462 miles. 7 hours and 47 minutes.
The driving distance and time to drive from northern MN Warroad to Winona in southern MN, where a once proud decades tradition of some of the most storied wood stick manufacturers the country has seen, are continuing in southern Minnesota. Wood hockey sticks made in the State of Hockey was as commonplace in Minnesota as snow in winter, and mosquitoes in summer months among those of the likes of; Northland, Christian and Bending Branches hockey sticks all were once produced and made in the land of 10,000 lakes. On the corner of 41st Ave & 5th street in bluff country Winona, MN - Ironwood hockey sticks are carrying the torch for MN as the States last remaining hockey stick manufacturer that exists today within the walls of all under the same roof: Merrimack Canoes & Sanborn Paddles that are housed within the same factory located at: 4110 W. 5th Street in Winona. Stepping inside the shop is truly a flashback to 1988 that has the same look, feel, and scent of the original Christian Hockey sticks making plant in Warroad/Roseau [that was the last produced hockey stick in Minnesota prior to Ironwood] with fresh cut wood & adhesives aroma, sawdust lining the equipment where a storied tradition of hockey stick manufacturing within Minnesota is being carried out today. The collaboration of stick manufacturing goes back to February 2015 when Ironwood’s founder - 'DogWood' Dan Anderson owner & CEO of Dog Wood Coffee reached out to Todd Randall at Sanborn to ask if he would experiment with producing a quality vintage style wood hockey stick.
Dan grew up in Minnesota playing hockey through the late 1980’s and early 90’s and he himself recalls using Christian hockey lumber. As an adult, Dan found himself searching for a high-quality wood stick, however, the standard of quality established by Christian was no longer available [at the time]. What was available was mass-produced, inexpensive and lower-quality wooden hockey sticks. This initiated Dan’s research into the process of stick making as well as the history of what became of Christian’s old equipment after it closed it's doors in the early 2000's. Dan came to recognize that the woodworking skills of hockey stick production were very similar to those used in making canoe paddles; this was his basis when approaching Todd at Sanborn.
Much like the birth of Bending Branches hockey sticks - that too began after making canoe paddles initially and continues on within Branches relocated plant in Wisconsin [whom no longer themselves produce hockey sticks].
Fast forward to today.
Ironwood features a full line of handmade, decorative, historically-inspired hockey and goalie sticks, that are fully customizable to each customers liking. Some rather history laden hockey stick equipment to produce said sticks additionally is within the shop in Winona, following the purchase of the original Christian Brothers stick making equipment originally located within Warroad - later Roseau and moved to Sanborn’s facility in Winona - some of which has "stick counters at 777,000+ sticks that have been used on the machines that we feel were within the original 1960's factory in Warroad at one time" said Peter Boysen Marketing Director when visiting the factory in person prior to 2022 Hockey Day Minnesota by VMH. With the help of Christian’s former head of production, Rick Pomplin, the equipment was installed within Winona headquarters.
The Ironwood hockey brand was named after the "type of hard woods sourced within 100 to 150 miles at most of the factory that is then later shaped to a hockey stick all sourced from within Minnesota using Iron style of Wood" in southern Minnesota, and thus "where the sticks namesake comes from" - Peter Boysen.
As the Ironwood website reads: Continuing the [storied] tradition of Minnesota made wooden hockey sticks - a tradition that is full of historic rinks, players, teams and wooden stick manufacturers alike where countless youth, collegiate and professional hockey players yielded Minnesota made lumber in game play for decades. Indeed it is - a storied tradition being carried on within the walls of this Winona wood shop, a building like none other in southern Minnesota where the ghosts of Minnesota hockey past are smiling down on the fine folks keeping this torch lit today.
Check them out at: IronwoodHockey.com