High Sticking

Anatomy of Zdeno Chara’s record-breaking twig

By Bryan Gruley

Slap shot king Chara

PHOTOGRAPH BY JESSE BURKE FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK; CHARA: STEVE BABINEAU/NHL/GETTY IMAGES

At the NHL All-Star skills contest in January, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara blasted a puck at 108.8 mph — the hardest NHL slap shot on record. The 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound Slovakian did it with the help of a short, self-taught, shaggy-headed Californian he’s never met. Isaac Garcia of athletic gear maker Warrior Sports designed Chara’s stick in suburban San Diego, aided by a slap-shot-taking robot, a stick-breaking machine, and a layman’s guide to physics. “It’s really about asking the right questions and understanding what’s in their head,” says Garcia, 36. Warrior, owned by New Balance Athletic Shoes, is a challenger to dominant stick makers Easton Sports, Bauer Performance Sports, and Reebok-CCM. Chara, 35, once used Warrior, switched to Easton, then returned to Warrior. “I like my stick to be as light as possible and as stiff as possible,” he says.

$229.99 Online price of Warrior Widow SE stick (happily paid by parents of future NHLers).

The shaft is wider by 0.06 inches to fit Chara’s large hands

156 mph Ivo Karlovic serve March 5, 2011

108.8 mph Zdeno Chara slap shot Jan. 28, 2012

100.3 mph Justin Verlander fastball April 17, 2012

60,000 Approximate number of sticks used in the NHL’s regular season.

1 Number of sticks Garcia designed that he has kept as a souvenir. It was signed by Wayne Gretzky.

700+ Number of hockey sticks deliberately broken in testing by Warrior Sports in a single year.

500 Minimum pounds of pressure needed to break a Chara shaft, equivalent to about two Rush Limbaughs with, maybe, a Rachel Maddow thrown in.

540 Weight of Chara’s stick in grams — a tad more than three hockey pucks.

2-3 Number of times a well-executed slap shot strikes the puck, as seen in high-speed video.

65 Length of Chara’s stick in inches — two more than the NHL limit. Players 6 feet 6 inches and over can get a waiver.

Chara likes the graphics to match his team colors

Fewer than 10 NHLers use wood blades; Chara’s is carbon fiber

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