Hometown hockey hero Cliff Ronning will likely have an impact in the NHL again this season.
But the 45-year-old, who helped lead the Canucks all the way the Stanley Cup finals back in 1994, won’t be lacing up his skates again to do it this time around.
Instead, expect to see customized hockey sticks made at his new Burnaby-based business, Base Hockey Labs, appearing in the hands of more and more of today’s pros.
Ronning has teamed up with former Easton and Warrior executive Holmes Ghassemi and Innovative Hockey’s Ron Kunisaki to launch Base Hockey Labs, a state-of-the-art hockey stick design and manufacturing firm, which has been open since early September in Burnaby’s Lake City Business Centre.
Mike Green and Paul Gaustaud are among those already using Base sticks (albeit with the logos covered up), but Ronning says the idea is much more about targeting average players who are serious about stepping up their game.
“We’ve got guys in the NHL already using it with black sticks, but we’re really focusing on the public, getting a good product in their hands for great value,” said Ronning. “Our model is to treat everybody like a pro, and the response so far has been fabulous.”
While golfers routinely spend big bucks to find just the right set of clubs, many hockey players often get by with what’s on sale at Canadian Tire or simply what feels adequate.
Ronning wants to change this.
The diminutive forward, who was named Rookie of the Year back when he began his playing career with the New Westminster Bruins in the Western Hockey League, was known for having hands soft enough to stickhandle in a sandbox, and he will be lending his considerable expertise to help people find the perfect stick to suit their own skill set.
The new Base Hockey Labs offers a high-tech facility, featuring a 40- by 30-foot synthetic ice sheet and a camera capable of shooting 2,000 frames a second to help a determine flaws in your shot.
Players can come to have their moves digitally analyzed in order to find the perfect graphite and kevlar composite stick, which is far less breakable than a fibreglass stick.
“I think the biggest thing is just the idea of coming into a place and try different sticks,” he said. “Also, once you get fitted for a stick, you know your proper flex and proper lie for good.”
Up until now, it’s wasn’t too often the average player could get shooting tips from a former NHLer with over 850 career points or get to see themselves shooting in super-slow-motion video, but beer leaguers and other muckers shouldn’t be intimidated by the NHL pedigree.
“There’s a consulation fee for using the camera and the full analysis, but if people want to just come in and check out sticks and what we’re doing, it doesn’t cost you anything,” said Ronning.
He said female hockey players, in particular, who often make do using sawed- off men’s sticks, can often benefit dramatically from a consultation.
“A lot of girls cut their sticks off really short, and that way what happens is there is no flex left,” said Ronning. “We’ve got a 45 to 65 flex with a bit smaller shaft shape that really benefits them. If you don’t have enough flex in the stick, it just doesn’t work the way it should.”
Ronning said that, because the business is factory direct, they are able to keep prices lower than they would otherwise retail for.
“We can offer a high-quality product that would sell for maybe $270 and can get it to people for under $149.”
He said a motivating factor was making the game he loves more affordable for families.
“I’ve been coaching kids for a long time, and I really felt, as a parent, it started getting really costly with purchasing sticks,” he said. “I really think if people stop by, they’ll be pretty amazed by what we’re up to.”
(This story was first published Oct. 16, 2010. © Copyright (c) Burnaby Now)