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Bending Branches Hockey Sticks

Bending Branches® started in 1982 as Branches Canoe and Kayak Paddle Company in South St. Paul producing high-end wooden canoe paddles for the canoe and kayak enthusiast.  Business success in the summer months led to slow business during the winter - since canoe paddle sales slowed during the winter months.  "The manufacturing process of hockey sticks and canoe paddles is very similar", said CEO/Founder Dale Kicker of Branches, "and we wanted a solution to further increase sales during the slow winter months."  After a conversation with Richard Charbeneau’ at Strauss Skates and Bikes in Maplewood, MN regarding the "manufacturing of sticks" Richard “thought the idea for another Minnesota stick manufacturer was a great idea.” Thus Branches Hockey sticks were born and first introduced at the 1987 CSGA Show in Montreal and were taken by storm.  "With good marketing and new product innovation sales of Branches sticks skyrocketed".  Rhino Wrap, a popular stick among hockey enthusiasts, was introduced with Kevlar and Carbon materials following the invention of the "Kevlar tipped canoe paddle". Through 1989-1991 Branches manufacturing produced all of Louisville's pro sticks with their insignia, and through the 90’s (1993-1998) NHL sales peaked with notable players such as Alexei Semenov, Owen Nolan and Pat LaFontaine- to name a few- using Branches lumber.  Owen Nolan scored a notable hat-trick in the 1997 All-Star Game with what is known today as the Babe Ruth pointing goal against Dominic Hasek to notch his third goal of the game.  With notable NHL players yielding the Branches brand and the business booming, sales skyrocketed and led the Minnesota based company from its initial location at 1101 Stenson Blvd. Minneapolis, MN, to Osceola , WI (where Branches still operates at today) in 1994.  Branches went from a $1.2 million annual operation to a $4.5 million operation from 1994-2000.  With increased exposure came increased need for equipment to meet the demand and produce sticks.  Water ski entrepreneur Jamie O’Brien of Vermont - whom resurrected the Northland hockey sticks name from bankruptcy - sold all of his “stick producing equipment” to Branches in 1992.  Jamie also sold all of the patents, trademarks associated with Northland to the Christian Bros. whom for a short time produced Northland wooden sticks.

Branches sales continued to boom through the late 1990’s through the company’s motto of:  'Innovative product innovation' and eventually spread into replacement blades with the advent of aluminum sticks.  Branches actually beat the self proclaimed hockey stick giant- Easton in carbon composite sticks by 3 years when introduced initially in 1991, with Easton ’s first composites hitting the market in 1994.  Sales through the US and Canada sometimes boosted overnight with increased TV exposure.  Dale Kicker describes that “following a Hockey Night in Canada game on TV during the opening face-off of the game and every player on each team was using Branches sticks, &  Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada exclaimed; “This isn’t Hockey Night in Canada, this is Branches night in Canada!”  Following this televised game a quarter million sticks were ordered from Branches authorized retail outlets through Canada alone! - Thus showing the power of TV and sports marketing.

Branches sticks and paddles continued to be produced and run under inventor/CEO Dale Kicker until 2001 when Branches was sold to entrepreneur Mark Kravik to keep the business growth momentum going since Branches was growing fast and needed an infusion of capital.  In February of 2003- with the wooden hockey stick being replaced with aluminum and full composite shafts, and the sales of wood sticks falling short of expectations nationally- Branches dropped hockey all together and re-focused entirely on paddles.  Today Branches continues to operate in Osceola, WI and operates on its original motto from 1982: New product innovation, service and quality products for the canoe and kayak enthusiast, "Pretty. Smart. Paddles".  Dale Kicker today continues to work for the company he started with the titles of: Founder, and Director of Business Development.  At VintageMNHockey.com Branches hockey sticks, and their contributions to Minnesota's hockey history will never be forgotten! 

Source: Dale Kicker interview by VMH.com on 8-13-08


Bending Branches Press Releases

BRANCHES INTRODUCES NEW ONE-PIECE COMPOSITE

In a follow-up to the "Fusion" one-piece composite stick, Branches Hockey launches the next generation of one-piece sticks featuring the BULLETPROOF blade.

The Copper-colored stick features a tapered "javelin" shaft, decreasing the weight and lowering the kick point to increase shot speed. Constructed of DuPont® Kevlar and high-grade carbon, the Magnum shot speed tested out at 170 feet per second (FPS) under a 1000 kilo (220 lbs) load, making it the fastest shooting stick on the marketplace. The carbon and nylon blade is made to give the "feel" of a wood blade while retaining the strength and speed of a composite blade.

Possibly the most unique feature on the Magnum is its ability to be customized. Branches has long been known for their Matrix custom made products, and now will be offering custom patterns, lies, and curves in the Magnum one-piece also. The Magnum is available in five flexes: neg-medium, medium, stiff, x-stiff and xx-stiff.


Branches History

October 26, 2000 - Branches Hockey Launches "Design Team" Test Phase

Branches Hockey, a leading manufacturer of ice hockey sticks, shafts and blades, is in the midst of a nationwide interactive program of selecting hundreds of hockey players for their "Design Team". Approximately 500 players of all ages, including female players as well as male, have been selected through sporting goods stores to receive free Branches Hockey stick, shaft and blade products for testing and feedback to the manufacturer. Over 10,000 players from across the USA made application for "Design Team" membership. These hundreds of "Design Team" members will receive their distinctively logoed equipment as early as November 1, 2000. The product reviews and player feedback will assist Branches Hockey in designing the most player-responsive product line in North America for introduction in early 2001. Owner and President of Branches Hockey, Dale Kicker, said the company has repositioned its entire engineering and production priorities to accommodate "Design Team" recommendations focusing on key features of further enhancing light weight properties and durability, as well as dynamic graphics, for their lines of hockey sticks, shafts and blades. "The 2001 line will incorporate space-age technology and materials such as Kevlar 49 Aramid Fiber, Mid-Modulus Carbon and other high performance materials resulting in only the lightest, strongest and most durable products of the highest quality for professional and amateur ice hockey players" were among the comments from Mr. Kicker. "We plan to Lite-Up the hockey stick industry," said Kicker. Branches Hockey, a division of Bending Branches Inc, was established in 1986 and is responsible for pioneering the composite hockey stick shaft as well as other advanced technology sporting product innovations. Branches Hockey products are sold around the world and used in every professional hockey league.

November 21, 2000 - Branches Hockey Designated Supplier to the National Hockey League

Branches Hockey, a leading manufacturer of ice hockey sticks worldwide, announced its certification by the National Hockey League as a supplier to the NHL. Branches Hockey has had a long and enduring relationship with the NHL that has encompassed the utilization of Branches’ extensive line of hockey sticks, composite hockey stick shafts, replacement hockey blades and goalie sticks by NHL players since 1989.

Branches Hockey has been the innovator of many hockey stick products including the introduction, in 1986, of the revolutionary composite clear coated stick. Since then Branches Hockey has pioneered composite shafts for the hockey community as well as Rhino Wrap, Triaxial Torque Reduction, Fine Line Diagonal Design Technology among other items. These innovations, combined with the extensive hockey knowledge and creative engineering at Branches, have positioned Branches as the leading manufacturer of the newest generation of hockey sticks, shafts and replacement blades.

Branches’ hockey sticks continue to be recognized as the cutting edge of durable, lightweight performance products by National Hockey League players, college players, and elite & select players as well as amateurs around the world.

Branches Hockey is a division of Bending Branches, Inc., which was founded in Minneapolis in 1982, and today is headquartered in Osceola, Wisconsin. Branches Hockey products are distributed through quality hockey shops, pro-shops and sporting goods stores across the United States, Canada. And the World.

January 24, 2001 - Branches President Touts Innovation Products- Grinder Series Introduced Products Key to Stimulating Hockey Stick Market

"Innovative products tend to overcome the stale nature of certain traditional markets and products" — these are the sentiments of Mr. Dale Kicker, President and Owner of Branches Hockey. "Breakthrough products generate excitement in players and offer new revenue opportunities for manufacturers and retailers. The hockey market tends to be very traditional and even with the growth of in-line hockey and women’s hockey it has not driven any major sparks of innovation nor useful unique products recently. Occasionally a unique product comes along but seldom does it pass the tests of quality and long-term player acceptance"

At Branches Hockey Dale Kicker, is an engineer and inventor who has quietly and modestly amassed dozen of patents in sports related products. Mr. Kicker is the developer of the first successful composite hockey stick shaft. This year Branches Hockey is introducing a dynamic hockey stick blade that can be used for both ice and in-line.

"The blade we’re introducing for 2001 is called The Grinder. This is an exceeding lightweight blade core of strong ash wood surrounded by a tough, yet colorful, proprietary composite blend of urethane — perimeter bonded top, bottom and tip. The perimeter bonded material will not chip nor separate" said Kicker. The unique urethane blade surround is Trade Marked as Outer Edge Technology and the bonding process is patented. The graphics are alive, powerful and attractive. Branches Hockey featured this duel-use hockey blade at the Let’s Play Hockey Spring Trade Show in Las Vegas and the Sporting Goods Montreal Hockey Show.

The properties of this hockey stick and replacement hockey blade are such that it has the right "feel" for ice hockey as well as strength, durability and performance characteristics for both in-line and ice play. Additionally, and more importantly, the characteristics of the Outer Edge Technology. make the Grinder blade five (5) times more abrasion-resistant than ABS plastic thus delivering a product with the optimum and natural endurance for leadership recognition for in-line and street hockey player. Further, the Outer Edge Technology™ has an exceedingly low friction ratio thus providing a faster shot and ease in stick handling especially on "sport court", concrete and pavement as well as on ice! The resilience of this crossover product means it will outlast three, four or five wood or ABS blades making it a true value. The Grinder comes in both Junior and Senior patterns

Branches Hockey, a division of Bending Branches Inc, was established in 1982 and is responsible for pioneering the composite hockey stick shaft as well as other advanced technology sporting product innovations. Branches Hockey products are used at all levels from amateurs up through the National Hockey League and distributed through quality hockey shops, pro-shops and sporting goods stores across the United States, Canada and around the World.

August 23, 2001 - Florida Panther (NHL) Chooses Branches MatriX

Lance Pitlick, defense for the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers, recently completed evaluation of Branches Hockey sticks and will use the product for the 2001-2002 NHL season.

Lance's career includes seven years as an NHL player - two with the Panthers and five with the Ottawa Senators - he also played professionally in the American Hockey League (AHL). Additionally, Lance Pitlick played 19 games with the USA National Team as well as posting an outstanding career at the University of Minnesota. He and his family spend their off-season at their home in Minnesota and lake cabin in Wisconsin.

December 20, 2001 - BRANCHES Hockey, partner in DuPont "Kevlar® Power of Performance" program, introduces revolutionary new products engineered with Kevlar.

BRANCHES engineers use DuPont Kevlar in the design and construction of hockey sticks and blades. KEVLAR is specified when requirements call for increased strength, reduced weight, vibration control, abrasion resistance and/or extended wear life. DuPont KEVLAR is a truly extraordinary advanced technology fiber that helps transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. KEVLAR is best known for bullet-resistant personal body armor but has many other applications such as: gloves that protect against cuts and slashes, kayaks that are lightweight with better impact resistance; skis, helmets and racquets that are strong and lightweight to lessen fatigue. BRANCHES Fusion and Evolution product lines are examples hockey sticks, shafts and replacement blades that are lightweight, strong and tough to boost performance and exhilaration.

January 1, 2002 - Branches Hockey launches two dramatically new hockey sticks that embrace DuPont Kevlar.

Fusion, a revolutionary one-piece composite stick, and Evolution, a wood stick, advance hockey stick technology by combining Kevlar's lightweight strength, abrasion resistance, energy absorbing characteristics to boost on-ice performance and exhilaration to new heights.

Evolution is BRANCHES ULTIMATE GAME wood stick. Sophisticated and technologically advanced Evolution combines a wood shaft with DuPont Kevlar for greater shaft torque control to increase shot speed and accuracy. BRANCHES exclusive Quick Grip Taper and radius shaft unite for ideal balance and feel. Duragard on the blade bottom slides on the ice for faster shot release and is wear resistant for longer life. In the technologically advanced blade wrap DuPont Kevlar, fiberglass and carbon are interwoven for lightweight strength, faster shot speed, stiffness and accuracy. BRANCHES reports that the atomic logo symbolizes the combination of many high tech elements. Hockey players are going to love the feel of this stick.

April 22, 2002 - JORDAN LEOPOLD, HOBEY BAKER AWARD WINNER, USES BRANCHES STICKS

Defenseman, Jordan Leopold, has been an avid BRANCHES Hockey stick user continuously since high school. The Minnesota Gopher defenseman was named winner of the 2002 Hobey Baker Memorial Award; the fourth Golden Gopher to do so and the second BRANCHES product user. Brian Bonin, also a Minnesota Golden Gopher, won the Hobey Baker honor in 1996 using BRANCHES products. Leopold is also this year's WCHA Defensive Player of the year, leading the nation's defensemen in scoring with 47 points on 20 goals and 27 assists He uses BRANCHES extra-stiff Double Trouble Pro Elite Composite Shaft. Leopold recently said "I really like the sticks and want to keep using them."

Leopold's favorite stick, the Double Trouble Pro Elite, features DuPont KEVLAR selected for its lightweight strength, vibration control, reliability, and durability for long stick life. BRANCHES is the exclusive hockey stick manufacturer partnering with DuPont for its KEVLAR "Power of Performance" licensing program. BRANCHES has the support of DuPont's research and engineering resources to design and measure the performance of hockey sticks made with DuPont's KEVLAR aramid fiber.

BRANCHES builds custom sticks and replacement blades for many college players like Leopold and under its Matrix custom program. The program is embraced by college and professional players and a growing number of amateur players.  BRANCHES Hockey distributes hockey sticks internationally and is a division of 20-year-old Bending Branches.

February 18, 2003 - Bending Branches, LLC announces Sale of Hockey Division

Due to the success of the 2003 paddle line, Bending Branches will commit all of its resources to the manufacturing, sales, and distribution of its watersports product line as of March 1, 2003. The launch of the new paddle line at the 2002-2003 Outdoor Retailer show has shown a substantial increase in sales that "We need every square foot of production space to meet the customer demand" said President Dale Kicker.

Bending Branches was founded in 1982 as a manufacturer of canoe paddles, and in 1986 began manufacturing hockey sticks as a way to offset the seasonality of a summer paddlesports season. "With the massive growth in paddles it makes sense to focus on our core competency" said Sales and Marketing Manager Jake Wisse.

Branches Hockey Sticks be available from the new owners who will be announced at a later date due to confidentiality.



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