus still on both brands? Or does it tend to just flip back and forth based on the year or the success of a particular product line? One of the things we really try to do is make sure each family has a unique performance characteristic and unique performance advantage to it. At the NHL level we actually have more players using the Reebok RIBCOR, compared to the CCM RBZ. This might be surprisingly to some people, but I think that is because the RBZ graphic is so visual and noticeable on the ice. So a lot of people do think we have higher usage in the RBZ family. What we actually try to do is maximize the technology and player benefit in both families. CCM has a couple big stick launches this summer, starting with the Tacks in July can you shed some light on what we should expect? Tacks is something that we found thru the great success of our low kick point RIBCOR product and our custom kick point RBZ. Based on feedback from our pro players and our retail consumers we found that there was a need for a mid kick option. We introduced Tacks for the player that likes that mid kick and wanted to take it to the next level with a new blade technology. The attack frame blade that we developed has a strong outer layer to the blade, and two reinforced bridges that run from heel to toe. What this design structure does is gives more torsional and bending stiffness to really pick those top corners. The other thing that we are seeing is that structure leads to more consistency. We have tested this stick in the NHL and the average NHL player switches their stick out every 3-5 ice times, with then Tacks products we are seeing it last 15-20 ice times. That consistency is staying much longer, for our retail consumer that means the stick is going to react the same from the first day of training camp to the last day of playoffs. I know your the Stick Manager and not the Marketing Manager, but what is your feel on the “Tacks” name? Do you like the throwback? Every time that we walk into a pro locker room, and I see players get excited when we say Tacks, I know we made the right decision. The fact that you have a player like Nathan Mckinnon, obviously a young guy, he actually really gravitated towards Tacks. He was the one that first tweeted out the new product line because he was so excited the legend was back. Even though you may not have had a pair of Tacks skates, or used a Tacks stick growing up, the name still means something in the hockey world. It has an ora around it that gets people excited. Looking at the new CCM Superfast stick, can you give us the run down on the changes we will see compared to the original RBZ and RBZ Stage 2 sticks? Since we began working with TaylorMade, the focus has always been to maximize C.O.R. (Coifficent of Restituton), that trampoline effect off the blade. If you look at anything TaylorMade has done in recent years they talk about the Speed Pocket. It really allows them to maximize C.O.R. in golf. So our big question was how do we create a speed pocket on the blade of a hockey stick? Initially when we first started working with the foams in the blade we created “Speed Channels” which evolved into “Freak Channels” on Stage 2. Now with SuperFast we have been able to create that Speed Pocket on the blade, this gives the entire surface an incredibly high C.O.R. with more consistent feel. This change has increased the C.O.R. above and beyond what it was on the Stage 2. Reebok also have a new stick coming out on October, the RIBCOR II. Can you give us some insight on what we should expect from this new line? Absolutely, on the new RIBCOR we wanted to keep what was working. So that unique RIBCOR geometry, that offers the amazing feel we really wanted to keep. What we were able to improve upon was first the blade. We had a blade stiffness profile of Stiff to X-Stiff on the original RIBCOR. What we have done based on player feedback was increase the stiffness of the toe. Players are shooting more and more off the toe so we have stiffened up the last 3 inches. So what we have done is changed the stiffness profile to Stiff to X-Stiff “er” on the new RIBCOR. This stiff offers you that great puck control, but when you want to get that puck off quickly you have the X-Stiff “er” profile. The other thing we wanted to add was a new material called Technora. Technora is a material that is being used in the aerospace industry and in ballistic industries. It is an Aramid Fiber, so the same type of Fiber as a Kevlar that some people may be more familiar with. The difference is it has better bending properties then Kevlar, so you aren’t losing those performance features in terms you loading the stick. You will just see improved durability. We have gone and covered the top and the bottom, what we would call the “slash zone”, of the shaft. By adding this what used to be small cracks in the fibers, that eventually led to breakage, we will increase durability. The question that we get a lot is “What compares to a RIBCOR?” or “What is a CCM RBZ in another brand?” What would you say the closest comparable are to these two new high end sticks in another brand? I am sure you don’t like to compare your product to a Bauer or Easton, but what would you say the closest comparable's are? Well we love to compare our products, mainly because we feel our products are so much better then the competition! What we try to do is focus each product line on a player type. The RBZ is for that big shooter. The RIBCOR is for the guy that likes to dangle and get shots off quickly. The CCM Tacks is for the player that is looking for control and accuracy. The way that we accomplish this is thru the different stiffness profiles. The RBZ has the constant stiffness profile with a custom kick point. The RIBCOR offers the lower kick point and the Tacks is a mid kick point. So if you are looking for a comparison to our competition the first thing you would look at is the kick point. Depending on what you are currently using you would gravitate towards either a Tacks or a RIBCOR. While the RBZ doesn’t really have a comparable, it isn’t like anything else out there with that idea of a custom kick point. The other aspect is we try to offer more technology differences on the blade. Which is why we offer 3 completely different blade options. On the RBZ we have the “Speed Pocket” technology, the unique stiffness profile on the RIBCOR that we discussed, and on the Tacks we have the new attack frame blade. This gives us the mos torsional stiffness and the most bending stiffness. What that means is you can get off more accurate and precise shots, really consistanty. What we try to do is match up blade feel, with shaft stiffness profiles. Which offers more of a unique and customer fit to our consumers. With the CCM Tacks launching in July, the Superfast arriving in August and the Reebok RIBCOR in October, will there is price point sticks to follow after these product launches? No, were launching the entire line at the same time. From the $50 price point stick all the way up to the elite level products. Looking at the new catalogue I see a couple new names (Galchenyuk on CCM & Perron with Reebok) are these new patterns, or just new names on prexisting curves? Perron is a Hedman that we had in the past, it is the same as a CCM Hossa and is the P40 pattern in our line. The Galchenyuk is a heel curve that we previously haven’t had on the CCM product line. It is something that we see a lot at the Pro and CHL level, this particular heel pattern accounts for 20% of our team sales. Based on this we wanted to make sure it was available at retail. In closing, what can you share with us for 2015 and beyond? We always try to get the inside scoop of whats coming down the pipe, can you share anything with us? What were really trying to do is make sure we have 3 very different product line (Tacks, RBZ & RIBCOR) to maximize player performance. Everything we do is geared towards improving performance and giving our players options. I can’t let you in on too many secrets, but we are focusing on taking these 3 families and only improving them for years to come.